Age Discrimination: Exposing Inconvenient Truths

May 17, 2010 at 12:01 am 48 comments

Several months ago I posted a blog called “Age Discrimination: Secret Conversations Revealed!” That posting became the most read article on Recruiter Musings with over 2,000 views on the first day alone, and several thousand more over the following weeks. Readers logged in over 130 comments. Those comments (posted at the bottom of the article) comprise a very interesting dialogue in and of themselves, and are definitely worth reading. They make it very clear that I had hit a sensitive spot among job-seekers everywhere. Even now, people continue to log onto that blog article, and I’m told that it inspired the formation of a special-interest group on LinkedIn.

Since that posting, I’ve discovered some very interesting facts and truths about Age Discrimination in today’s job market. Much of this is not necessarily good news for job-seekers over a certain age. Nevertheless, as inconvenient as these truths may be, I feel it’s best to be armed with the most accurate and up-to-date information. Ultimately, how one handles this issue is a very personal decision. What follows is simply the way it is:

Face It – Age Discrimination Exists!
The vast majority of “older” workers have experienced it on some level or another. It’s difficult to come up with hard data, since most companies would never truthfully cooperate with any official study … but we all intuitively know that it’s true – age bias is simply a fact of life in our society. That basic truth really hasn’t changed very much over the last century – most modern societies favor youth over age. What has changed is the advancing age of the “Baby Boomer” generation – a group that has grown proportionally compared with the rest of the population, and has skewed the age curve of available workers. In today’s candidate-flooded market resulting from the economic downturn that began in 2008, those growing numbers of older workers are increasingly competing for the same jobs as younger candidates caught up in the same mass layoffs as everyone else. Add to that the fact that everyone’s investments and retirement funds shrunk drastically during the last couple of years. As a result, Boomers are now finding that they need to keep working well past the age that they originally thought they’d retire. At the very same time, cost-conscious companies are still nervous about adding back headcount in today’s slow climb back to economic recovery. When companies do hire new staff now, many try to save money by hiring younger, less experienced people who require lower salaries. It’s really not hard to see how all those factors combine to perpetuate the practice of Age Discrimination.

Asking Your Age Is NOT Illegal
Many job-seekers erroneously think that it is illegal for an employer to ask for a candidate’s date of birth (or year of graduation, social security number, marital status, or any number of other supposedly off limits questions.) That’s simply not true! Although they’re often called “illegal interview questions” on the web, such questions are not actually illegal at all. There is no law that says that an interviewer cannot ask a job-seeker point blank: “How old are you?” However, if an interviewer asks a question that has discriminatory implications and then intentionally denies you employment based on your answer to the question, he or she may have broken the law. So to avoid any risk of exposure to future litigation, most HR professionals (especially at larger companies) are told to avoid asking such questions. But again, it’s not illegal to ask, and it still happens frequently. It happens during interviews, and it happens quite often on those pre-interview applications where leaving a question blank will get you screened out. The problem is that it’s almost impossible for a job-seeker who has been denied employment to prove age discrimination. No interviewer in their right mind would actually admit to eliminating a candidate based on their age – even if that’s exactly what they did. You’ll simply be passed over, and never really know why. That’s one of many reasons why interviewers do not return calls and emails from, or give specific feedback to job applicants who did not get hired. It’s much safer to say nothing!

Don’t Waste Your Precious Time Trying To Fight The System
I’ve heard from a lot of people who get very worked up about Age Discrimination, and feel they need to “do something about it!” They write letters, consult lawyers, lobby government representatives, circulate petitions, and threaten (and sometimes initiate) law suits. They rant and rail about it, join discussion groups that focus on it, and generally obsess on it as the main reason for their own failure to find a job. Well … sorry if I offend anyone by saying this – but I have no patience for that type of behavior. In my opinion, that sort of thing is extremely counter-productive. You certainly won’t endear yourself to any potential employers by focusing on such activities. (And make no mistake – employers are very aware of who writes what on blogs, discussion groups, LinkedIn forums, etc.) None of it will ever change the way employers behave, or the way interviewers and decision-makers screen candidates. They just won’t hire you! You cannot change the criteria that individual companies use to evaluate potential workers, nor can you change their actual job requirements – even if they include things that imply a bias towards younger applicants! If you are a serious job-seeker, then don’t waste your time and energy fighting against those things that you cannot change.

