How To Fight Age Discrimination

fight age discrimination at work

By Donna Fuscaldo

Being out of work is hard, being unemployed and in your 50s can be impossible. While companies won't admit it, age discrimination does exist, particularly in a tight job market where there are many more candidates than job openings. Although the problem crosses both genders, older women reentering the job market can have an even tougher time. According to the September jobs report, women 55 and older who have been out of work for longer than 27 weeks increased from 50.9 percent in August to 54 percent in September.

Older workers looking for employment may think they have to act or dress younger to land a job in this economy, but career experts and headhunters say they should use what they have to their favor: knowledge and experience.

"In life there are the Justin Biebers and the Sean Connerys," says Mark Jaffe, president of Wyatt & Jaffe, the executive search firm. "There's no shame in being Sean Connery."

According to Jaffe, often older job seekers make the mistake of focusing on their past achievements and calling attention to themselves, preemptively laying out an argument why their age won't matter, when they should be talking about what their goals are for the future and why their wisdom and age can actually benefit the company.

More: Recession Shortens Lifespan Of Older Workers Who Lose Their Jobs

"The question I want answered by someone (regardless of age) is: Are they playing their greatest hits or are they cranking out new music," says Jaffe. He says to avoid talking about your age on an interview, but instead talk about how your experience puts you in the unique position to accurately judge situations and understand people's behavior. "You don't have to talk about trendy stuff or having great computer skills. Be that wise old guy," says Jaffe.

While conveying your wisdom and experience on an interview is one thing, getting the interview is something different altogether. According to career experts, to prevent your resume from getting skipped over because of your age, leave off age identifying information. "Don't include your entire work history," says Alison Doyle, the job search expert for "The last 10 to 15 years is sufficient."

Doyle says she had one job seeker who had 35 years of experience on the resume and couldn't understand why employers weren't calling. She says having years and years of experience is a red flag. "They can guess how old you are right off the bat if you have 30 years of experience," she says.

Another age identifier to leave off the resume is the dates you went to college. It's not hard to figure out how old someone is if they graduated college in 1980. What's more, make sure your skills are fresh on your resume and include current applications. Nothing screams outdated and out of touch then skills that have been obsolete for years. So even if you are an ace in Word Perfect or C++, don't include it on your resume. "If you need to upgrade your skills be sure to do that," says Doyle. "It makes a difference with employers."

More: 7 Lessons That Older Workers Should Learn From Generation-Y

Whether you are 25 or 55, one of the best ways to get a job is to do so by a recommendation from someone you know. That is why career experts say it's imperative that older workers tap connections and network in order to find a new job.

"You're more likely to get a job from someone you know," says Kerry Hannon, career expert and author of What's Next? Find Your Dream Job. "Dig deep into your network and ask for help." In addition to networking through traditional channels, Hannon says it's important to get online and learn how to use social media like LinkedIn and Facebook.

LinkedIn is a valuable tool to network within a given industry as well as meet new people that may be able to help you find employment. Hannon says it's also important to keep your skills sharp, even if you've been laid off for a while.

"Don't just sit around and send out resumes," says Hannon. "Take a course at the community college. Get out there and volunteer. You never know who you are going to meet that might help you get in the door."

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Bottom cannot, CANNOT, fight ageism! Employers know the same 'tricks' experienced job seekers are advised to use. You will only be considered by employers who actually value and seek experienced workers! Those are few and far between.

February 26 2013 at 7:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm 64, soon to be 65. I'm fortunate in that I received a disability retirement at 43 years of age. So, I've been retired for over 21 years. Still, I'd like to find work and I've been searching for over 10 years for just the right part-time job. Unfortunately, it doesn't exist. I got my real esate license but, it's tough to find even homebuyers who wat to work with an "old-timer". My next stop? Wendy's...maybe if I'm not too old!

