January 27, 2014

I’m 64: Will you hire me anyway?

Filed under: Getting in the door, Job Search, Q&A

In the January 28, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader decides to ‘fess up that he’s old… in the cover letter:

You’d never know it looking at me or talking to me, but… I’m 64! I learned a while ago to take any reference to my age off my resume, but as I list all my relevant positions and achievements, the reader has to figure, “This guy’s gotta be, like, over 60!” and boom, I’m done. The achievements, the relevant jobs, the references… buh-bye! I don’t know how to overcome this age discrimination without any opportunity for me to respond to it.

when-im-64I recently applied to a position I really want, and in the cover letter to the headhunter I wrote this:

Perhaps the only negative in my candidacy, which I feel I must address here so that it’s out in the open, is my age. I am 64 years old, which I’m sure will strike many as too old. I can assure you that in my case it is not. I’m in excellent health, I still walk 36 holes [of golf] several times a season, I play singles tennis three times a week, I write my columns and blogs in my spare time, and my clients never even think about my age. Other than continually losing arguments with my wife, I show no signs of slowing down, and fully intend to keep working full-time for at least another decade. There you go. It would be unfortunate if chronology worked against me, for no valid reason.

I figure, well, at least I’m open about it, and either it kills my chances or they actually think, “Hey, good for this guy to nip this in the bud.”

What’s your view? Ignore my age and hope they don’t notice or care? Raise it and hope they appreciate the strong position? Or deliberately hide it from all submitted material and let them reject me when they find out?

Nick’s Reply

I think your age is not the determining factor in getting a job. I think it’s a mistake to hide or emphasize age or to be defensive about it.

Consider the baseline probabilities that any given job hunter will get a job offer. They are tiny. The cynic will say, “Well, if you add in age, the odds get even smaller!” No, my view is different.

The odds are always small. But what triggers a hire is something distinctive in a candidate that suggests he or she can do an exceptional job. Such qualities are rare — in any candidate, at any age. For that reason, my advice is to forget about your age altogether. Don’t hide it or rationalize it — but leave it alone. Let them think what they want to think about age — but control the agenda. Give them something else more important to think about.

Your job is to influence an employer to believe you can make a significant material difference in the business. Show them the green, and they’re more likely to forget about the grey.


Three of the Fearless Job Hunting Books will take you on a deep dive into the topics that surround this challenge:


If an employer is going to discriminate over age, about all you can do is sue them. Or, you can hit them so hard with a value proposition that they realize they cannot afford not to hire you.

That’s the challenge. I think most of a hiring decision rides on a person’s ability to deliver profit. Age can pose additional challenges, but I think only the profit angle can overcome that.

By the way — I hate your paragraph about your age. If I were an employer reading that, I’d toss your resume. Why? Because you’re so worried about your age that your concern about it is likely to adversely affect your work and how you relate to others. My advice (but use your own judgment first) is to lose it and stop talking about it unless someone asks.

That’s my two bits. Find the right organization, do your homework (like you would if you were on the job) and hand them a brief business plan for the job — just enough to make them call you.

This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed age discrimination, and it won’t be the last. Should you disclose your age up front?

: :

61 Comments on “I’m 64: Will you hire me anyway?”
By AM
January 28, 2014 at 3:23 am

I don’t know. Age discrimination may be illegal, but it is very real (at least here in Silicon Valley), and it can’t be ignored.

He says he wrote his paragraph to a headhunter, not to the employer. He needs to be able to have an open and honest discussion with a headhunter representing him, who should in turn be informed enough to say “companies A, B and C will never hire someone your age, so don’t waste your time there, but companies X, Y and Z don’t age discriminate, and need someone with your skills.”

Sure, being defensive isn’t good. I don’t know whether his wording is perfect. But I think the letter is directionally correct.

By Veronica
January 28, 2014 at 3:44 am

@Nick, You say, “Show them the green, and they’re more likely to forget about the grey.”

There’s a great book title in that! And it’s even greater advice.

Show Them The Green, They’ll Forget The Grey.

By George R. Goffe
January 28, 2014 at 6:15 am

Hi,

I agree with Nick. Loose the cover letter and “force” them to find out how good you really are. This is a difficult task to accomplish. My question would be “How”?

I am 65 and I’ve been looking for work for over two years. I’m a HIGHLY skilled computer systems guy. I don’t tell anyone my age. Sometimes I get questions from the MOSTLY Indian head hunters about when my degree is. How are they even working in this country? Is this age discrimination? I think so. How does one prove it? It places me in an awkward position though. I lie, they check, they catch me. I don’t lie, they reject me for age but NO ONE CAN TELL IF THIS IS HAPPENING. I’ve had agencies disappear on me after having a face to face interview with them. What’s up with that?

I am VERY TECHNICAL in the computer field and have been to first base several times in the past two years. After the face to face interview, I RARELY hear back from anyone! This is TERRIBLY unprofessional to say the least.

How can I find reliable and trustworthy and HONEST head hunters?

Help anyone?

George…

By SteveG
January 28, 2014 at 6:38 am

Like AM the IT industry in the NW seems to think it is acceptable to discriminate on age. The logic seems to be that anyone over 45 is out of date, too expensive or not willing to work at the expected pace. The normal response is “not a good culture fit” or “you’ll get bored doing this job.”

In some cases the discrimination can be more blatant such as recently on an interview I asked the Director of HR why the position was open and was told it was a new position to backup the head of IT. After 38 years he had decided to retire in 2 years and they wanted to find his replacement and they were looking for someone who would be ready to take over and be there for another 15 years.

