How to Deal With Perceived Employment Age Discrimination

Is your age in the 50’s or 60’s, and you are looking for a new full-time or part-time job? Do you think you are unlikely to get hired because you are too old? Do you feel age discrimination is really big, and is a barrier when you go to an interview? Job applicants must learn how to deal with this before the interview, or their chances of getting hired will be very low. Bill Canonico, an employment specialist at CanoniCo and at Vineyard Columbus, recently shared with me some excellent advice he gives many people that are in their upper 40’s and older.

Many people come to him terrified that they won’t get hired, because they believe their age is a barrier.  They are convinced that hiring managers will always pick a younger person with less experience. Some older job applicants have a chip on their shoulder, thinking the younger person can be paid less, learn faster, work with more energy, and is more tech-savvy.

This negative attitude is displayed to the interviewer, but the interviewee doesn’t have any idea they are doing it. This alone may be the unintended barrier to getting hired.

Older workers have decades of experience dealing with many situations in life and the work environment. Often they are calmer in dealing with difficulty, and are more appreciative of the new job they get. Older workers are much more common today, and some employers recognize and appreciate the skills, experiences and maturity they bring to the workplace.  Often they aren’t as distracted, like younger workers, by their smart phones and Internet and worrying about the politics and stress of moving up – but are just happy to do a good job.

Shockingly, even though 15% of all working age people are unemployed, many employers have difficulty finding two things: a good work ethic and appropriate skills.

Work Ethic: Showing up to work on-time, working hard, good attendance and attitude, and high level of work quality are actually rare in the workplace, employers tell us.

Skills:  Employers are having difficulty finding potential employees with the needed skills they desperately want. Read this recent article in the Wall Street Journal for some interesting facts.

Bill tells me there are three types of employers: The first group doesn’t care about age, but about work ethic, skills, experience and the ability to listen and learn. The second group may care some, and will be on the lookout for vitality, good attitude, and a younger mindset. The last group does care about age, and they are going to discriminate – and there really isn’t much you can do about it. Bill says that you have a 2/3 chance of age not really coming into play, if you approach it with the right attitude…

Attitude: The older job searcher needs to convey the attitudes and ethics mentioned above. They might want to talk with a specialist like Bill about how to conduct an interview, dress, hair style and a few other cues, to make sure they convey the right image the employer is looking for.

Resume: Bill reviews resumes every day and all day. Most of the resumes he sees are not well put together and, because of that, most people never even get to interview for the job they want. Hiring managers and recruiters go through hundreds of resumes for each open position. The first thing they do is to look for a reason to not consider you. They are trying to quickly take a stack of several hundred resumes, and reduce it to about 10.

If the resume’s form isn’t simple and easy to read, which means they have to work to figure out your skills and experiences, or are distracted by being over-designed, you are out. Next, they are scanning it to see if your skills and experience match what they are looking for. If they can’t find what they are looking for easily, it is eliminated, because they don’t have the time to try to figure it out. Next, if they come across miss-spelled words or poor grammar, then into the garbage it goes.

Now that the list is down to a smaller number, they are looking for problems, such as employment gaps (not as big a deal given the long recession), reasons for leaving, or too many positions in short period. If your resume doesn’t deal with that professionally, then more than likely you are out of the running. If you made it this far, they are now trying to find the best skills and experience. The hiring manager will pay special attention to things that you did ‘above-and-beyond’: awards, and special projects and training: things that sets you apart. A professional like Bill can help you present the best you, even if you have a few blemishes.