Ask The Work Buzz! More on age

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QuestionsHere’s a question from Peter: I am starting a job search and resume preparation. I am close to 60 and would like to know if age should be avoided in the resume and ultimately lie about it?

Peter, if we’re cutting to the chase, the answer to your questions are yes (kind of) and no, respectively. Here’s why…

I know we’ve discussed age at length here and here. But this question touches on something we’ve yet to discuss: How specific should you be on your application when it comes to giving away your age? Well, you don’t need to put your birthdate on your resume or cover letter, whether you’re 16 or 60. So don’t worry about that. And if you’re afraid employers will automatically dismiss you (even though they shouldn’t) because of the dates of your graduation, then leave those dates off. What matters is that you graduated with a degree, not when. There’s absolutely nothing dishonest or deceitful about that.

Still, we don’t advocate lying, and we’re not for burying information either. See, you still should put dates by your employment history, especially the most recent ones (aka ones that you had over the last 10 years, possibly longer depending on your field). Leaving those dates off will seem very suspicious. Employers will assume you’re hiding something. So an employer can always do some quick math if they really want to figure out your age.  Plus, if you get an interview, they’re going to see you face-to-face and, well, unless you’re really good with makeup, they’re going to know you’re not 19. So there’s no point in lying or going through extensive means to hide your age. And do you really want to work for a place that fears mature workers and experience?

Perhaps most importantly, you shouldn’t be ashamed of your age. If an employer is going to assume you can’t perform the tasks or doesn’t want someone with a little grey hair in the office, that’s not going to be a good place for you to work. (Forget how illegal it would be for them to openly dismiss you on those grounds.) Avoiding a few specific dates where possible might not be a bad idea if you’re afraid a college graduation date of 1973 will intimidate someone before they even look at your qualifications. But don’t lie and don’t forget that you probably have gained experience that a newcomer hasn’t. Be yourself and be proud of what you’ve done with your career.

20 Comments
  1. Pingback: Ask The Work Buzz! More on age « Sales and Marketing Jobs

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  3. Do you really want to work for a place that fears mature workers and experience? Absolutely not, but you want a job right? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with stretching the truth about your age, unless it is a requirement of the job, ie., you can’t fly a commercial jet if you’re over 60. So, otherwise, lie away. I can assure you that some televison anchors are a whole lot older than they look.

  4. Well written piece on a timely issue. However, as an avid brown-noser and toady of the worst sort, I would also recommend you dye your hair, whiten your teeth, mention your social media expertise and sprinkle your interview conversation with energetic verbs like “drive,” “leverage” and “drilling down.”

    Also, do a Google search on your interviewer (if you know whom they are) and see if his/her name turns up in some news article or blog about a sports team they like or charity they support, which you can then mention conversationally if it’s an interest of yours, too.

  5. Age discrimination is now starting at 38 in Silicon Valley so yes, it’s there and yes it’s pretty blatant and no, no one is doing anything about it because there’s no way to track a pattern unless someone wants to centralize the information and no one has the money or inclination to do that when unemployed. Companies sure aren’t going to develop this and the EEOC is too broke to come up with anything much less enforce it.

    Do a search and read up on “multigenerational marketing”. It will give you an idea of what Gen X, Y and W(hatever) respond to. You need to know this. You don’t need to BE them but you do need to push the right buttons and those are different than ours.

    HR gets cute about it by using qualifiers e.g. “recent grad”, “3-5 years experience” for job clearly requiring more. Watch out for “high energy” as well. Ideas for dealing with this I’ve heard include hybrid resume:
    —- Top 1/3 of first page – Wow statement
    —- 2nd section Accomplishment statements with quantitative results related to WOW stmt
    —- 3rd section (2nd page) List of last 15 years employment – with no more than a couple blurbs about job and if so only outstanding accomplishments. They know what an analyst does for example so why waste space giving ‘em a job description?
    —- Section called “Other Relevant Positions/Experience” with undated list of positions and (maybe) employers w/ quick 1 liner about relevant experience/accomplishments

    Also watch out for employers that went out of business or were merged/acquired whatever 20 years ago – easy way to calculate age. Alternatively you can do a search on Linked In for people who have those companies on their profiles – then see if they either work in another company near you or if they can connect you to someone nearby. Chances are their contacts are gonna be more open. It’s either LinkedIn, Linkup or Glassdoor that shows average age at companies – another good indicator – If it’s 30, not likely candidate. If it’s 45 or above, far better chance.