In another case I was given a glowing performance review but listed as a non-performer. When I sought clarification I was told the rating was given to all staff they considered would not be working at the company in 15 years regardless of their impact to the bottom line. It was agreed this was a mistake and HR would address the issue when the performance database was unlocked in 6 months time. Of course 5.5 months later we were all laid-off. When we complained we discovered that age complaints have to be filed within 180 days of the actual event and thus the issue was not addressed. Even though the company agreed it was wrong they are now refusing to change our records because they were never officially guilty of age discrimination.

I get surprised when HR departments create application systems which make you disclose your age. One wireless telecom company now asks for a scan of your driver’s license or the picture page from your passport – both show your DOB. Recently another ATS required the date you graduated from high school. In these cases you never get the chance to get past these robot screeners to show how you would impact the bottom line.

As with many I not only intend to keep working until I am 75 but my 401K says I have to – grin

By Nick Corcodilos
January 28, 2014 at 11:21 am

@George R. Goffe: When you permit a middle man to control your job search, you subject yourself to their whims, as you’ve found. The middle man is highly unlikely to understand how you will benefit the client, even if you explain it. So, the best course is to go straight to the employer. Headhunters fill only about 3% of jobs, so I would not invest a lot of time on headhunters who call you out of the blue. If you really want to take this route, check my PDF book, “How to Work With Headhunters.” It’ll teach you the ins and outs and, most important, how to avoid the hh’s that will waste your time.

By Nick Corcodilos
January 28, 2014 at 11:26 am

@SteveG:

“when the performance database was unlocked in 6 months time”

Say WHAT? Do they have a physical vault on a time lock? That’s insane. I’d be talking to a lawyer.

“age complaints have to be filed within 180 days of the actual event and thus the issue was not addressed”

This makes no sense. Do you mean LEGALLY or under the company’s policy? Seems to me the event is your termination. Again, I’d talk to a lawyer. This sounds like a company-wide conspiracy against older works. Who’s guilty of age discrimination is decided under the law, not company policy.

As for companies that want photos of DLs and passports, this is why I advocate taking a personal route to a manager. A company may need such info once you are hired, but it does not need it before. My response would be: “My attorney advises me against providing such key documents to avoid identify theft. Will you be willing to sign an agreement stating you will be liable for any misuse of those documents if I provide them?”

By Dave
January 28, 2014 at 11:42 am

As always, Nick hits the bulls eye. If you show yourself to be highly qualified and personable, any company would be crazy not to hire you.

Here is another good blog post from a recruiter with some ideas to defeat ageism:

http://jobtipsforgeeks.com/2013/01/31/ageism/

By ChristopherC
January 28, 2014 at 12:35 pm

The Opportunity is *Value* vs. *Commodity*

Plumbing Parts (Data)
In the computer industry, all the technologies are similar and are like just a pile of parts. Differentiating the competitors is difficult. Customers are always trying to figure out how to configure the pieces to get systems that function

Application of the Plumbing (Information)
The customer needs to become educated as to what application solutions best meet the needs of their business operation. They need to understand what *value* a specific technology brings to running their business. How does this solution help manage all the information required to run the business?

Leveraging the Application (Knowledge)
How does the application of the technology meet a *financial* need? How does it meet a *business* need?
What happens when I implement? What happens if I don’t – and the competition does?

Growing the Business (Corporate Asset)
How does the application of technology in meeting business needs become a strategic element in growing the business? How does it provide strategic power in the marketplace? How does it help the company meet new customers in new places and in new ways?

There is a corollary to this that holds true in finding employment. (Notice I didn’t say “in getting a job”)

In today’s market many people have the same skill set, track record, willingness to work, and needs in being employed. But these “check the box” criteria are just like a bunch of plumbing parts. They all look basically the same and it’s hard to differentiate between what one candidate has from what all the other candidates have. And it’s a dead end game if making that distinction is only left to the hiring manager (and God help you if it’s being left to the HR department, who really don’t know what the job requires!)

The hiring manager needs to become educated as to what candidate qualities best meet the needs of their business operation. They need to understand the real value specific skillsets and abilities bring to running their business and solving all the problems they’re faced with. The difficulty is that they are so busy, with so many fires to put out, and have so many problems that they can’t handle, that they’re overwhelmed… which is basically why they’re looking for new hires to jump in and put out the fires, so that they (the manager) can get back to doing the work they want and need to do. So it’s up to the candidate to explain clearly what their value is to the company in running the business.

This differentiation begins by educating them in terms of not only do you have the skills and abilities (“plumbing parts”) — but how you can impact the bottom line financial needs, as well as solve their business needs (“leveraging knowledge”). This is where doing due-diligence of the company’s marketplace and competition is important in demonstrating your value-addedness.

Critical to this process is to educate the hiring manager on how the application of your skillset and knowledge becomes a *strategic* element in growing their business. How you can help them compete more effectively. How you can add insight to earning and keeping customers. How you can help them expand into new areas, thus shortening the time to market which lets them speed up their growth plans.

By demonstrating your skills, how you can apply them to the company’s needs, and define them in terms of value (feature/function/benefit) – you provide information that fits with their hiring needs. By demonstrating the application of your abilities in terms of financial impact, operational impact and strategic impact – you provide a tactical advantage for them in running their business, while showing them the strategic value of bringing you on board. As you add value to the data you demonstrate information. Add value to information and you demonstrate knowledge. Add value to knowledge and you demonstrate business wisdom. That’s where you provide value as a corporate asset.

Otherwise, you’re left out in the middle of the Colosseum with all the other competitors who rely on conventional job hunting and the HR departments — whose incentives are not to find the best candidate, but to eliminate as many as possible as fast as possible.

By cb
January 28, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Sometimes age works in your favor. You can tell it might when the hiring manager says “I thought you were a dying breed!

