6

I have been applying for a position for which I would be older than not only my peers but my managers as well (I turn 60 in a few months). I enjoy the work that I do and would prefer to stay employed at the level I've been working at for most of my career (in other words, I've stayed technical and avoided management).

However I do become uncomfortable when searching for a new position. I wonder if my potential peers and managers look down upon me for still being at this level at my age, or just plain don't like older workers. I don't have any concrete evidence of ageism, but I do think about it and fear it, particularly when gunning for a new position.

One thing that works to my advantage is that I look about 10 years younger than my actual age. Per the advice of a very good career counselor, I deleted several of the earliest jobs from my career from my resume.

He also advised me to not provide the year of my college graduation on any resume or application, as that would easily peg my age to be a certain minimum just by a quick glance of my resume or application.

This has been my approach in recent years (I've been on 3 separate job hunts in the last 6 years). However, some web-based job application sites have the year of college graduation field set to a required field ...

... essentially forcing me to reveal my age if I want to apply for the job.

This irks me (to put it mildly). Of the 12 positions I applied for this year, two of them used (perhaps inadvertently) this technique to, essentially, force me to reveal my age if I want to apply for the job.

Should I ...

(1) Apply for the job and hope for the best?

(2) Not apply for the job?

(3) Complain to the company that they are being discriminatory?

(4) <take some other course of action that I'm not even aware is possible>?

10
  • Using your logic, I look a lot younger as I graduated as a mature student... I don’t think they use that as a guaranteed metric. – Solar Mike Jun 26 '20 at 6:14
  • 2
    @SolarMike It works in one direction, not the other. The fact that I got a bachelor's degree in 1970 sets a lower bound on my age. Even if I had graduated unusually early, I would have to be almost 70 in 2020. – Patricia Shanahan Jun 26 '20 at 6:44
  • @PatriciaShanahan most who look at cv’s etc are capable (one hopes) of simple arithmetic - how they understand the results is something else. But saying it only works in one direction... – Solar Mike Jun 26 '20 at 6:47
  • 1
    Apart from determining your age, this question may also relate to deciding how relevant your degree still is. – AsheraH Jun 26 '20 at 10:52
  • 1
    @KernelPanic: There seem to be better ways to ask if a degree is already obtained than asking for the date. – guest Jun 27 '20 at 14:39
7

While I understand your concerns I think there's a tendency here to jump automatically to the negative conclusion - the fact that there are companies who would view your age as a negative is undeniable, as is that your graduation date is going to give them a ballpark for figuring your age out.

But it's by no means a certainty that a company knowing your approximate age is going to be a negative (indeed the reverse can even be true) and there's also no certainty that a company asking a question that indirectly reveals your age is doing so with the intent to find out your age and use it against you.

(1) Apply for the job and hope for the best?

You miss 100% of the shots you don't take - the one way of absolutely ensuring that you don't get the job is to not apply.

(2) Not apply for the job?

See above - you certainly aren't going to get the job this way, and you certainly aren't going to affect any sort of change.

(3) Complain to the company that they are being discriminatory?

This would be premature - there's plenty of non-discriminatory motivations for asking this question, (such as for background checks, degree validation and so on). If they are being discriminatory about age confronting them is, sadly, unlikely to make them change tack. If they aren't then it's likely to be an overly pugnacious and irritating approach to receive. If a potential candidate were to approach me with accusations flying that I were being discriminatory in this situation I'd likely assume that they had a chip on their shoulder and were looking to start a fight, and frankly that's going to put me off, alot.

If they are of the small-minded view that would dismiss a candidate based on their age alone in the absence of business reasons then you probably don't want to work for them anyway!

1
  • Not all companies have a 10+ year perspective - most are actually looking to fill a current need. If you can convince them you can fill that need and get up to speed reasonably quickly, they won't be bothered by being closer to pension age much, IMO – bytepusher Oct 7 '20 at 20:42
3

Short answer: apply more and worry less.

Job hunting is quite competitive at the moment, with a higher prevalence of automated or low-skill filtering than would have been the case 30-40 years ago (I'm basing this on anecdotal evidence). The filtering process is irritating and can feel very arbitrary but is unlikely to be linked to your age.

Think carefully about other reasons that employers (or HR goons) might not want to employ you. Age might be a factor but it is unlikely to be the biggest factor.