Focus Instead On Positives
You certainly can’t change your own age. That’s an obvious given. Sure, you can limit what’s on your résumé to the past 10 years, and pretend that you didn’t exist before that – at least that will avoid the sting of being eliminated before you even get to first base, and most likely score you some interviews that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. But sooner or later in every job application process, you’ll meet face-to-face with a decision-maker and they’ll size you up. Your age will be a factor – for better or worse. So what can older job-seekers do to help themselves? Here are some ideas:

  • Target companies who are known to be “age friendly” and concentrate less on the ones known to favor younger workers and who emphasize their youthful cultures. You probably wouldn’t feel comfortable working in such a place anyway. Seek out employers who value workers for their capabilities and contributions, regardless of age. There are certainly industries, companies and organizations out there who are less likely to practice age discrimination than others. Naturally, the challenge for job-seekers is to identify those places and go after them. A good starting point is to simply do a Google search on the phrase “Age Friendly Companies.” You’ll find a multitude of great resources there that will lead you in the right direction.
  • Pay attention to the job requirements, and only pursue positions that you truly match. Don’t waste time applying to jobs that are clearly not a match for your skills, or level of experience. If the description says they want someone with 1-3 years of experience and you have 10-15 … it’s obviously not going to be a good match. Do you really want to fight that battle? Do you really need to hear that you’re “overqualified” or that they are really looking for more of an “entry level” person?
  • Keep yourself up to date on technology, and current on the details of your industry. Be a continuous learner. Be as computer and internet savvy as your younger competitors. Embrace the new information age. Read articles, blogs and professional journals that pertain to your field. Be ready to demonstrate your up-to-date knowledge in any conversation you may have with people in your specific niche.
  • These next ones are cliches … but I’ll throw them in anyway: Take care of yourself physically! Exercise frequently to maintain your fitness, eat healthy, and get enough sleep. Pay attention to your appearance – keep yourself well groomed. Dress for success with an up-to-date wardrobe. You can’t change your age, but you can change the way you present yourself. Having a youthful energy and demeanor are not things that happen by accident, nor are they strictly hereditary. They are things that to some degree you can alter, and they need to be constantly worked on.
  • Finally, embrace “The Power of a Positive Attitude.” Concentrate on projecting positive energy and enthusiasm in every casual conversation, every networking meeting, and every interview. I’ve coached thousands of candidates for interviews during my many years as a recruiter. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the interview process that holds true for almost every industry and every position, it’s this: the number one most important factor that determines who gets hired and who doesn’t is NOT who is best qualified, who has the most experience or skills, or who has the best résumé – and it’s NOT AGE. It’s attitude! People hire other people that they like, and want to be around. Real enthusiasm for a position or a company, true passion for your work, a sense of humor, and a genuine projection of positivism and optimism are the qualities that make a person attractive to others. A positive, energetic and youthful attitude can easily transcend age as a factor and it’s nearly impossible to fake. It’s an incredibly important issue for every job-seeker to think about and to try adjusting within themselves.

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The Double-Whammy of Rejection and Isolation Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 2

48 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Farooq  |  May 17, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Saving cost might be a one reason. But business, economy, and technologies are changing very rapidly. In today’s cut throat competition, every company needs high talent at low salary. Further recruiters want young people who bring fresh innovation and who can lead the same generation. Concept of management and business are changing very frequently and therefore, young professionals are getting top positions.

    Regards,
    Farooq

    Reply
  • 2. Terry Schultz  |  May 17, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Michael, thanks for the information and reminder about asking of your age. I especially like the admonishment to quit fighting the fact that it does exist. Like you said, it’s counterproductive. I think the most important point though is your last one, positive attitude. Your attitude, and how it comes across to the interviewer, is a very strong factor. Whether you are ‘young’ or ‘older’, if you come across wrong, you won’t get the position.

    It MAY be that some recruiters are looking for that ‘young’ and least expensive person, but I still believe that the person with experience in leading (read ‘older’ here), AND the ability to accept, learn, and change with new technologies will be hired. Not all ‘older’ workers are stuck in the past. I’m a firm believer that books do not a leader, or valuable employee, make. In any profession, true leadership and abilities come from experience. Maybe at this point of the economic cycle it might not be that way, but, it will turn around.

    Reply
  • 3. Dick Sobel  |  May 17, 2010 at 10:34 am

    I recently had a situation with a major company where I had gone through a couple of hiring steps. The company requested a phone screen and then afterwords sent an email requesting that I fill out their employment application. A previous networking connection told me that this was good news as I would not have been asked to fill out the questionnaire if I didn’t pass the phone interview.

    The next day I received a mistaken internal email stating that I did not pass the phone interview. A Couple of days later I received the official email stating that I was no longer being considered.

    The application took almost an hour to fill out on line requesting my entire history including social security number and date of birth. There was no way you could not put this information down and complete the application.

    When I called the recruiter and others to explain, dead silence.

    To me this was the most blatant case of age discrimination. I had one other situation where after a full day of interviews that went very well, and was told there would be another week of review, the next day, a terse email about no longer being considered. Again, there application was fool proof about obtaining your age.

    Your blog was very helpful and provided additional insight and encouragement. It was one of the best I have ever read on the age issue and spot on. Projecting energy and youthful zeal at an interview is key and something I really work on. Your article was very encouraging and I look forward to a couple of interview sessions going forward to apply your recommendations.

