Age Discrimination: Fact or Fiction?

Hear it all the time:  “I didn’t get the job because I’m old.  People with gray hair don’t get jobs easily.”

Is it real?  Do people really get the “I won’t hire you because you’re old” line or is there something more?

We discover the truth about age discrimination and how to combat the feelings of inadequacy.

“I did everything right. I provided a perfect application, resume, and cover letter. I passed the phone screen and panel interview.  What’s wrong with me?”

Feelings of inadequacy creep in when no job offers come.  Is it really age discrimination?

One of the most troubling questions I get as an executive career coach: Am I being discriminated?

There are a number of factors that influence the ability to find and land jobs. Many often wonder, where does the idea of age discrimination come from? I have long felt that it was a cop-out for the unemployed who can’t come into the conversation with any other explanation for not getting hired through a traditional process.

Thoughts of discrimination are dangerous and impact the ability to successfully find work. What if there was a different reason that you weren’t getting work? Here are 8 reasons you may not be finding work that debunk the age discrimination excuse.


age discrimination overcome challenge

1. Application without Relation

We spend too much time doing online applications without any feedback. Easy to “blame” something. Instead, focus on meeting people in a hiring capacity at target companies.  Many who know me are aware I am a huge advocate for professional networking. Remember networking is a process. Using the “normal” channels of direct application to find work can be a low ROI activity (5% at the most). By meeting the people you have the chance to demonstrate competencies. Relating to the hiring team will offer an opportunity. Influence can overcome many objections, including age, with hiring managers focused on problem solving and performance.

2. Seeking Media with Bias

Many seek answers and typically find prevailing media in support of the age discrimination narrative. Please, don’t read the negative prevailing media. When you search out age discrimination, you land on content providing negative affirmation. Think of it as a diagnosis for something that may not exist. Did someone really tell you: “I can’t hire you because you are too old”? By seeking evidence to fulfill a prophecy you continue to disable yourself. Stay away from negative media.

3. Know the Hiring Team

Along with networking, doing research on the hiring team needs, wants and frame of reference is a critical step in overcoming age bias. You could possibly be the best on a competency scale, but what about the risk scale?  You become the low risk alternative when you scour LinkedIn, company webpages, and connect with friends you have inside the company. Even better if you accomplish this before the requisition is published, So when you blindly apply and don’t know the hiring team, you are at a disadvantage–the high-risk candidate. It has nothing to do with your age.  On a positive note, there is a cure: meet more people, develop more relationships until you get to the interview, By knowing the hiring team in advance, you are prepared and in a position of strength, and perceived as high value, low risk.

4. Assumption Presumption

I agree, silence can be paralyzing. Assuming it’s age discrimination, in absence of any solid communication, and no interview is very convenient. Before you cast stones, did you actually interview with the hiring team? When you didn’t get the offer, is it becuase you didn’t interview well? Tracking results will overcome this bias, specifically an Activity to Interview ratio (e.g. 100 applications to 1 interview, 1% return on investment). Also, when you do get an interview, the preparation is the most important activity in any job search, bar none. The probability of an offer, and a chance to have leverage in negotiation, go up exponentially based on how well you perform at the interview. Get an interview, prepare like crazy.

5. Self Selecting Outcome

Could it be that it just wasn’t meant to be? Not a fit culturally? Personalities don’t click? Instead of blaming age discrimination, we should applaud the company in helping us complete a self selecting process.  Good for both parties.  Not awesome news when the selction means no job and no income. To improve your chances, seek out wise counsel on building rapport and learning about culture guessed it..networking inside the company.  I often recommend Toastmasters as a way to improve communication with different audiences.

6. Priced Out of Market

Could it be that the budgeted salary is just below your needs? Consider it a compliment when people believe that you are “old”. Translated: you are experienced with valuable skills…that they possibly can’t afford. Once this perception comes into play, it’s challenging to convince them that you would take a lower salary. It will plague them during the interview: will you truly be happy and stay for a reasonable amount of time before leaving for something else? Audit your resume for length of service, titles and skill sets that align as closely to the requisition as possible.

7. Outdated Skill Sets

Could it be that your skills are out of date? It’s possible, but not likely–it’s a common perception. For example, when an outsider sees that you coded in cobol in the old days, they might presume that you don’t really know ruby. That’s an assumption. Deal with assumptions by nipping them in the bud, early: create a github page that showcases your ruby expertise. prepare for the question in the interview. This is an objection, not a condition for employment, and consider filtering your resume and social media to be current with market trends.

8. Handling Overqualified Objection

How we respond to the objection says a lot. Be prepared mentally that the question is coming. Prepare a solid opening statement that covers the objection up front.  When you get into a scenario where your interviewer believes, because of your age and experience, that you are overqualified using feel-felt-found:
“I can appreciate that you feel that I”m over qualified for this position. In fact, my previous employer X felt the same way when I started there. What they found was my experience bled over into many disciplines and they got a great bargain on my skill set. Funny, I stayed there happily for X years. Since I have expertise in X, which is what you are looking for, and I also have expertise in Y and Z, you are getting a 3 for 1. What is your concern with my overqualification?”

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Andrew Beach

Executive Career Coach  |  Branding Specialist

I teach self-awareness.  Through a direct, pragmatic process you will be guided to the dream jobs you’ve always wanted.  One step at a time, the system I provide will lead you just a little closer to your passion and purpose in life.

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