Is it Age Discrimination or Something Else?

Is it Age Discrimination or Something Else?

Do you believe you are you being turned down for jobs because of your age? Age discrimination is often blamed after an unsuccessful application, but it’s almost always impossible to know if age really was a factor. Here are some of the common reasons given for not hiring a mature worker:

  • Not up on the latest technology
  • Doesn’t know current standards, best practices
  • Out of touch with industry
  • No recent demonstrated successes
  • Doesn’t show willingness and ability to learn
  • Over confident, arrogant, intimidating, “know it all”
  • Strong opinions, always “right”
  • Inflexible
  • Overqualified
  • Unlikely to stay long
  • Difficult to work with
  • Poor “fit” with company culture and work environment

Don’t dismiss these reasons as code for “old”. That thinking doesn’t help your job search. Instead, take time to plan how you are going to avoid creating these perceptions.

  • Hone your interpersonal skills to make sure you come across as warm, likeable and humble
  • Practice success stories that demonstrate your flexibility and  ability to work with a variety of people
  • Rework you resume to show how you are keeping up with technology and your industry including learning new things
  • Prepare for the “overqualified” label by understanding the real reasons behind it and how to turn your qualifications into advantages
  • Change your mindset so that you are not constantly fearing or suspecting age discrimination. This kind of negativity and paranoia comes out in interviews and can do great harm to your candidacy.
  • Consider a mentor in your field who happens to be younger and ask him or her for honest feedback. Don’t be defensive. Be very open to suggestions and be proactive about making changes based on what you hear.

Do not jump to the conclusion that it’s age discrimination any time you do not get a job.  You can’t change your age but you can change how you are perceived. Don’t waste valuable time worrying about how age is impacting your job search or set yourself up for failure by holding a negative mindset about your age.

Mature workers often say “I have so much to offer. If only I could get them to see that.”  It’s true, you do have a lot to offer!  Your mission is to get them to see that rather than a negative trait that isn’t really who you are. Prepare and practice how you will do that in every encounter.

More on job search for mature workers:


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3 thoughts on “Is it Age Discrimination or Something Else?

  1. Hi,
    Age is not an advantage in the job search when you have to work for a younger manager and here is why:
    The hiring manager will most likely hire somebody that resembles to them, or better said is a reflection of something that the manager holds dear about themselves; that is normal and called chemistry.

    Most people have egos, and a more mature and experienced employee can make (unintentionally) the manager look less experienced, and that backfires – even if the elderly person had no intention to enable comparisons, or tried to get the manager’s job.

    A “Gray Hair” job candidate, or employee sees things through a different perspective due to the Y years x 365 days experience acquired. The two people have to work hard to be on the same page; the manager might not want to put in the extra effort.

    Even if you put in the extra effort to overcome the common reasons at the begging of this article, if there is no chemistry, the older person has no chance of having a career at that place;
    or, they get hired to solve projects of increased difficulty, and when the work is completed, they get booted out.

    I think there is more to discuss on this subject.

  2. Arielle,
    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. You’re right, there is more to discuss on this subject. How people of varying ages work together is a complex topic. I believe an older worker and younger manager can have good chemistry and work successfully together. However it falls to the person applying for a job to show themselves a match to the job, the work environment and the culture. That means demonstrating a contemporary style of communication, skills that are up to date and a great attitude. If a younger manager feels an older job applicant is “old school” or more difficult to work with, they will likely be ruled out. If the younger manager believes the older worker is qualified, will fit in and will solve problems for the company, the older worker may be hired. Here are some more thoughts on interviewing with hiring managers who are younger or less experienced: As you point out, it’s critical to avoid being intimidating.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments on this big issue.


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