By Carol Buffone
January 28, 2014 at 12:44 pm

It is a general rule of thunb…10-15 years of work history-MAX. Why is this guy telegraphing his age by including enough history to show 40 some years of work history. TBut more important, there is a good agruement that what you were doing more than 15 years ago is passe. Skills, technology, contacts, procedures, knowledge that the employer can no longer use.
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By Larry Kaplan
January 28, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Good advice, Nick, as always. I would not mention my age. But age discrimination is definitely an issue — although difficult to prove, it is very prevalent, especially in such industries as entertainment and technology.

I view it as just another hoop to jump through and another reason to focus on my strengths. I should add that, among other factors making it difficult for me to find a full-time job, age led me to forget job hunting and hang out my own shingle as a consultant, where people do value the wisdom of age.

By AM
January 28, 2014 at 12:46 pm

I think that age-discrimination may be easier to overcome for contract jobs than for “regular” employment.

It may also be less of a factor in remote positions – I heard about one guy who was hired without ever having a face-to-face interview! Their logic was that his position required managing customers/partners through email and phone. That’s a pragmatic company.

All you IT people (I am not one): those jobs are the hottest around. SV companies have dozens or hundreds of programming and other IT openings – check any company jobs website. If you have the skills they ask and still cannot get hired, you may want to polish your interviewing skills with Nick or another great career coach.

ATH is the best interviewing resource I’ve ever found, by a mile. And it’s best used alongside a dose of healthy pragmatism. Good luck.

By Carol B
January 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm

A general rule of thumb is…10-15 years of work history-MAX. The arguemwnt? Anything you were doing more than 15 years ago is passe. Why is this guy telegraphing his age with 40 years of work history? (He said you could see he was in his 60’s.) Managing a Word Proecessing Operation tells them your age! Word Processing is passe but the management skills are not. Concentrate on the accomplishments and not when or where they happened.

By Erica Klein
January 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm

As a psychologist, in addition to the great advice here I would also suggest that you anticipate the stereotype of the older worker and proactively demonstrate your qualities that go against that stereotype WITHOUT MAKING MENTION OF AGE. It’s been shown in many studies that referencing a stereotype makes it mentally accessible and inadvertently applied to individuals.
Best wishes to all in your job search – Erica Klein

By Carole
January 28, 2014 at 1:06 pm

@ChristopherC, that’s one of the best explanations of why offering more than your skills is crucial. Copied and save–thank you!

By Howard Lee Harkness
January 28, 2014 at 1:11 pm

I’m 62. I started encountering age discrimination over two decades ago. It can be subtle (I am familiar with the actual meaning of the term “overqualified”), or it can be blatant, as in the case of a well-known company on the west coast where the interview team contained only one individual who was not young enough to be one of my grandchildren (and he could have been my son) — of course, I was told that I would not “fit with their culture.” Well, DUH. I knew that, the instant I saw them. In retrospect, I should have simply left at that point to avoid the waste of an entire morning, but I decided I could use the practice on my interview skills. Plus, it was kind of entertaining to watch the contortions they went through to avoid the topic of my gray hair. You could tell that they had been well-rehearsed in avoiding that particular legal problem — and that it was still a struggle for them.

I also made the career-limiting decision over 40 years ago to avoid becoming a manager, and to remain an individual technical contributor. There have been two occasions in my career when I was promoted into a managerial position over my objections, and the way I dealt with both of them was to resign. Seems like the rationale went something like, “Harkness is a pretty good programmer, so let’s promote him to something he will suck at.”

I was in an interview more than 20 years ago with a guy who looked at my bragsheet and asked me “Where are your ‘soft’ skills? It looks like you’ve been a programmer for nearly 20 years, and never been a manager. What’s wrong with you that keeps you from being a manager?”

What’s wrong with me is that I’m really good at writing software, and that is what I want to do. And I considered that to be a stupid (and insulting) enough question that I got up and walked out. I did land a job at the very next interview (and I stayed at that one until the company was bought out an moved to the west coast about 4 years later).

One approach that I have used in the last 20 years, with varying levels of success, is to concentrate on contracting instead of direct-hire. There is much less age discrimination in contracting, and sometimes, a client is specifically looking for someone with a broad range of experience (like I have). I’m currently “between contracts.” It’s been long enough that I’m seriously considering Plan B (along with C, D, E, & F — I *do* have other skills and interests).

By Chris Walker
January 28, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Nick–There used to be an article on the ATH site titled ‘Age Discrimination or Age Anxiety’. I couldn’t find it when I tried to provide a link for on of my clients. ‘Too Old to Rock & Roll’ is still there and still a great read.

I work exclusively with job seekers 50 and older, and the best advice I can give them is to ignore age. We don’t control the opinions and biases of others. In job search, we need to pay attention to those things we do control.

By Phil
January 28, 2014 at 1:29 pm

There is a built-in age bias in the hiring processes. With all due respect to Nick, even 1st rate Executive Search firms will be reluctant to present a candidate over 60, unless the HH has identified the candidate through there own methods. If you are “in-transition”, you are far less likely to overcome the age bias applying to jobs in the traditional way. A direct mail campaign can be effective, but your network becomes very important to introducing/referring you to hiring decision-makers. Without a warm introduction, the odds of getting in front of a decision-maker are far, far higher.

By Becky Siebenthaler
January 28, 2014 at 1:45 pm

“Let them think what they want to think about age — but control the agenda. Give them something else more important to think about.”

That’s it in a nutshell. So simple, yet so hard – it takes experience and confidence and knowing when to walk instead. Thanks, Nick.

BTW, what’s your view on gray hair vs. coloring to control the initial visual impression?

By Howard Lee Harkness
January 28, 2014 at 2:26 pm

I used to color my hair and beard. I don’t bother anymore. Too much hassle. I also find that I don’t really care anymore.

I figure somebody who judges me by the color of my hair is not qualified to work for *me* — so why would I want to work for him/her? I might consider a short-term consultant role, but not a direct-hire.