    Reply
  • 4. Kelly Schumacker  |  May 17, 2010 at 10:43 am

    How will the aging baby boomers affect the workforce? More importantly, how can we as a society benefit by developing organizations and real opportunities that inspire the third agers to continue to contribute and play a vital role? One obvious source to help fill this gap will be filled by organizations that value folks who want or need to work but prefer more flexibility than employers traditionally offer. Check out http://www.civicventures.org

    Reply
  • 5. Sheila Dentice  |  May 17, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    We have all heard the stories about being a great candidate “on paper” until the interviewer actually lays eyes on the older candidate. It certainly is a waste of time to fight the fight under such circumstances. Even if you win, what have you won?

    But there is something positive and proactive that we can do. Why not find out which companies are Boomer Friendly, and spend your dollars buying their goods and services? If nearly 79 million Boomers actively sought out Boomer Friendly businesses to not only work for, but also to shop at, to buy from, to utilize their products and their services, think of the jobs those companies could provide.

    Companies not using age as a determining factor when hiring would have increased business from the largest, wealthiest market segment in the country. They would soon be able to hire more workers. Boomers can create their own opportunities by targeting their spending toward those companies who support them. Sounds like a “win win”.

    I welcome your comments on this initiative. Visit me on LinkedIn.

    Reply
  • 6. Jeff  |  May 17, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Michael,

    You are correct that ageism affects older workers, but it more severely affects younger workers, as evidenced by their dramatically higher unemployment rate.

    The facts are clear: unemployment is disproportionately high amongst 16-24 year olds, at 18.9% as of January 2010 (opposed to about 10% in the general population). Workers between ages 20-24 have unemployment rates between 12-26%, depending on race. Ageism is not a phenomenon limited to the oldest in the workforce, it also affects, perhaps more severely, the youngest workers. Read this study, which outlines exactly how bad the picture is:

    http://epi.3cdn.net/1a64c4b1b06d2da39e_ulm6b5g3l.pdf

    Reply
    • 7. Michael Spiro  |  May 17, 2010 at 4:36 pm

      Jeffrey:

      I read the study you linked in your last message. It is, indeed, very interesting – and it does support your contention that the unemployment rate is much higher among younger workers than older workers as a whole. However, that is just the raw data. That study also offers several rational explanations for why there are differing unemployment rates in the different age brackets. Those explanations do NOT include “age discrimination.” Companies are NOT passing over younger workers in order to hire older workers. Anyone who believes that is simply naive. There are many other factors at play that are causing the figures you quoted. But make no mistake – job-seekers over age 50 are discriminated against in today’s market.

      -Michael

      Reply
  • 8. Felix Somarriba  |  May 17, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Michael,

    Great discussion. Useful tips. Thank you!
    My thought: If one is finding that “age discrimination” is too difficult to deal with, perhaps this is a good time to at least consider starting your own business. I welcome sharing ideas for new ventures.

    Regards,

    Felix Somarriba

    Reply
  • 9. Traci Thompson  |  May 17, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    So true, job seekers must face reality. I use various resume writing techniques to avoid age discrimination, but unfortunately that only gets the candidate’s foot in the door.

    Reply
  • 10. Bryn Evans  |  May 18, 2010 at 11:42 am

    When HR runs your name on any background check application, the second bit of information they find (after your name) is your age. Every job-seeking stunt meant to conceal age is now obsolete. Likewise, all tactics designed to deflect concerns about age *in the interview* are obsolete, because chances are you’ll never get that far.

    Targeting firms who aren’t concerned about age may the only valuable tactic in the short term, but Michael, I disagree with your blog comment that activism is wasted effort. We would still have legal racial segregation and gender discrimination if that were true. As you note yourself in your blog, age-biased behaviour has been around a long time. Attitudes haven’t caught up with demographics. Companies cherish stereotypes of older people that may have been valid half a century ago, but are falling all around us.

    Call it age bigotry. Apply an ugly word to an ugly, shameful and ultimately self-destructive behaviour. Softer words simply enable an obsolete view of the working world. Meanwhile, find other means to support yourself (which has become my objective) and feel free to make rude gestures at companies which finally change their behaviour, should they suddenly decide it’s cool to hire older workers. That’s just how it will happen, too. Hiring older workers has to become (possibly) necessary and (definitely) fashionable before any change takes place. In my view, the proper role of activism is to change the culture and the attitudes. It’s a slow process, so one shouldn’t expect results tomorrow.

    Reply
    • 11. Michael Spiro  |  May 18, 2010 at 11:59 am

      Bryn:
      I realize that “activism” can, indeed, change the world … and your examples of the how far we’ve come regarding racial and gender discrimination are good ones. I am only saying that if your main goal is to get a job, then concentrating your energies on such activism is a misdirected use of your time. If, on the other hand, you don’t care about finding a job or what potential employers think of you (and you say you are finding “other means to support yourself”) — then by all means, take up the cause! Power to the People!
      -Michael

      Reply
      • 12. randolph  |  December 27, 2012 at 12:22 am

        Standing up for your legally protected rights is “activism?” Unbelievable. Wrong is wrong. Illegal is illegal.

        Are you advising it is a “good fit” for someone to dissimulate and to accept a job from an employer that “actively” discriminates?

