Tag Archives: age discrimination

6 reasons why older job candidates shouldn’t discriminate against younger interviewers

Amy, a colleague of mine who looks no older than 30, came to me to tell me of a meeting she just had with a job seeker. In her excited, rapid voice, she told me that an older male treated her as though she were a child. She was outraged and rightfully so.

older-candidate

Amy is well revered by the staff at our career center and respected by the customers with whom she meets. She knows a great deal about the job search and training, so being disrespected by this man rubbed her the wrong way.

We sat and talked about her meeting with him and wondered aloud if this is how he presents himself in interviews to interviewers younger than him. And if he does, what his chance of success in this job market is. Slim to none, we concurred.

Eventually she calmed down.

Her advice to me was to bring up in my Mature Worker workshop this attitude toward younger interviewers . (She told me three times.) I totally agreed with her and immediately made a change to the presentation slide: “Treat younger interviewers the way you would like to be treated.”

We career advisors often come to the defense of older workers who experience age discrimination; but we don’t talk as much about reverse age discrimination, such as what Amy experienced.

We are reluctant to tell people who are unemployed how the interviewer might feel about this type of rude behavior. But this is wrong of us. (Read 10 ways you can kill your job search with a negative attitude.)

This is the message I would impart. Think about if you were younger and on the opposite side of the table interviewing people for a position, where personality fit is as important as technical abilities.

How would you react if an older job candidate looked at you with disdain and without saying it, called you inexperienced and beneath his level? Further, what would you think if you were going to be his immediate supervisor?

Hiring him would not be a marriage made in heaven. You, as the younger hiring manager, would have to prove yourself to the, albeit highly qualified, candidate on a regular basis.

He would question your every decision and tell you how he would do things. Any effort you would make to correct his actions or even reprimand him would be met with resistance. You would feel powerless. You finally reason that hiring him would be crazy.

The large majority of older workers have a great deal of value to offer employers. They’re knowledgeable in their work and possess life experience that younger workers do not. They want to work and are flexible with their schedule. They’re dependable, able to mentor others, and are great role models. These are but a few qualities of the older worker.

But there are a few older workers who think they’re all that or who have a chip on their shoulder. They are convinced that they’ll experience age discrimination at every interview. In other words, they have lost the job before the interview begins.

Susan Jepson, who directed the National Senior Network, wrote an article addressing reverse age discrimination practiced by older workers. She believes that sometimes it’s not intentional. She writes:

Without intending to, or without knowing it, mature workers can come across as arrogant, condescending; that behavior can invite rejection. Examine your beliefs and assumptions and work hard to be open and communicative with your interviewer, without prejudice of any kind.

Susan Jepson is a mature worker, so she speaks objectively.

If you happen to be one who intentionally discriminates against younger interviewers, remember that the person sitting across from you deserves as much respect as you do. Also keep in mind that your livelihood might depend on how much they value you as a potential employee. More specifically, remember:

1. She earned her job. Whether she has less experience on the job than you is irrelevant. Someone in the company determined that she was the most capable to manage a group of people. And yes, they could have been wrong.

2. Her job is to hire the best person. You are the best person, but if you show contempt or even hint to your superiority, she won’t see your talent through the less-than-desirable attitude you demonstrate.

3. She will appreciate your points of view. Once assured you’re not after her job, she may see you as a mentor and role model. Younger colleagues like the approval of older workers. Take it from someone who supervised someone 20 years my senior; her approval meant a lot to me.

4, She might have some growing to do. And if you want to succeed, you’ll realize that people of all ages have some growing to do, including you. You can help her through this process by building her self-esteem and confidence. It’s a wonderful thing to see someone grow under your tutelage.

5. She might fear that you’re after her job. So put her fears to rest by NOT talking about you would eventually want to assume a position like hers, or her position specifically. Rather, assure her that your career goal begins with doing the best possible work at the position in question. Ultimately you want to help the company succeed.