I’ve toyed with the idea of starting my own company, and not hiring anyone with less than 30 years of work experience for *any* position. Yeah, reverse age discrimination. Who knows — It might mop the floor with the competition.

By Helen
January 28, 2014 at 3:16 pm

I’m 65, and also pretty youthful. My take on age is this – when I’m interviewing with boomers my age, it doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s viewed as a plus and it looks like I’m a good ‘fit.’ When I’m meeting with younger people, they may think I’m historically cool and interesting, but they perceive a cultural difference, and that it’s not a ‘fit,’ regardless of how good I am at my job. Let’s face it, there are only so many people who want to work with people their grandparents’ age.

So I focus on organizations with older people actively running the business. They will appreciate you.

But I don’t keep age out of it entirely, especially on the resume. I started a new career direction within the past 10 years. If that’s all I put on my resume, it would look like I’m in my 30s. You definitely don’t want to show up for an interview if that’s what they’re really looking for. You won’t be a fit for what they want. So I always indicate prior experience and level of responsibility, even if it’s minimized.

Best of luck.

By Julia
January 28, 2014 at 3:16 pm

The assumption here is that the manager most cares about the value delivered and their prejudices are not big enough to throw away that value without even considering it. In this case, age (gender, race etc) really don’t matter, whether you put it or not. You just need to locate managers with this good attitude…

Unfortunately, it’s kind of difficult. Go ahead and deal with somebody below 30 who believes that people become dumb when they get older (Mark Zuckerberg anyone?). You probably need to color your hair (i.e. purple) and put on the resume that you’re a champion in foosball to prove your value and team fit. Weeee!

By Nick Corcodilos
January 28, 2014 at 4:41 pm

@Dave: And there are a lot of crazy companies out there!

By Nick Corcodilos
January 28, 2014 at 4:43 pm

@Carol Buffone: I get your point, but the only reason to cover up the dates and shrink the experience range on the resume is to get called for an interview. If you do it my way, you’re not reliant on a resume, so no need to cover up. But I do get your point for those who like to work that way.

By Alan Geller
January 28, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Have you considered that some hiring managers at some companies and some headhunters may consider it their job to look for your academic degree date if there is one and starting from there work up your resume to make sure that there are no gaps of employment?

I’m a recruiter and the last time that I didn’t send a resume to a client that covered the above dates I received a call from the client asking that I supply all the information. When I asked the reason, I was told that in the past they had a candidate that left dates off his resume and when they probed they learned that he was in prison during an unexplained period on his resume.

Personally, I won’t screen someone out because of age. That said, some hiring managers for some positions prefer bringing in someone with less experience as they envision a mentor/protege relationship. In other cases, more experienced hires are sought. For the more junior roles, if I have a more experienced candidate with the sought after qualifications who will accept the budgeted salary and a strong case for relevancy can be made, I’ll make that case.

By Nick Corcodilos
January 28, 2014 at 4:46 pm

@Larry Kaplan: Oh, I know there’s age discrimination. It’s rampant and now it’s institutionalized. Employers and ATS vendors misuse the Equal Opportunity rules to exploit age data. “The feds require that we report it… so we can use it!” I really think the only way to get past it is to take a totally different approach. Eliminate the “middle man” – the resume or job app – and introduce yourself using tools that show what you will do. That usually requires a one-on-one conversation, which you have to arrange without a resume.

By Nick Corcodilos
January 28, 2014 at 4:52 pm

@Chris Walker: Man, you really know the archive! “Age Discrimination or Age Anxiety” was never an article on the website. It’s an edition of the newsletter that I re-wrote for Fearless Job Hunting Book Five: Get The Right
Employer’s Full Attention.

By Nick Corcodilos
January 28, 2014 at 4:57 pm

@Phil: “Without a warm introduction, the odds of getting in front of a decision-maker are far, far higher.”

Yah, but I think that’s true no matter what age you are!

@Backy S: Hair coloring? I think that’s a personal judgment. I know a guy who colored his hair when it went grey, and he’s still a jerk. It didn’t help.

@Julia: You’re right, of course, but the whole point to all this is that selecting who you want to work for is a deliberative process. And there aren’t many people worth working for, whether it’s because they discriminate, or because they’re stupid, or because they’re clueless. It’s important to put the age issue into context.

By John F
January 28, 2014 at 5:04 pm

The only way age discrimination will be put to rest is if, and when, the government decides to limit the Social Security payouts to folks who are over 67 years old. In return, companies will be required to hire a percentage of their workers who are over 60 into their workforce or pay a penalty. This government arm twisting will finally put an end to the secret age discrimination generated by HR.

By CAT
January 28, 2014 at 5:27 pm

I am a lawyer and have been looking for a full time position for almost 18 months now. I was at my last firm for 10 yrs. I have 28 yrs experience. I am 61. First, no firm is going to talk to you without a resume. (unless you have a MAJOR connection and even then others you have to meet with need a resume before talking). Second you cannot hide your age/experience level since the year you became a lawyer is right on the state bar website for all to see and they can tell by your bar number which is chronological. It would look ridiculous to only include the last 15 years of work history. And I am proud of my experience. There is no question there is age discrimination. It is extremely hard to prove. The law recognizes age discrimination for those 40 and older. You would have to show the company has a pattern of not hiring those over a certain age. NO one is stupid enough to say to candidates “we are not hiring you b/c of your age”. Very very difficult to prove even internally with promotions and/or lay offs especially if you are an “at will” employee. As to the SteveG, you have to file a complaint to your appropriate state agency before you can file a lawsuit. That would be within 180 days from the time were laid off or fired. And it is SO EASY ow to find out someone’s age given all the info on the net or at least get a decade range.

By Anne
January 28, 2014 at 7:55 pm

I really wonder about comments like this:

“I used to color my hair and beard. I don’t bother anymore. Too much hassle. I also find that I don’t really care anymore.”