        I am afraid you have no concept at all what “Power to the People” means. Your musings are shameful.

        Yes Masta.

      • 13. Michael Spiro  |  January 3, 2013 at 6:53 pm

        Randolph:
        I never said that age discrimination was acceptable, or legal, or not wrong. In addition, I never advised anyone to “dissimulate” (hide their feelings), or to accept a job from an employer who discriminates. I don’t know how you got any of those ideas from my blog — I said no such things! My main point was that age discrimination does indeed exist in many places, and it can often become an exercise in futility to try to fight such an ingrained mind set when one encounters it. It certainly won’t endear you to the hiring managers at a company you are hoping to work for. If you want to be an activist (and yes, that’s exactly the word that describes fighting for your rights, legally protected or otherwise!) and spend the majority of your time and energy fighting injustice and discrimination — more power to you! I applaud your efforts. I do know what “Power to the People” means! The world does need more activists fighting for good causes. If, on the other hand, your goal is to get a job … well, that’s a different scenario altogether. The best strategy for that is to simply focus on companies who do NOT discriminate. I’m not sure how you can conclude that such advice is “shameful.”
        -Michael

  • 14. Christer Edman  |  May 18, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Great posting about the reality which we all need to deal with sooner or later. The truth and facts about age discrimination help people to do something instead of complaining which is a vaste of time. I decided recently to start up my own company again and not chasing around for getting a job on an overloaded job market.

    This is also a great possibility for all new companies to use experienced and knowledged workforce running their own small companies and consultants. The challenge for all Boomers is to find out what they are passionate about which drives them to do what is necessary to get paid. There have been many years when the Boomers didn´t have to think so much and could just walk to their jobs and get paid for only being there, climbing on the promotion ladder.

    The lower salaries for younger workers is not important and the focus should be more on what each worker contributes with for a total growth and result. I have also heard about the ongoing exchange of workers to younger and it´s very good for them to get new jobs. But a real progress needs creative and innovative resources independently of age and an age diversified workforce is the best for having a dynamic and inspiring work environment.

    Some of the Top Managers might see that there new and younger workers either only repeat the older workforce behaviours or turn everything upside down with values of appreciating age and knowledge both in words and actions. It will be very interesting to see which companies can take care of the young workers and make them feeling comfortable about how they will be treated. This is like parenting when your words means nothing and only actions talk.

    When you see an older workforce not being appreciated it will probably give some bad signals to the open minded younger workforce to make a change either within the company or leaving before getting to old. There will also be some younger workers limiting themselves without making use of their full potential until they are also replaced by a younger worker… Wisdom and common sense use to come with age and needs to be more appreciated.

    Reply
  • 15. Leta A. Dally  |  May 18, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Michael – you are WRONG WRONG WRONG to say that we must accept the status quo of age discrimination. Would you have said that to Blacks asking for equal treatment? What about women asking for equal pay? Discrimination is discrimination and needs to be exposed. Maybe there are only a few of us who have the guts to call it as it is but if we don’t who will and how will it ever change.

    Shame on you Michael, shame, shame, shame.

    Reply
    • 16. Michael Spiro  |  May 18, 2010 at 3:31 pm

      Leta:
      You misunderstood the meaning of my advice. I did NOT say that it’s OK to accept the status quo of age discrimination. Obviously, its a terrible practice that has had disastrous consequences for older workers. If you – or anyone else – is in a position to really “do something about it” … then by all means, become an activist! Go into politics. Join the legislature and pass new laws. Start a movement. Power to the People! Just don’t expect that activism to gain you any favor with potential employers in the business world, or help you actually find a job in today’s challenging market. What I simply said is that if your main goal is to get a job, then concentrating your energies on such activism is a misdirected use of your time. After all – the whole purpose of my blog is offer “advice for job-seekers in the real world.” It is not to offer advice on how to change that world. I’ll leave that to others who have different agendas other than paying bills and providing for their families.
      -Michael

      Reply
  • 17. Leta A. Dally  |  May 18, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    It is NOT misdirected. You are a recruiter – you don’t work for me or any other job seeker – you work for the employer. There is only so much one can do to look for work – yeah, give me the whole networking thing – that is a waste of limited resources. After a certain point it makes sense to be an activist. You think we should be good little worker bees while I think that is a recipe for failure. If you understood the real world, you would understand that. You don’t understand the real world so you don’t understand the frustration.

    Reply
  • 18. Phil Huston  |  May 18, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Our state and federal governments have been a shining example of age discrimination. In fact, they legislate it. This discrimination is targeted toward youth (let me say this is just an example, older discrimination is far worst and more subtle).

    A person is recognized in our society as an adult at the age of 18. It is when they can vote and they can join the army. They can’t drink alcohol because of poor judgment, but they have enough judgment to vote for the next President. (!) They can’t get a credit card because they are not mature enough to handle the responsibility of a $300 line of credit on a credit card, but they are mature enough to handle multi-million dollar machinery in the military. (?)