    You can also go on assorted sites and use different ages – this confuses the spider bots and subsequently the screeners. Lots of folks go on Pipl and it pretty well has your stats anyway. But the game is kinda fun. And you get a better sense of what 35 year olds are into when you go to a site where you’ve said your age is 35 ‘coz the ads are very different.

    Make SURE your Google public profile presents you so well that age does not matter – make your personality shine through. Use a few popular google adwords so your profile comes up first. Use younger language and refer to contemporary experience/observations. Chances are Linked In will always pop up so make what little info is there shine too.

    I’ve seen a LOT of guys having their grey miniimized or doing a color adjustment to hide the gray – Guys need to do this professionally I think. Also make sure ears, nose hairs do not exist. Women do lots of looks improvement as a matter of course. You may want to get tips from your daughter/son. You may want to see dermatologist about getting rid of bags or dark circles – this alone will take 10 years off. Make sure teeth are very white and polished – worth the $300 to get it done. Straight teeth also seem important so if yours have started to move around, get ‘em fixed.

    Check out the book, “How Not to Act Old” – It’s written a bit tongue in cheek but it has some GREAT tips for “fitting in better” with younger generation—- includes hiring managers. Did you know you shouldn’t leave voicemail anymore? Other really good info – you’ll never look 30 nor should you act it – And frankly, it IS best to find a company that valueswisdom and experience. But we can all show we’re not going to be annoying to other generations.

    Read a couple of books currently on bestseller list for business so you know what the new trends and key words are – yes, they are usually for the same old thing but you have to speak the current lingo. Not in depth, just maybe 5 phrases related to the job that you can drop into the conversation.

    60′s gonna be tough – you may want to try to contract, consult or get in through temp agency for special project then go forward from there. AARP has a list of the theoretically most age friendly companies. Most of ‘em are on East coast and I really think it’s more a sponsored list than anything seriously checked out but could be wrong.

    Don’t do this on your own – use local One Stop Shop from employment dept, network w/ job clubs/job seeker groups, find groups on Meetup.com near you in your industry/interest, post answers to questions on Linked In. Ask some good questions on Linked In, then get into convo w/ responders. This gets your name out and about.

    I’ve about had it with trying to pass as 40 – have become proud of my age and not willing to hide it anymore. I know the consequences of this as far as recruiters go. As older workers, we have to use an adjusted strategy – not to look 40 but to get past the discomfort from stereotypes of 50 and 60 long enough for managers/HR to see the value/ROI you can bring.

    I totally empathize – 54 and shifting gears to run my own business after a year of search. Sucks but is better than banging head on walls. The Baby Boomer market is actually massive with people and money – I’m boning up on it and social media and then making myself available for consult and training. Easier to find companies marketing to boomers than hiring them. Also, it is more acceptable to be older as a consultant. (new word I think is “coach”)

  6. You should not lie about your age, age and years accumulate wisdom, knowledge and more skills that a younger person would have. List past experiences in your profile or summary. That way there is no need to date yourself.

  7. I am 54, recently divorced and desperately looking for work. I have a lot of job experience, however, I spent more of my adult years raising my children. I have been diligently applying for work for about 12 weeks and have not been offered one position. I’ve adjusted my resume so I dont apply for jobs I’m not qualified for. At the same time, jobs I am qualified for don’t pay enough to pay my rent.I have to say this is the most frustrating experience I’ve ever endured, as my credit score dips lower and lower becaused I’m unable to pay even minimum payments on my credit cards . Judi from San Diego.

  8. I have been searching for employent for the past two (2) years, have a wife and two children and can’t seem to find anything in the field (civil engineering – cad design) that I have been in for the past 10+ years. I have had 3 interviews but with no success and am getting very, very discouraged. I thought of going back to school but don’t know if that would help. I’m living on unemployment and very much would like to get off of that and get back in the work force, and in the same field I am experienced in. Is there any hope for me? Or does anyone have any suggestions?

