Ask The Work Buzz! The Age Debate

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helpOne reader of The Work Buzz brought up a good topic for debate. Sylvia Paramo asked: “If a job applicant is 55 years old, do they really have less of a chance of getting hired?”

Sylvia’s experience with the younger members of the work force haven’t been all great, so she expressed some hesitancy at losing out on a job to a recent graduate. While we here at The Work Buzz don’t think anyone’s automatically a better or worse job candidate because of their age (or any other demographic trait, for that matter), we do think it’s worth addressing a conversation that’s been going on for decades and has heated up more in the last few years. If two candidates are pitted against each other, one being young (by professional standards) and the other being significantly older, who’s going to get the job?

The thing is, no one knows, and it’s not as cut and dried as age. First off, you should know your legal rights in terms of age discrimination, as explained on the government’s EEOC site. So rather than try to say that you, specifically, can always get hired in any situation, here are ways you can stress the attributes of your age without having to actually talk about your age. Why? Well, because no employer wants to hear “I know I look old, but…” or “I might have baby fat, but…” Instead, phrase it all in terms of experience.

You’re an older work (however you want to define “older):

  • You’ve already  made the mistakes
    When you discuss weaknesses or learning experiences, you can refer to mistakes you made earlier in your career. Everyone makes rookie mistakes, and hopefully you learned from it so that you can point to a time when you didn’t know your limits and now you do.
  • You’ve been around the cubicle (for lack of a better metaphor)
    If you’ve been in the work force for 10, 20, or 30 years, you’ve probably held different positions. Maybe you changed industries, employers, or roles. That experience informs the decisions you make today. The skills you’ve acquired have come from hands-on experience, which is something school alone can’t teach you.

You’re a younger work:

  • You know the current trends
    On average, younger workers (especially those straight out of college) are familiar with today’s technology and new industry trends that are just now making waves. For many employers, that’s a huge asset because their current employees might be more focused on what’s previously worked and not think as much about what’s coming up.
  • You’re willing to take risks
    No employer wants to hire a liability, but if you’re still trying to establish yourself in the professional world (aka you don’t have a ton of credibility to lose at this stage), you’re more likely to try new ideas. Unconventional ones that might not appeal to others could be a boost for you.

The goal isn’t to attack the other applicants but rather to show why you are a positive addition to the team. And remember, your focus needs to be on what you bring to the company. Employers want good workers regardless of age or gender. No one will hire the whiny crybaby who spends the whole interview complaining about the rest of the job seekers.

9 Comments
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  8. Older workers more qualified for less quality opportunities are being turned down by employers usually younger than the applicants because of the underlying problems. Just by the appearance (older) means the applicant is refused the opportunity by non-spoken or subliminal descrimination based on age. In my young mind you are too old to fill this position, I have felt this compromise often.
    The one thing I want to relay here is everyone in life is going to be older at some point and need to fulfill an opportunity. Should they live so long!
    People do not develop wisdom, mortality, and self-confidence in life without aging.These are 3 keys to developing qualities in life to pursue your dreams confidently and factually.
    Older peole round out the balance in society, let them contribute their abilities to the evergrowing less experienced workplace to help fulfill the needs of all companies and further expand society.

  9. Pingback: Ask The Work Buzz! More on age : The Work Buzz

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