    Now I am not an advocate of teenage drinking, but I would stand behind their claim that if they are old enough to die for their country, they are old enough to deal with the responsibility of alcohol and credit. Age discrimination is just a given in our society.

    I have never been worried about my hire ability, until last April when I was informed that the company I had started for the owners was being dissolved. I realized that the golden boy who could get a job at anytime in two weeks was now a chubby, middle aged man who was too expensive for most companies in the US. It is a nasty reality check. So I copped out and started my own business.

    I fully intend to hire mature team members because I can’t stand the younger work ethic. I would rather have experience and maturity over youth and energy any day of the week.

    I have woken up everyday for the last 25 years telling myself that there is someone out there that is younger, cheaper and maybe even more skilled than I am. I always have be on my “A” game.

    Reply
  • 19. Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D.  |  May 19, 2010 at 1:55 am

    Experience will be highly valued in many industries and in many companies, but it is also true that many companies are presently in a position in which many of their experienced employees are Baby Boomers and they have a need to prepare for the day when the Baby Boomers will be retired. The rational business manager has to be intentionally inserting younger workers into positions to groom them for future higher management positions. A very capable and even more capable older worker may rationally be passed over for some jobs so that the company will be stronger over the next 10 years, rather than just the next 3 years. Such rational business judgments should not be put down with the now pejorative phrase “age discrimination.”

    Well-run businesses make rational decisions, they do not discriminate on prejudice. They do discriminate on the basis of rational observation and evaluation. This is as it should be.

    For those who think in terms of fairness primarily, it should try be remembered that any trade such as a hiring must be beneficial to both parties, not just the one hired. It can also just as easily be said that it is not fair to discriminate against the younger person in favor of the older, more capable person, when the younger person will contribute much more to the hiring company in the longer run than will the older person.

    Reply
  • 20. Jack Tillman  |  May 19, 2010 at 11:02 am

    In some respects, age discrimination is nothing more than payback to boomers such as myself for espousing the “don’t trust anyone over 30” line when we were young.

    Last fall, I learned my position was being eliminated five weeks prior to my 60th birthday. It didn’t take me long to recognize that age discrimination is real. But as my dad used to say, “it is what it is.” I’ve chosen to just acknowledge it as an obstacle to get over or around. Short of coming up with a better way to police it in the workplace; there’s really no other choice.

    Reply
  • 21. Chuck Balcher  |  May 19, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    sorry to hear it is such a problem. It is the company’s loss to not hire those with the most experience.

    Reply
  • 22. Elizabeth  |  May 19, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Us “youngins” are also discriminated against, particularly if we possess the education and skills to enter a company at a higher-than-entry-level level. Knowing what is best for ourselves as also recently entered the picture. More and more young people are learning from the various crises that we’ve experienced in the last decade or so; we know to be concerned about our retirement, our lifestyles, and our paychecks and all that goes with them (benefits!). So, are we truly costing that much less for the companies willing to hire us?

    As to the point about technology… I grew up with computers – maybe they weren’t the high-speed technological amazements that we have today, but they were still computers! I learned to type when I was 7. The fact that technologies are changing doesn’t really mean anything – it’s more important that the my generation and the next have grown up with these technologies and their quick pace of change. It’s that we feel more comfortable than the generations whose major technologies (not to be rude) were radio, television, satellites, and telephones!

    Thoughts?

    Reply
  • 23. Tim Angbrandt  |  May 19, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Job seekers can’t allow thoughts of age discrimination to slow down their efforts. I’m a Baby Boomer that keeps moving ahead and I’m now interviewing with a number of companies that value my skills. Many companies are still hiring experienced workers and those who actively discriminate would not be the best place for talented people to land.

    Reply
  • 24. Ryan Wootten  |  May 20, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Recruitment is a discriminating process in it’s very nature: If you have two similar candidates with the same experience, qualifications and salary requirements, you tend to make a choice on a gut feeling, or just simply whether we like an individual. You can’t draw up a process for that sort of recruitment.

    For an employer it’s much much easier to employ a 20-40 something who has a reasonable level of experience, is cheaper to hire and has potential to improve.

    Age discrimination goes both ways. Many companies choose not to invest in hiring apprentices or graduates because they take too much time and effort to train and develop (Short term, narrow minded or lazy thinking in my opinion) and the 40-60 year olds are much more expensive. Pay a recruitment agency £5000-£10,000 to poach a good 20-40 something candidate from a competitor, and you’ve already saved in terms of time, development and training costs. And if you add that recruitment fee to the salary they demand, it’ll still be cheaper than the salaries of the 40+ candidates.

    The question that isn’t asked is if a 30 something can do the same job as a 40-60+ year old and produce similar results, is the 40-60+ year old seeking too high a wage in the first place? Experience and knowledge doesn’t necessarily transfer down to productivity or profitability…………

    If you are in the older age range, and have a strong belief in your ability to do a specific job, why not go self employed, become a contractor or start your own company? You have the experience, knowledge, skills and contacts by that age surely?