Seriously? You don’t care? Yikes!

If one is in a secure job or retired, I’d say “right on, brother.” But if you are an older job seeker, you really need every advantage you can muster. It’s sad but true that gray or white hair is an instant visual signal that can shout “old. over the hill. fogey” etc.

My husband is 68, an executive who wants to work 2 or 3 more years, and he uses one of the boxed hair color for men products from CVS. He doesn’t leave it on overlong, so it looks very natural. It makes him look at least 10 years younger than his actual age.

First impressions are crucial. We can say it shouldn’t be so in an ideal world, but in this world that’s how it is. A little hair dye is a small price to pay, IMO, for a better shot at perceived relevance — and employment.

By Richard McLeland-Wieser
January 28, 2014 at 8:09 pm

@Carol Buffone: “Skills, technology, contacts, procedures, knowledge that the employer can no longer use.” Really? REALLY?

By Gord M.
January 28, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Great advice by Nick. Let’s not be naive re. age discrimination though.

But do NOT be defensive. Be strong. You have FORTY YEARS of experience that you can bring to bear for this company.

You probably don’t want to work for a company that ignores that fact.

Not sure about the hair colouring! Whatever you are most comfortable with.

By Ann
January 28, 2014 at 10:30 pm

The entire job search business is a HUGE waste of time for millions of bright, hardworking, experienced, skilled, educated people in this country – of any age. How many hours have we all spent applying online in those ridiculous time consuming websites? Of course it’s easy to say go after your contacts and networking, as though getting a job is joining a private club and only certain people are allowed in. I wish there were something we could all do to band together to stop this ridiculous waste of energy in this country. How on earth are we supposed to work until 67 and beyond when nobody can even get an interview!? It’s depressing, frustrating and not right.

By Don Harkness
January 28, 2014 at 10:35 pm

I’m 74, got my last job at 69. I often talk with 50+ job hunters who ask my advice about how to deal with age.. which is….ignore it, & don’t hide it.
one reason is you won’t waste time trying to dance around it and the other is you want to know who cares and who doesn’t. That’s useful information If they care, you’re view should be the flip side, don’t care about them, you don’t want to work there.
Ironically I got my degree late in life, and if I included the date I got my degree, I’d be 20 years younger than those who do that math would expect me to be.
Not only did the guy disclose his concern about his age to a middle man he compounded the problem by saying it was a negative…it’s also a positive if you position it.
My prior life was IT, about 45 years counting IT recruiter. Yes the NW with their start up snotty and shortsighted attitude age discriminates..Look for the adults. Start your own business or become an IT recruiter where your experience has value, place decision makers in these companies who will owe you one, and if you want to grind yourself into dust, you’ll have an in and they’ll hire you.

By SteveG
January 28, 2014 at 10:40 pm

@Nick
Yes this very large software company claims their review database is “locked” between review periods. As all software geeks like me will know – this is nuts, but they will not budge.

Yes, as CAT confirmed, the legal requirement is 180 days from the incident and this can be increased on a state by state basis. I did get a lawyer and the response was they were legally in the right even if their ethics were suspect.

@CAT – as I said above I did have a lawyer. When we went to the state to file they would not take the case because they claimed, in a phone call of course and refused to put it writing, that they had ruled the 180 days must be from the incident. The lay-off was a result of the incident and not the point of the incident. Even though the HR Department agreed it was in the wrong and would change it – they created a 180 day delay which legally let them off. Which goes to show corporate lawyers are way smarter than employees.

By Nick Corcodilos
January 29, 2014 at 11:53 am

@SteveG: Sometimes I think half or more of all enterprises succeed in snowing investors, employees, government and the public with such outlandish technical pronouncements… and no one challenges them.

“Our database is locked for six months!”

By Pat
January 29, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Does age discrimination exist? Of course it does, even in large corporations where they claim otherwise.

However, I am nearing 74 and still working time as a consultant. When I am applying for a position, I don’t even think about whether my age is an issue. If you think about age, you will fail interviews because your concern will show. It will give the interviewer something to think about and a reason to reject you. If you show confidence and the belief that you are the best fit for the job, you will survive and get jobs.

By Nick Corcodilos
January 29, 2014 at 4:46 pm

@Pat: I wrote an entire article (a long one) that said exactly what you said. You said it faster and better. Thanks! And since I’m not 74, you said it more convincingly!

By Lynne
January 30, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Here’s a somewhat harsh but honest description of how the original questioner’s note hits me:

“Perhaps the only negative in my candidacy, which I feel I must address here so that it’s out in the open, is my age. I am 64 years old, which I’m sure will strike many as too old.”

Now that you mention it, perhaps something related to your age should be my concern, since it’s your concern. Why are you so concerned about it?

“I can assure you that in my case it is not. I’m in excellent health, I still walk 36 holes [of golf] several times a season, I play singles tennis three times a week,”

OK you exercise — great, but what about the job I need done? And are you going to cut out of work early to get in 36 holes?

“I write my columns and blogs in my spare time,”

I’m not impressed with this bit of writing, and not eager to see more.

“and my clients never even think about my age.”

How could you know?

“Other than continually losing arguments with my wife,”

So you’re not going to be a good negotiator and can’t state a convincing case — even to someone you know well.

“I show no signs of slowing down,”

so you’re hiding the signs?

“and fully intend to keep working full-time for at least another decade.”

Good luck with that — I’m not finding any reason to hire you for a week, never mind years.

“There you go. It would be unfortunate if chronology worked against me, for no valid reason.”