February 26 2013 at 3:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I do somewhat agree with this article. There is definitely age discrimination out there. I am in the medical field and have worked at the same hospital in the same position with advancements for over 18 years. I was "fired" for not calling my supervisor for help with my workload for the shift. It was a "normal" worklist and rules were in place..the director said in every staff meeting..prioritize..we know workloads are heavy..if you cannot see everyone, we will handle it with the nurses. I missed 7 one time treatments. I did 56 treatments in 8 hospital areas. Normal all at once is not acceptable. They have since "fired" 30 of my colleagues for the same issue or something equally as dumb. I have filled out many applications but have only received 2 interviews. The last one ..which I really wanted..came right out and said and I quote, " I know I am not supposed to ask, but how old are you? What are your retirement plans? " I answered truthfully...58 and I have no retirement plans in the foreseeable future. I did not get the job. I KNOW it was age discrimination, but I cannot prove it. So here I am.. No job. No income. No insurance. I continue to try by filling out a new job application at least once a day. It seems futile, but I have to keep on trying. How sad this country has become.

February 26 2013 at 1:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to nana2jamm's comment

You must be an RT. Been there!

February 26 2013 at 7:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stephen Lambly

The stigma attached to age discrimination won't be circumvented by clever resume wording, strategic channel marketing or unoffensive networking. A paradigm shift is necessary for our entire culture regarding the value of the elderly. "Elderly" can be a very relative term, right? What may be considered young today may be old tomorrow. Hense, the fickleness of our society. It is said that it takes up to 50 years to change a value. We better get started now, if with truly value wisdom as a species.

November 29 2012 at 3:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Age discrimination is huge....Even having kept up with costly credential updates ($3000-$5000/year), at age 58, I am thankful to have a job and fully cognizant that if I needed one , I couldn't buy it.....Most HR personel are younger and have little respect for age and experiance.....They also want to pigeon hole every person into neat little slots...The older person is multi talented and often doesn't fit into one single slot...

October 30 2012 at 8:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have filled out several on-line applications. Please explain how to get around these electronic applications that INSIST you give dates of college, pay rates, dates of employment etc. They are able to ask gender, race, age, social sec., dates etc because they claim they are going to do a full background check and need the info. This is before you even GET the interview or even know anything about the position to see if you want to work for the company.
I can't get over how many make you take personality/sales/psychological tests when you fill out the initial application online! American Express made me fill out this hour long questionaire. Never heard back from them about the job but now I get lots of junk mail from them and from their 'partners'. It really pisses me off. Seems the 'rights' we fought for in the 70's & 80's regarding any and all DISCRIMINATION has gone right out the window.
This article is not realistic. Apparently the writer has not truly completed any on-line applications because there is NO way around it. When you do not answer every box it will not go to the next screen to submit.
Today I filled out one such situation AFTER 1 interview. They send me a link to complete more information where they asked everything that should be considered 'NOT ALLOWED'. I almost did not complete it out of pride but then..... I need a job. Can only imagine there is one big storage file somewhere in the universe that is keeping track of every factoid I have completed while trying to find a job.
ALSO - how about helping us out by STOPPING the articles on 'women 50 and over not finding work'. That just ADDS to the mindset and makes it worse for everyone.
Just saying....

October 29 2012 at 9:50 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to straightestate's comment

Absolutely correct!! No prospective employer wants just your resume; they require an application form that contains all the information that gives away your age - and not just the date of your college graduation, for instance, but your high school graduation as well. If you have stuck it out for long periods of time at your jobs, then again you cannot mask your age. And while I would be thrilled to work for any wage at this point, the forms usually require salary history -- yet few give you the opportunity to explain that you'd gladly work for whatever you can get & you wish they would just ignore the numbers. Very disheartening. I am ashamed to recall that 20 years ago, while interviewing candidates to work in our little department - our YOUNG little department, I would interview "older" individuals in their 50s and think, "How sad that this person needs to find a job at that stage of life! But he/she just wouldn't be a good fit...." So is this what is meant by karma?

February 27 2013 at 12:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It sure does exist. I've been dealing with this problem for the last 32 months thanks to "offshoring" and my job skills are currently up to date for my field of expertise. They just say "Well you're not the right fit", but never tell you why because coming out and saying it's age discrimination would get them into trouble. And those of us over fifty know exactly why we're not a good fit, especially when we meet or surpass all of the posted job requirements that they've listed..

October 25 2012 at 12:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to eledude's comment

very well put! I couldn't have said it better myself! No one will tell you "well, you're too old!". But, to be honest with you, I think I'd prefer to be told that rather than leave their office wondering "what the heck did I do wrong?"

February 26 2013 at 3:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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