    Reply
  • 25. Sheila Dentice  |  May 20, 2010 at 9:21 am

    This discussion is very interesting and many good points have been made.

    If you are actively seeking employment, look for companies who do not get crazy over birthdays. Fighting the fight while you are trying to stabilize your financial and career outlook is both demoralizing and damaging to your prospects.

    Having said that, I do believe that we must do something about it. But what? I have been working on this for a while now and believe that there are enough of us to impact this issue if we approach it from the other direction. That direction is from the bottom up as it were, by impacting the bottom line of companies that are age-a-phobic.

    When you are going to buy a product or a service do you check to see if the company is “Boomer Friendly”? Do you know if they hire older workers? Do you know if they are prone to age discrimination? Do you direct your purchasing power toward those who support workers of all ages, not just those below a certain age?

    So let’s imagine a movement where “older” workers committed to buying from those who support us whenever there is a choice. Do you think it could make a difference? I do.

    Do you keep your money in a bank that actively recruits older workers? When you shop for clothes, appliances, electronics, everything, do you know how those companies feel about hiring older workers? Do you get your phone service from a company that has been accused of age discrimination? Who is your insurer? Your lender? The list is nearly infinite. But time is finite and who has the time to do the research required?

    We are working on it at myboomer2boomer. We are assembling resources and information that will help older workers choose friendly companies and services. It is time we convince companies that we are too valuable to ignore, that we will be worth more to them as customers if they start to find us worth more as employees.

    Let’s support those who find us valuable for more than just the money we can put into their registers and perhaps, over time, the others will see the light after they see sales slipping. We need to draw them the picture that without job opportunities we possess fewer spending opportunities and that those we do have will be directed where they can do the most good. We must highlight the connection between jobs for older workers and spending by older consumers. If they “build it” and we don’t come, perhaps they will begin to get it.

    Reply
  • 26. Ryan Wootten  |  May 20, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Sheila, what you’re suggesting sounds like you are encouraging employers to just hire those of the Baby Boom generation. Surely this is just as discriminatory? (Tongue in cheek!)

    If you’re out of work you just need to make yourself a more attractive prospect.

    Those in the older age bracket – how old are your qualifcations? Are your skills and knowledge up to date? The youth have the advantage of being trained in the latest technologies, skills and procedures at school, college or university. Those who are older shouldn’t forget to invest in their own education and skills – keeping the saw sharp, if you will.

    You are not entitled to a higher salary or entitled to a job because of your ‘experience’. You are entitled to a job because of your ‘worth’.

    Regardless of your age, if you are capable of producing quality work, that is both profitable to your employer and that adds value to the company you work for, you just need to convince that potential employer of your worth at interview or in the application process.

    Reply
  • 27. UCHE AGOHA  |  May 21, 2010 at 12:05 am

    A very interesting topic; one which we all can find in the work place. But, my question is how can a candidate handle this at the entry level? Yes, it’s more frustrating when encountered at the entry level.

    Reply
  • 28. Dave Sealy  |  May 21, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    This topic is very interesting. I too am a victim and just can’t prove it.

    Reply
  • 29. Christian  |  May 22, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian

    Reply
  • 30. David Villani  |  May 22, 2010 at 8:40 am

    So sad but true. I have been looking for a year and a half and am convinced that my years of experience is inferred as being too old and have high salary expectations. There are only so many ways to disguise your years of experience without the inherent fear of falsifying your resume. I am good at what I do and have many more good years left in me but that does not seem to have any relevance in today’s hiring process.

    Reply
  • 31. Lawrence Spritzer  |  May 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Actually it is impossible to hide your age from anyone who wants to know it.
    Just do a Google search for your name. You will find websites that will list your information, giving away name, age, and some address history for free, then offer to sell more detailed information. Unless you have a very generic name, such as John Smith, they can find your information on line any time they want. I make a practice of periodically searching my own name, just to see what’s out there. That way I found out I had a namesake in New Jersey who did a year in Federal prison for overcharging the government, at a time I was living here in Texas.

    Reply
  • 32. Oya  |  May 22, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Yes, age discrimination exists. I already face it a few times. It is not related to cv and look. Once, I was asked to attend interview, and I did. With recruiter I had a nice interview till she asked my age. After learning my age she suddenly changed.

    It has nothing to do with your cv or your look. It depends on the boss age, if the boss is younger than you there is no chance for you to get the job. At this point I prefer that recruicter to say openly and directly. However, they choose the discrimination instead.

    Reply
  • 33. Michael Farrell  |  May 22, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Dave’s comment about being a victim bothers me; accepting victim status spells doom down the line. Are there people who are doing age discrimination in hiring? Of course there are; just as there are people who are discriminating based on gender, race, ethnic orientation and on and on and on. In my particular profession, I’ve been warned that I’m going to experience a lot of gender discrimination, racial discrimination and veteran status discrimination — for a white guy over 40 who tries to blend in but is proud of being a career soldier before I sought another sand box, that feels weird. Supposedly, I seem threatening to a lot of the women in my field.