You didn’t tell me anything I care about. I want to know if you can do the job and do it well. You told me you’re an active person who may be hiding the fact he’s slowing down. You told me that you’re a poor negotiator who makes sexist wife jokes disguised as compliments (ie. everyone knows husbands should win arguments). What will you say when you’re not trying to make a positive impression? I’m not interested – but not for the reason you think. With all your years of experience, you’re still unable to provide relevant positive information to a potential employer. I’m going to assume you’re not very good with people and perhaps a slow learner. Sorry!

Talk about the job and the hard and soft skills required (and hopefully available from this applicant) would make a much better first impression.

Good luck to everyone searching!

By SteveG
January 30, 2014 at 3:59 pm

@Lynne – I think you have actually understood the issue. All the original question did was focus on what the hiring team were thinking regardless of your ability to do the job. Proving you can do the job is the easy part, dealing with this unspoken elephant in the room is the issue people over 50 are facing.

The challenge is if you are the one who opens the door to an age discussion then the issue of your age is on the table and available as a valid issue to be addressed.

The joke that I find is having a recruiter and hiring manager tell me they are looking for someone who is going to stay the distance and be there for 10 to 15 years. Yet after finding their “ideal fit” they are reposting the same position every 12 months or less. Einstein’s definition of insanity is alive and well for many seeking the correct fit because of the fact they are looking for someone with 30 years of experience but want to find it in a 35 year old.

By L.T.
January 30, 2014 at 4:23 pm

“It would be unfortunate if chronology worked against me, for no valid reason.”

Let’s give a round of applause for telling it like it is. I’m 58 and age has been working against me for 25 years now, among other things. I still keep my head down, do my job as best I can and look for opportunities where available.

I’ve never worked with a good headhunter, but I can well imagine that not only will they know (as AM says) “… “companies A, B and C will never hire someone your age, so don’t waste your time there, but companies X, Y and Z don’t age discriminate, and need someone with your skills”, they will also know which companies have other agendas: D, E and F put diversity before qualifications, and couldn’t hire a white guy if they had to. The HR guys at G, H and I think Vietnam vets are all homeless and drugged out while recent sandbox vets are all PTS time bombs waiting to go off. Are you a male? Forget J, K and L. The list goes on.

The problem, as we all have discovered, is that there is a crop of so-called head hunters out there who are barely aware of English as a spoken language, are really just recruiters scouring the job boards for low hanging fruit, and hoping that if they stumble on the right candidate, they will become a recruiter for some firm to lazy to do its own recruiting.

(Maybe being a bitter old man is holding me back as well. Nah. A good hiring manger could look past that.)

By Barbara Holtzman
January 31, 2014 at 12:39 pm

“If you show yourself to be highly qualified and personable, any company would be crazy not to hire you.”

That’s funny. I’ve been told more than a few times, that I was PERFECT for the job – only to get a letter stating someone else was a “better fit.” Meaning I was to nice, too funny, too smart, and old enough to be the interviewer’s mother. Who wants their mother as a subordinate?

Yes, I have a lot going for me, and I get plenty of “work,” but not with an employer retirement plan and benefits. Being freelance or a consultant is not the same as being an employee, and some people can’t see themselves as anything else.

By SteveG
January 31, 2014 at 1:16 pm

@L.T. I have to say I really have stopped wasting time with the off-shore recruiters using VoIP to claim they are in places like New Jersey, but at least they use real names and not Tom, Dick or Harry to westernize themselves. It is even funnier when those in NJ have no idea what the Super Bowl is.

@Barbara – you hit a great legal excuse for ageism – benefits. My state’s unemployment team told me that the financial burden of older employee’s benefits is an allowable reason to terminate or lay-off these staff. We are talking about family people with probably several kids under 26. Given my “affordable” healthcare is now more than my mortgage with a deductible that could by a new car – I can understand why.

This is also why almost 100% of the recruiters L.T. discussed are offering contracts at rates which are extremely low for the skills required but always without any benefits – medical, dental, holidays, vacation or anything except they process you on a W2.

By Dave
January 31, 2014 at 4:08 pm

@L.T.

“I’ve never worked with a good headhunter, but I can well imagine that not only will they know …”

We speak of purple squirrels on the candidate end, but I contend that the purple squirrels happen on the other end as well ;-)

By Eddie
February 1, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Ever try to make an online resume with Linked-in or Monster. The process requires you to put in a start and/or end date. The only way you can obfuscate your age is not putting in older experience. The job boards are bent this direction of skirting age discrimination,

By Eddie
February 1, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Our vaunted CEO of the United States is using the bully pulpit to get the nation’s CEOS to hire the long term unemployed. Maybe he should divert some of the spy talent from the NSA into selecting potential corporate targets for age discrimination. Recruit from FBI etc. to start a sting operation and clean up corporate america and wall street.

By JBS
February 1, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Nick,

Your answer made my blood boil. I really believe your advice is off target. After 12 years of job search both as a recruiter and as a potential employee, I have come to believe that age is on hiring manager’s minds in close to 100% of new jobs even if interviewers can’t talk about it openly. Pitching oneself on the value we bring won’t get it done. Anybody who doesn’t account for this fooling him or herself.

Here are some personal examples:

1) I applied to four jobs I was easily qualified for. One required only 1 year’s experience. I followed up all four applications with a phone call. All the recruiters were angry that I applied and refused to present me to their clients. They told me they feared that I would leave the job quickly for something bigger. One recruiter told me he had never seen a more experienced worker apply for a job below his experience level. Try this yourself: Follow up a resume submission with a phone call and listen to what you get. Selling yourself on value and skills did not work.

2) In a recent interview for interim work, the hiring manager said he was going to throw my resume away. He said my resume was not worth looking at since I was certainly qualified for the job. Eventually he said he realized I was an employee near retirement who may want to make a little extra money.

3) A contract recruiter told me that when a job requirement says 5-8 years experience they will lose the contract if they present someone to the employer with 9 years experience. You have to understand why they have to honor this. Contract recruiting is a highly competitive business with dozens if not hundreds of recruiters approaching firms.

