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Handling Age Discrimination in Your Mid-Life Job Search

By Dr. Jan Cannon

There is sometimes a bias against both older and younger workers. If you run into some of the following situations, you may be experiencing this "ageism."

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It's against the law to ask questions about age in an interview, but more subtle signs of ageism can creep into the verbal exchange.

Some potential employers may see you as too expensive. Or that your experience will be a hindrance rather than an asset. They may believe your work style will be a carryover from your previous positions rather than learning their approach.

Whatever the reason, interviewers may say you're overqualified. That could be shorthand for too old, but legally an OK response.

Proactive Tactics

If you feel that you're not being considered for a job because you're too old or too expensive, here are some proactive tactics to dispel the employer's fears.

  • In your your cover letter and interview state directly how your skills and the job requirements are a good fit.
  • In telephone and in-person interviews, relate those situations where your boss was younger.

    Often this is a concern of young HR managers who are doing the interviewing. It's easy to see how they could view you in a parental role rather than a cohort. It's a natural reaction, and it's to your advantage to show how you get along with Gen X or Millenial workers.
  • Show how your experience is an advantage in quickly allowing you to learn the ropes.

    Tell how you've learned new methodologies and systems in the past. And, most importantly, indicate how your experience will bring value to the company: your contacts, skills, expertise, etc.

    Your examples should reveal how much you can help the company. Just a word of caution, however. Don't go overboard. You don't want to be seen as know-it-all or threatening.

    It's a delicate balance between revealing your capabilities and being overpowering. Again, the interviewer's own experience with older people, family members or co-workers, will unconsciously play into their evaluation of you. It's up to you to be professional, pleasant and confident.
  • If an employer hesitates or finds reasons not to hire you, accept the assessment and move on.

    If there's resistance to hiring you, it may not be an environment where you'll be comfortable working.

    The interviewing process is a time for you and the employer to determine if there's a good fit. If they make excuses about hiring you, it's probably not going to work out in the long run.

There is a job out there where your experience and skills will be valued. It may take longer to find that job, but it's worth the wait.

You don't want to be looking for a new job again in a few years (or less) because you encouraged them to consider you when it wasn't really a good fit.

Remind yourself that you are not defined by your job. It's what you do, not who you are. And you want to do your best in a job that's right for you and the employer.

For More Information About Age Discrimination


About this author...

Dr. Jan Cannon, Job-Hunt's Mid-Life Career Expert, is author of Now What Do I Do? The Woman's Guide to a New Career, Find a Job: 7 Steps to Success, Finding a Job in a Slow Economy, co-author of Exceptional Accomplishment, and a career professional for 20 years. Visit her website, CannonCareerCenter.com, and circle Jan on Google+ for more career advice and help.