6. Whether you like it or not, she will be your boss. What are your options right now? Enough said.

You may arrive at interviews where age discrimination is blatant due to no fault of yours. This is the time when you are the bigger man/woman and leave with your pride intact, your head held high.


In the end, my colleague, Amy, told her customer that his behavior was unacceptable and it would do him more harm than good. He apologized, admitting his error. We are never too old to learn valuable lessons.

If you enjoy this post, read why younger interviewers shouldn’t discriminate against older workers.

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Younger interviewers, 9 reasons why you shouldn’t discriminate against older workers

Job interview

As a followup to 5 reasons why older workers should not discriminate against younger interviewers, this is the flip side of age discrimination.

I hate seeing trepidation in the eyes of my older workers. It concerns me and then I get angry. The reason for their trepidation is because they fear that employers will pass them over because of their age.

I assure them that only a few interviewers will practice age discrimination—usually the ignorant ones—but sometimes my words will fall on deaf ears. The doubt has already been planted in their minds.

They’ve heard stories about how older job candidates are asked question that are designed to figure out how old they are. An obvious question about age is, “So, when did you graduate from high school?” They nod at the transparency of this question.

This is the kind of crap my older workers face. This is the reason for their fear, even before the interview has begun. Essentially their chances of doing well during the interview are slim to none because they are already psyched out. And then I get frustrated because of their fear.

So younger interviewer, here are some things to consider.

Older workers know more about the job than you do, but they’re not there to take you job. A common complaint of my older workers is the hiring managers’ lack of knowledge, which is reflected in the questions they ask. Beyond that, older workers have been at their career for 20, 30, or more years. It reasons that they have more experience than younger workers.

But they also say that they simply want to be hired for the job for which they’re applying. They’re not interested in taking the hiring manager’s position. Some of them want to step back and rid themselves of management responsibilities, they don’t want the stress.

Older workers are dependable. You’re mistaken if you think older workers will miss work due to illness, mental health days, child care, and any other excuse you can think of. They have a work ethic and commitment to work that is ingrained in them.

My father worked six days a week, and I try to emulate his work ethic. I arrive early to work, even though I don’t have to, and am willing to come in early and stay late, if necessary. This is because they can; I don’t have the commitments younger workers have, namely children.

Older workers also are not interested in jumping from job to job. They believe in loyalty. You can be assured that they will want to make your employer’s company their second home. So there’s no sense in asking them where they plan to be five years from now. They plan to be with you.

In a Forbes article, it states the average tenure for older workers is approximately 4.4 years, whereas the tenure for the millennials is half that. Here’s a great post from my valued connections, Catherine Miklaus, that explains the job-hopper mindset.

Older workers have life experience that helps them solve unusual problems. Some older workers have experienced loss. In some cases they’ve lost loved ones and or jobs, which has forced them to adapt to adverse situations.

The ability to adapt to adverse situations makes older workers natural problem solvers. They think calmly under pressure because they’ve seen the problems and have learned from their mistakes. Practice makes perfect, as they say.

Older workers want to work. A common misconception is that older workers are waiting until retirement comes. The fact is that if the work is stimulating, they will work years beyond retirement age.

One of my colleagues is beyond retirement age, yet she says she would work as long as she could, because she enjoys the responsibilities and the people with whom she works. Trust the older candidate when she says she has no plans to retire.

Older workers can be a great mentors and may teach you a valuable thing or two. People who want to progress in their career understand the importance of a mentor who can help them with the technical, as well as the emotional, aspects of their job.

Older workers, who have more job-related experience, also have developed emotional intelligence (EQ) that comes with the trials in tribulations of their work. Older workers know themselves and others’ limitations.

Older workers will make you look good because you hired the best candidate. Come on, would you rather hire someone who you’re not threatened by, or someone who can be a great asset to your team? Okay, that’s a difficult question to answer.