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  10. As Katherine Hepburn once replied when asked what to do about elderly people who have to be housed in Nursing Homes – “Just shoot ‘em”. It’s a better alternative than living like that. So what has that to do with working. Well employers don’t want to hear from you if you are over 40, even if you look like a Hollywood bombshell and have a stupendous brain ! I have an undergrad degree, a graduate degree and a paralegal certificate. None of which got me a decent job after my company merged itself out. Every employer since has asked illegal questions at interviews, wants to know what year I graduated from High School and wants to see my driver’s license. Your age is not a secret. Just google yourself and see. The insurance companies are to blame. Higher age number means higher benefits costs to employers, plain and simple. Get yourself a hot dog stand, a pretzel stand, a lunch truck – that’s your future. Since statistics show zero job growth overall for the last ten years, you have no choice but to work for yourself. Unfortunately, that may be the rough truth for the younger generation as well. We’re becoming a third world economy. Learn Chinese !

  11. I was pushed out of my career by a new manager I helped to hire and train. I was able to get an early retirement at 50% benefit as opposed to what I strongly believed would have resulted in a pink slip and unemployment check with an end date and no medical insurance. With the retirement rent and car and medical insurance is paid but nothing else. After only two interviews in months I joined a grant funded group who helps baby boomers find work with various job hunting assistance. I also joined with my Alma mater’s career center for help since I have been offered no interviews for jobs at the college where I graduated from. Keep fighting. I tell myself that everyday, but getting desperate to find work to cover food, phone, all those other basic bills.

  12. The only way I’ve gotten hired in the last decade (I’m 56) is by flat out refusing to even play the job-ad response game. Why should I put myself into competition with people half my age, when every opening gets 100+ replies. I’ll be in the bottom 1% on age alone.

    I have been able to cherry-pick employers for whom my experience, training, and interests seem to be a good fit, and talk to the managers’ real sore point: The weakest performer in their department, and show how taking a chance on me, to replace the bottom-feeder, might save them having to put out an ad, sift through 100 resumes, and interview 25 people.

    If I play by THEIR game, with their keyword scanning bots and automatic disqualifiers (like the year you graduated high school), I may as well stand atop a highway exit ramp with a cardboard sign and a collection cup.

    The most disgusting thing about Working in America 2010 is the extreme disconnect between (1) being QUALIFIED and ABLE to do a job well and (2) being HIRED to do that job. Sadly, one often has no connection with the other.

    Especially when HR puts every applicant through a Torquemadaean background check and interview process…..then the boss hires his country club buddy over drinks on the 19th Hole.

  13. how do you handle a Deferred Adjudication case. I made 1 mistake once in life no prison time just arrested and fired from the job I held a high position with. I have a bachelors degree in Information Technology and i am in school to get my Masters. when my background i pulled this is there of course but was completed in 2006 with no problems after then and nothing before 2003 my incident took place.
    how do i really explain it on the resume.

  14. This is a question of a different sort. The office I work in is a satellite of the main office, in which a number of people are my age (56) or older.
    Recently, in this office, the oldest lady retired at 62. Suddenly there was a curiosity about who is the oldest in the office. There are 3 of us who are close in age, but I do have to claim the prize. However, I am not interested in telling anyone my age.
    There have been several attempts to find out my age, but I have not answered them. I say things like, “Oh, I forget.” If they rudely continue to ask questions, I tell them I don’t discuss it.
    The other day one lady actually asked me if I was retiring soon and then called me a senior citizen. I told her I am not a senior citizen, my mother (who is 84 next month) is.
    Then a different lady said she would give a prize to whoever is oldest. That’s when I went back to my cubicle. I know she suspects that I am because she dropped it soon as I was gone.

    I find that I am distancing myself more and more from this kind of lunchtime activity. Why can’t we discuss more vital issues of the day or just talk about family news? I love my job, but I sure do wish I could do it from home.

  15. Pingback: PrimeCB » Handling job search desperation

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