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Age discrimination when looking for a job

Age discrimination when looking for a job

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There may be laws against age discrimination when hiring employees, but the practice is still rife in many quarters. Older job hunters regularly report a sense of unfairness, nothing they can put their finger on, but it’s there. Of course, employers know better than to be obvious about it ‘you’re HOW old!’. Job seekers often leave their date-of-birth off their CV nowadays. But when faced with two employees who seem similarly qualified for the same job it’s more often the obviously younger candidate who gets hired.

Age is Relative

As I was researching this subject, I had in mind an age of 50+ as the age at which this problem starts to become an issue. I know that’s my own bias coming into play here (I’m 42, and don’t like to think of myself as old!). But the deeper I dug, the more I realise that age discrimination is affecting people from as early as their mid-thirties. This, I found shocking. There is so much anecdotal evidence out there to see, with stats to support it – workers aged 45 and over are on average unemployed for longer periods than their younger counterparts.

Why Employers Prefer Younger Staff

Age discrimination can be “industry dependent” to a degree. In the tech industries it is the bright young minds of the cyber-generation that are most highly prized. An older job seeker, who was educated in the pre-microchip era, may be viewed as ill equipped to cope with these types of role.

Also, the undoubted experience of older employees is valuable, but can be viewed as a burden in terms of the higher wages and associated benefits it demands.

And although it shouldn’t matter, many employees look unfavourably on women of a certain age who may be approaching the time where they look to start a family. Maternity costs and cover issues can be particularly burdensome for small-to-medium enterprises in particular. These are just a few of the preconceptions that blight older job seekers.

How to Make Yourself Shine

Age discrimination when looking for a jobThe covert nature of age discrimination means that older job-seekers must be smart and mitigate against it. Saying ‘It’s not fair!’ may be true, but isn’t all that helpful. Here are some strategies you can employ to help boost your chances of job-seeking success:

CV Smart – don’t draw attention to your years of experience. Although it’s important to play-up your skills and worldliness, experts suggest that noting around 15 years of experience for managerial positions, 10 years for technical jobs and 5 years for new-tech jobs is sufficient to prove your worth, without making you appear jaded. Keep the other years quiet

  • Avoid Chronology – CVs that list your experiences in date order flag the fact you’ve been around a while. Opt instead for a functional CV that focuses on your skills
  • Play-up your Flexibility – one of the huge benefits brought by older employees is a demonstrated ability to be flexible. Most older jobseekers have experienced a variety of roles, giving them a broader skill base than younger interviewees
  • Get Anecdotal – story-telling, used wisely, can really engage employers. They are a great way to showcase your skills and bond with your prospective employer. Stories help to show you are human
  • Highlight the Benefits of Age – a successful track record, hands-on experience, extensive training, stability, realism – all these aspects of your working life to-date can be attractive to a new employer, work them into your application and interview as appropriate
  • Address their Fears – negative perceptions of older employees include: set in their ways, high salary expectations, more challenging of authority and reluctant to progress and learn. Challenge any such potential views with positivity and vibrancy

The Law is on your Side

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) was introduced to provide protection against discrimination for certain employees and job applicant’s aged 40 and over. It covers, among other things, issues of hiring, promotion, redundancy, compensation and the conditions and benefits of employment. This legislation is backed up by the EEOC – Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you feel you have been unfairly discriminated against on the grounds of your age, you can file a complaint via the EEOC who will review your case.

If you are suffering from age discrimination in your job search, take heart from the fact that you are by no means alone. With the retirement age stretching ever-older we have an ageing workforce – in the 10 years between 2008 and 2018 it is projected that the number of over-55s in the workplace will have risen from 27 million to 39 million. Something has to change soon, by recognising the perceptions of employers we can be ready to challenge them and make a real difference to our chances of success.



About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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