But here’s the thing; when you hire a poor worker, that person doesn’t work out and the company loses between $25,000 and $50,000 finding his/her replacement. And you look really bad. Trust me when I say older workers don’t want your job; they just want to work. Period.

Older workers may not be as fast as you, but they works smarter, not harder. So you take the stairs two steps at a time, you work 12 hours a day and see this as productive, you never take vacation (idiot), you multi-task your ass off.

Older workers don’t do any of that foolishness, because they do the job once and get it right. I used to be in a hurry to get nowhere, until I realized that it’s better to work smarter, not harder. It may seem like a cliche, but it works. So don’t laugh when I’m walking down the hall and you’re running. We’re both getting there.

Older workers don’t think they’re all that. I’ve had the privilege to work in a young, vibrant environment, and a more mature professional one. I’ve enjoyed both, even the Nerf Footballs zipping by my head. But I have to say that the younger workers were more concerned about their pride than the older workers with whom I’ve worked.

Rest assured, younger interviewer, that we older workers have experienced our successes and the peak of our career. We’re not into the fast cars, perfectly manicured hair style, and taking credit for your work (at least I hope not). You can be “all that.” We’ll look on with admiration.

When you’re interviewing the man with grey hair sitting across from you, don’t judge him before getting to know him. He possesses many of the attributes I’ve described, plus some. Ask the questions you’d ask anyone applying for the job. It’s likely that he’s expecting you to demonstrate bias, as he’s experienced it before, so surprise him and be the better man.

Talking about Ageism: Three Pieces of Advice from Matthew Levy

I was searching around LinkedIn for some questions to answer. It’s been awhile and I miss my old routine of answering tons of questions. I came across a great question from Matthew Levy on ageism, but instead of answering his question, I decided to write this blog article in response to a very important topic—ageism and how to break down the barrier of age discrimination.

Let me start by saying that Matthew’s article was very insightful, albeit lengthy even for a verbose writer as myself. He suggests three methods for the 40+ crowd to use in combating possible age discrimination. The first method he talks about is modifying your appearance to make you appear younger. Second, he urges you to dive into social media; and third, he advises a strategic approach to writing a résumé.

Modifying one’s appearance. Matthew writes that one day he advised a gentleman to shave his beard, which according to Matthew, took five years off the man’s appearance.

I also witnessed a man who had shaven his beard and took years off his appearance. For some men it’s hard letting go of a beard he’s had for a good part of his life; but once the job is secured, the beard can return.

Matthew also suggests modifying other aspects of your appearance: eyeglasses; hair color; make-up; clothing, e.g., suits, blouses, skirts, et cetera.

Embracing social media. Using media like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to network puts you in the company of Y-generation jobseekers.

I lead workshops at an urban career center, where I see many mature workers. These folks attend my LinkedIn workshop and are excited at the prospect of getting online, or if already there, enhancing their online footprint.

“If you stay in the dark by resisting change and new technologies, the Millennials (who are interviewing you, recruiting you and referring you) might typecast you as ‘behind the times’ and ‘set in your ways,’” Matthew writes.

How true and scary.

Don’t show too much work history on your résumé. Matthew advises that jobseekers keep their work history within 20 years due to relativity, which is sound advice. But I say keep it within 15 years, as 20 years already dates you at least 43 years-old. The bottom line is why kill your chances of getting to the interview? Once at the interview you can sell yourself, thus negating your age.

Other smart suggestions Matthew offers are to remove graduation dates from your education, applying more up-to-date fonts, eliminating an objective statement and “references available upon request,” and not limiting your résumé to one page. This may seem like simple advice, but appearance in every aspect counts when making a first impression.

Matthew gives older jobseekers some great commonsense advice, but I think encouraging them to join the social media party is the best advice of the three topics.

Incidentally, Matthew asks for other ideas to help older jobseekers in their job search. My piece of advice would be to enter an interview with a positive attitude. Think as though your 20 years younger than you are because what does age matter anyways?