    My response to this is simple and one I recommend to everyone I talk to about this. If people will discriminate against one class, they’ll discriminate against a lot of classes. I do not want to be part of an unethical, sleazy operation, and neither should you. Screw them.

    Admiral Stockdale in several of his works on ethics, leadership and adversity says something to the effect that he learned very quickly that the guards and torturers could inflict pain on him, but they couldn’t make him care. He accepted that doing what he thought was right was going to hurt, degrade and humiliate him, but not so much as giving in to their demands would. It’s the same thing here — everybody commenting here and suffering the hopelessness, confusion and loss should begin by accepting reality, shrugging their shoulders and getting on with their lives. It’s not your loss if you have to wait a bit longer for a job because they were too dumb to give you a chance based on hair color or laugh lines. Laugh at them, and get more aggressive in your search. Yeah, this hurts but you don’t have to care about the hurt; just keep trying to do the job hunt better and do so. Listen to advice, get more active in networking and so on, and keep striving; agonizing over what’s wrong with you or with them is not helpful.

    One odd thing I’ve started to do is networking with recruiters who call me. Let’s face it; there probably will be multiple calls and some folks won’t get a chance. I was talking to a recruiter for a large organization that’s always looking for folks like me about one job; we had a great conversation and as we were wrapping up, I pointed out how much I’d really like to work for this company and that all the things that made me a great candidate for this position would make me a great candidate for other positions with her firm, and to keep me in mind if she had something come up that was in my field and was a tough job with lots of challenges. I think she found that intriguing.

    One of my favorite job related movie moments occurs in The Replacements, when the Sentinels are down to their last play and need to score. It’s a really long field goal, but the kicker says, “You hold the ball, Shane, and I’ll kick the bloody piss out of it.” The coach says “Whaddaya think, Shane?” and Shane says, “What the hell?” The coach responds, “What the hell?” and they go for the field goal and make it. I contend that they won when they said what the hell, let’s do it. So should we!

    Reply
  • 34. Chris Kulbaba  |  June 6, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    Actually, you are incorrect in that it is legal to ask age, however it depends where you live. Please remember that the Internet is a global market, and you should inquire of your rights in whatever state, province, or country you live in.

    The Ontario Human Rights Code is a provincial law in the province of Ontario, Canada that gives all citizens of the province equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in specific areas such as jobs, housing and services. The code’s goal is to prevent discrimination and harassment because of race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, disability and age, to name some of the sixteen grounds that the Code prevents discrimination upon.

    So, it IS an illegal question in Ontario, Canada.

    That being said, why does an employer have to ask? They will see on the interview, they will see on the dates you gave, they will find out eventually. Stop blaming things you cannot change. I am too old, I am too young. I am over qualified, I am under-qualified. I am male, I am female, I am tall, I am short, I am skinny, I am fat, I laugh too loud, I speak too quietly.

    If you did not get the job, it was because you did not demonstrate your fit clearly enough, or show you had what they wanted and would be an asset, nothing really else.

    Reply
    • 35. Michael Spiro  |  June 6, 2010 at 11:42 pm

      Chris:
      If I’m reading your comment correctly, you are saying that in Ontario it is illegal to discriminate against a citizen based on their age (same as it is here in the U.S.) That’s NOT the same as declaring it an illegal act to simply ask someone’s age, which is NOT technically illegal at all here. One would have to prove that merely asking that question led to an act of discrimination in order to conclude that the question itself was illegal.
      -Michael

      Reply
  • 36. Oya  |  June 7, 2010 at 12:47 am

    There is nothing wrong about asking, but there is something wrong about changing behavior after learning. As I said, there is a need to talk openly. Bosses don’t want to work employees older than them, and I don’t want to work under the young person.

    Reply
  • 37. dbcat  |  August 31, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Great article, with jokes too! I’d advocate keeping up one’s skills, volunteering, and taking classes between jobs. Mr. Spiro, thank you for your advice. Now, can you find me a job? (-;

    Reply
  • 38. Joe Morely  |  February 21, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Wrong, we boomers do not have to put up with this. I regularly sue employers who discriminate and hit them where it hurts, in the pocketbook.

    I also like the idea of us boomers organizing and not only steering our business to those companies who do not discriminate, but to boycott those that do.

    Also, when you do business with a company, refuse to do business with anyone who looks under 40 and watch how the managers react when they see they are going to lose a sale (fun to do this at Bestbuy on a big ticket item. Demand to see mgr. and demand to be assigned to a boomer salesman or you don’t buy).

    Reply
    • 39. Michael Spiro  |  February 21, 2011 at 5:28 pm

      Interesting approach. So, you “regularly sue employers who discriminate???” How’s that working out for you as a job-searching strategy?