4) Another contract recruiter told me that the hiring manager was in his 30’s and the work group is a cohesive group of 20 somethings. They do not want to disrupt things by adding someone as old than their parents to the work unit.

5) Yet another contract recruiter I worked with told me that age discrimination is quite open but they can’t really talk about it openly.

6) In another recent interview for interim work, the lady kept saying the job required a lot of energy. She would not believe that my working 10 hours a day and commuting 2 hours each way a year earlier did not require a lot of energy.

7) In 2007, I got a new job after applying to several thousand. Virtually all the employees on the new job were past 50 so I realized this was one of few employees that considered older workers.

8) In 2012, I got a new job. Later in the year, the CEO who hired me confessed over a dinner that he was surprised someone older than him would be applying for a position.

9) In reviewing web sites on age discrimination, I see that virtually all age related law suits are because of promotions, wrongful discharge, or some on the job conduct. I have not seen any evidence that an age discrimination case was won on hiring practices.

We who are 60+ need to figure out a way to get past this thinking. Pitching ourselves on value is not good enough. I have some ideas but would like to hear others.

By Don Harkness
February 1, 2014 at 1:32 pm

@JBS
As noted earlier…I’m now 74. I’ve worked at a small private company as a recruiter for over 5 years. I was 69 when I was hired, by a 30 year old President.

We don’t have age on our minds, or gender etc. We only care about value-add.

There’s nothing special about us in this regard. I’m working in a hot industry where demand is high for talent..

A # of your examples are working through middlemen recruiters who are looking for a sale.

Yes there’s age discrimination, but that means you have to look harder…for someone who doesn’t give a hoot about age.

Nor should you. If your fret about it, it effects your search, your presentation, your confidence.

I tell job hunters don’t hunt for jobs, hunt for companies. That’s why job hunting is a job. It entails a lot of research in this case to find companies who don’t worry about age, and then when you do network into them.

Not easy, but not impossible. They are out there.

By SteveG
February 1, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Don – that is an awesome story. This is what we are all told to do. For some reason I have not yet met a company president who has the guts to do this. I have almost been hired several times by a company presidents only for them to do something like:
1) ask the Director of HR to go through the motions of interviewing me as well. Without reporting her decision she rejected me and instead hired three people to do the work. Later I was told all three were a disastrous hire resulting in them each being terminated.
2) allowing various team members to meet/interview me. Each group wanted to see me in relation to their team’s work and not the company’s C-level position which this was. Thus they all saw me unsuited to be in their special team. Rather like telling Jeff Bezos he can’t work at Amazon because he isn’t a brilliant coder, a web developer, a fulfillment manager or any of the other roles.

The issue for me is in almost all cases you cannot easily find a hiring manager who is now allowed to hire without someone less qualified in that role’s requirements being involved. In an earlier post here I said a director of a large health cooperative who wanted to hire me was told by the recruitment team he was forced to use that his choice of candidates to hire from was not his to dictate.

It appears to me that 90% or more of the current recruitment systems seem really screwed up. Outsourced and internal recruiters are not seeking talent and skills but using keywords plus questionable stereotypes to find the amazing “good fit.”

Sadly I do not believe the CEO of the USA or the CEO of any other large companies present for that speech are big enough to change anything. This poor recruitment ethic being discussed here is too strongly engrained.

BTW I did note Wal-Mart and McDonalds were repeatedly talked about as companies who were agreeing to employ the long-term highly qualified unemployed.

So start practicing – welcome to our store and/or would you like fires with that :-)

By Deborah
February 3, 2014 at 3:49 pm

I’m 60 and have gray hair, can’t color anymore and frankly don’t want to. I get plenty of interviews but some people have said they want someone who wants a career..the he had gray hair…enough said. Sometimes it could be politics..ya know kinda heard that…people my age are retiring. So I still have two more years for social security so I’ll take it soon er than later I suppose. So sick of it.

By marybeth
February 4, 2014 at 12:01 am

Age discrimination is illegal, but it is alive and well and thriving. I’m an “older” worker (ie, not fresh out of college or just within that magic 3-8 years of experience). I have long removed the dates of graduations from my résumé, removed years of experience, changed my résumé to a functional format (so they see my skills, not where I have worked nor for how long). But I can’t hide my age–I don’t look 25, and I wouldn’t want to be 25 again. Well…maybe….but only if I could be 25 and know what I know now.

Employers want experience, someone with a work ethic, who has critical thinking and problem solving skills. But they don’t want to hire older workers. So what gives? They want the experience (the younger workers complain that employers won’t even look at them despite internships and volunteering because they lack the work experience, but when older workers apply, they reject them too, despite having what employers say they want).

I had one hiring manager tell me that he can tell when applicants are older because they do exactly what we’ve told to do–remove the graduation dates from our résumés, don’t put them in on our applications, change up our résumés. So either way, they can tell and we get rejected because we’re “too old”. It is illegal but most employers are very savvy today and know better than to tell applicants outright that they were not interviewed or not hired because they’re over 35 or 40. The reason given is that bland, generic “not a good fit for us”, or “someone else was a better fit”. It is very hard, nigh impossible, to prove age discrimination. As much as courts don’t like pretexts (saying that the candidate was a poor fit when you really meant too old), especially if it is poorly done, but courts also hate hate hate to get involved in day-to-day business decisions, including who businesses hire, unless businesses are stupid enough to say or document that candidate A wasn’t hired because he’s black, because she’s Jewish, because she’s 35 (too old). “Poor fit” covers a lot of sins and gets them off the hook.

I’m working part time now, and nearly all of my colleagues are in my age range or older. There’s only one who is significantly younger–in her mid-twenties. After her, the rest of us are mid/late 40’s and older. I don’t know if the result would have been the same had my colleagues all been younger than me–maybe they wouldn’t have wanted to hire an older person.