      Reply
  • 40. Margie Williams  |  May 19, 2011 at 9:00 am

    I had a phone interview and the employer sounded desperate for my skills and asked me if I WANTED to come in for a personal interview (it sounded optional for me, as if he would have made me an offer on CV and phone interview anyway.) I did make an interview appointment and the minute he walked in the room his tune changed entirely from what it had been over the phone…”Oh, well, we’re looking to make a decision maybe by the end of next month…” His body language was closed, he was suddenly less interested in me and non-committal regarding the position (about which he was previously nearly desperate to fill.) I can only conclude it was my age. I am 50 but am told I look perhaps 40 and keep myself neat, stylish but professional, am well-spoken, congenial and do not wear perfume or excess make-up or jewelry. I cannot conclude anything else. I was crestfallen on the way home and said little about the interview to friends, but I knew deep down – and it happened – that I would not receive a job offer from him. I thought I was a big girl and can handle rejection, but for the usual professional reasons. This hurt – stung, even. For the first time im my life I was rejected because of something impossible to change – I was suddenly ashamed of my age and experience and never was before. Now I am gunshy of interviews, which doesn’t help me in my career-building.

    Reply
    • 41. Michael Spiro  |  May 19, 2011 at 9:51 am

      Margie:
      Your story is very sad, and unfortunately all too familiar. I realize that it’s probably not much comfort to you to hear that this sort of thing happens every day to thousands of other highly qualified candidates who are passed over for no other reason other than their age. However, don’t be “gun-shy” going forward. The next interview you go on may be that magic “match” you are looking for with a company that values experience and maturity rather than being afraid of it for irrational reasons.
      Michael

      Reply
  • 42. Derrick  |  July 15, 2011 at 3:19 am

    I’m finding serious age discrimination in London at 30. Many job advertisements specifically say “recent graduate”. It seems to me they’re asking for someone either young…. or cheap. Even though I have applied for many of these jobs, as I am perfectly qualified, I’ve never had a second interview.

    Reply
    • 43. Michael Spiro  |  July 18, 2011 at 10:43 pm

      Derrick:
      If you are age 40 or older, you are in a “protected class” and cannot legally be discriminated against for your age. However, no such restriction protects a 30-year-old. Instead of complaining about something you cannot change, I suggest that at age 30 you might want to refrain from applying to jobs that specifically say “recent graduate” and pursue opportunities that better fit your level of experience.
      -Michael

      Reply
  • 44. Liberty  |  April 14, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    All the points are well taken and appropriate. Discrimination is a reality that must be faced. Government jobs are better at dealing with this issue and are under more scrutiny then other employment entities. Also, if you apply for positions where you have a specialty, the age issue is not quite as apparent. The problem arises when contending with a goodly number and where younger persons are equally skilled, then you will have an issue.

    Reply
  • 45. John Trent  |  May 9, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    I have sat on at least 14 F2F interviews since I started my current “hunt” seven months ago. Not a singe interviewer HR or hiring manager on my F2F interviews has addressed age, but for the interviewers/hiring managers who were in their 20s, they could have thought I was their grandfather and if they were in their 40s I was like their father. It is tough outside!!

    I have experienced five other job breaks over the past 30 years, but not one has taken me longer than four months to restart as a Project Manager/Sr. PM. On one F2F interview the hiring manager confessed that I was her 21st candidate whom she had interviewed. I did not get a call back on this one. I have had several GREAT interviews, but in a couple cases, I learned the next morning that I was not selected.

    Look, if you are overweight, haven’t an appropriate outfit to wear to an interview, haven’t gone back to school recently for degrees and certs, and are not in professional groups or volunteer your services occasionally for non-profits, then you are too old to compete with younger professionals.

    If you have a stash of cash and can start your own business, then like a couple others have advised, start your own business and you do not have to be insulted because your are experienced, out of shape and not competitive.

    I have worked at staying young throughout my life, in my health physically and mentally. I am healthier than most people run or walk at least an hour 4-5 days a week, received a MBA within the last five years, and have some recent certifications with a current DOD clearance.

    I am 82 years young and luckily I am very healthy and in very good shape – can compete for a 5K if I wanted to. I have some great professional experience these past 30 years and do not yet plan to quit professional work, but I will scale down my compensation demands in today’s market. Recently, I got my MBA and am certified as a PMP and have a current clearance. It is my job to convince the interviewer and hiring managers about the reality of my professional and personal profile and not walk away from my future interviews and let the interviewer think I am their father or grandfather.

    Regards,
    John

    Reply
  • 47. Tara  |  June 13, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I cannot believe some of the stories here – for me I don’t understand why an employer would not want the most qualified individual!

    Reply
  • 48. Candra Sorzano  |  November 5, 2016 at 9:31 am

    Great article

    Reply

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Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 15 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Experis Finance, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours
         Pass?

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on
         Résumés

Networking:
 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

Interviewing:
 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Skype Interview Tips ...
         Welcome to the Future!

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job
         Interview"

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient
         Truths

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers
         Hear

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Misleading Unemployment
         Statistics

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More
         "Searchable"

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your
         Rut!

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule for
         Business: Never Burn
         Bridges

 The Power of a Positive
         Attitude

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales
         Position

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-
         Seekers

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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