The funny thing about age is that none of us escape it. We all get older, so that 30 year old kid manager is going to be 45 someday, and I would hope that he realizes that just getting older doesn’t mean slow, stupid, or not up to date. Many of my colleagues are just as tech-savvy as the youngest among us, and we all learn from eachother because technology changes so quickly.

At the same time, I’m frustrated. I genuinely like my colleagues and my job isn’t bad. But….I’d like a full time job with better pay and benefits, and I’m beginning to fear that it won’t be an option for me, between the HR big data and the prejudice against older workers. And I’m nowhere near being ready to retire–I still have a good 20 or more years to work. When I was young (teenager and early 20’s) it was hard to find that first job because I didn’t have experience, but someone was willing to take a chance on me. I have a strong work ethic, and I’m willing to learn. I remember hoping that I’d never have to worry about that again (lack of experience), and in my youthful ignorance never thought that too much experience (age) would bring the same result–no one willing to take a chance on me.

By AM
February 4, 2014 at 12:47 am

I was recently turned down for my “dream job,” for which I met or exceeded every one of their stated requirements, in addition to having a strong proven interest in the industry, because I was “overqualified,” or so said the interviewer young enough to be my daughter.

So I used my ATH interviewing techniques and went on to get a different job (also with a startup) for which I didn’t have the experience, but which pays 2-3X the first job, and turns out to be more fun, with much nicer, more grown up, people.

As real and terrible as age discrimination is, ultimately only we can help ourselves, and we can do that through the difficult challenge of managing our attitude and staying positive in the face of adversity. It really clicked for me when I was about to vent (about what I felt was my initial, age-based rejection) to a friend who happens to be black and gay. I stopped myself, and realized … what am I doing? Here is a black, gay man somehow making it in corporate America. (And doing quite well.) How dare I complain?!

By Richard McLeland-Wieser
February 4, 2014 at 7:00 pm

“It is not illegal for an employer or other covered entity to favor an older worker over a younger one, even if both workers are age 40 or older,” so says the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website.

However, some states do outlaw age discrimination in the hiring process. Washington State law (RCW 49.44.090) states “It shall be an unfair practice: (1) For an employer or licensing agency, because an individual is forty years of age or older, to refuse to hire…”

By Richard McLeland-Wieser
February 4, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Ignore my previous post as it is incorrect.

By Dave
February 5, 2014 at 2:19 pm

@marybeth,

Your post describes the frustration of millions. There seems to be a credibility problem among employers. We want experience, but not too much! You can’t stay at one job too long or you’ll stagnate, but we don’t want job hoppers either! And the list goes on…

By Becky Siebenthaler
February 5, 2014 at 6:54 pm

@AM – I love your story! Congratulations on finding that oh-so-much better job, and especially on being able to put your situation into perspective. I’m sure that was part of your good luck.

“…ultimately only we can help ourselves, and we can do that through the difficult challenge of managing our attitude and staying positive in the face of adversity.”

May your guidance illuminate the paths of many.

By marybeth
February 8, 2014 at 1:34 pm

@AM: Thanks for sharing your story and for reminding us all that sometimes a reality check is needed. I was watching C-Span this am as I was getting ready for work, and someone had called into the show to counter some of the previous callers who blamed the unemployed job hunters for being “too picky, too lazy, too stupid, too uneducated, too unskilled and there must be something wrong with them” and more to be attractive to employers. After all, they’d gotten jobs, no problem. This caller said that he was in his late 50’s, had worked hard, followed the rules his entire life, only to have the rug yanked out from under him (his company outsourced many jobs to India and China, he lost his job and hasn’t been able to find another one. He’s lowered his expectations, has been willing to work (at Wal-Mart, even), has kept up his tech skills, etc., but nothing. He said there’s a saying: “It is nothing when someone you don’t know loses his job, it’s too bad when your neighbor loses his job, but it’s a tragedy when you lose your job”.

Yes, certain groups face even more challenges getting hired, but older workers are one of those groups. I’m glad that you found an employer who was willing to hire for skills and didn’t get distracted by, or let prejudices about age prevent him from hiring you. It is nice to know that there are still some employers who don’t consider it a bad thing, but your employer is rare.

By KS
February 19, 2014 at 3:36 pm

There’s lots of age discrimination. I had a headhunter interview last week and after 10 minutes the recruiter said the hiring manager was looking for someone with 5 years of experience. I felt like saying “Then why are you calling me because I clearly have more experience than that listed on my resume. Do the math.”

Some hiring managers don’t know what they don’t know and are threatened by someone who obviously knows more than them. They don’t have enough foresight to determine if someone is going to drive profit and they’re just looking to hire someone they get along with….someone with similar experience….someone in their own image.

By Richard McLeland-Wieser
February 19, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Experience discrimination? KS brings up an interesting point. When a position announcement states a minimum years experience, can it really mean “maximum” years experience? Is it a subtle way of saying we do not want a person with more than five years experience? Perhaps it is not age discrimination but rather experience discrimination?

By debbie
July 16, 2014 at 7:20 pm

I am a white woman 46 in a field of mostly men, technology,cloud etc..there definitely is age discrimination going on when interviewing. I was looking for a job about a year ago. When I would interview with women I would get through but as soon as I met a younger man, I never got to the next step. Lastly, I have a friend who is a director at Google and I asked her if she could help get me in. She told me HR won’t even talk to me as they want to grow there own! meaning I am too old to grow:) Just recently I was on a call with one our top women executives who was just hired, she told the audience they will be bringing in fresh young people to help create a cool feel! WOW! from a 50 yr old woman no less! I sympathize but keep going and talk to every contact on linkedin you have, that is how I landed a job that I wanted but with a company that wouldn’t be my first choice.

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