However, some web-based job application sites have the year of college graduation field set to a required field ...... essentially forcing me to reveal my age if I want to apply for the job.

This can work both ways. Online systems often (deliberately) hide large chunks of an application from the person making a recruitment decision. They do this in order to reduce discrimination.

2

Don't hide it. Own it.

Offering a non-mainstream view from both having been a hiring manager and also being in the same age group.

  1. Good hiring is about finding a good "fit". It's NOT a test, it's NOT an examine where you need to score 12 points and your in. It's about figuring out if the combo works: you get what you want and the company gets what they want and everyone is happy ever after
  2. The worst thing that can happen is NOT that you don't get the job, it's that you get the WRONG job. Everyone will be miserable and unhappy
  3. The better the hiring manager understands what you actually want and what's important to you, the better they can assess the fit.
  4. You are what you are. Why hide it ? It gave a you a lot of experience, you've navigated a lot of tricky situations. You are more end career and not interested in rising rapidly through the ranks and probably also not interested in putting in 65+ hours/week to get up the food chain. That's all good.
  5. There are jobs where end-career cruising is perfect. There are jobs, where it wouldn't work. Try to find the first type of job and stay away from the the second. Someone rejecting you for a high-pressure gig is actually doing you a favor !

The clearer and the more open you can be about what you want and what you are, the more likely it will be than you end up with a job that's a great fit for you and where you can stay for more than a couple of years. Yes, you'll loose out on a few interviews or phone screens, but this probably wouldn't have worked out or ended in tears anyway.

A final note on discrimination. Age discrimination (just like gender, race, religion, sexual preference, etc. discrimination) is alive and well in the workplace. However many rejections are not based on discrimination and you'll never know which one it is, so don't worry about it too much. The laws around this are well intended but impractical and ineffective. Yes, I'm not allowed to ask a candidate's gender but if the name on the resume says "Alice Elizabeth" and I see the person in the interview, I can typically tell anyway! You change discrimination by changing minds, not by changing laws.

So some companies WILL discriminate and reject you because of age. There is nothing you can do about it and they may do you a favor: It means they have a broken ethical and value system: do you really WANT to work for a company that discriminates, just as long as they don't discriminate against you?

Personally, I always disclose all the stuff they are not allowed to ask (in the US) as early as possible in the process. If that's a problem for them, I'm just not interested in talking any further.

4
  • Indeed - I just interviewed an engineer today who is older than I am (and my hair is grey). Probably will hire them. Why? A strong background I need, a broad work history going from fairly long-term employment early on to shorter 'cool project' recently with multiple examples of being brought back by companies on a new project. Well, I have a 1-2 year project that is really cool and needs somebody with their experience and skill set. Age is a benefit for me. – Jon Custer Jun 26 '20 at 16:39
  • @JonCuster: This is probably sometimes the case in more-skilled industries, less so in less-skilled industries where people often do not have "specific skills". – guest Jun 27 '20 at 14:45
  • @guest - which is why you should develop special skills so you are always in demand. – Jon Custer Jun 27 '20 at 15:45
  • @JonCuster: Sure, but there are jobs where this is not so easy (eg supermarket workers), transportation, healthcare, buliding..all those people have special skills, but not unique ones. – guest Jun 27 '20 at 15:54
-1

(1) Apply for the job and hope for the best?

That is what I would do. Why assume that all people are jerks?

(2) Not apply for the job?

If you want to keep the current job or to be unemployed.

(3) Complain to the company that they are being discriminatory?

You can do that, but it might not be very useful.

(4) <take some other course of action that I'm not even aware is possible>?

Yes. Stop worrying so much :)


I had the opportunity to work with colleagues your age and it was great. I also worked with younger colleagues which were horror. You can find all kinds of people in any age range.


He also advised me to not provide the year of my college graduation on any resume or application, as that would easily peg my age to be a certain minimum

I honestly doubt the professionalism of that counselor. One way o another, your real age will be found anyway.

... essentially forcing me to reveal my age if I want to apply for the job.

For example, I clearly state my birth date in my resume without anyone asking for it. And I will keep doing so. I will never be ashamed with my age.


Is it appropriate for a job listing to require dates of college graduation?

Although it might not be appropriate, it is common practice when writing resumes to specify not only the what, but also the when. So you should do it even if they do not require it. They will find out anyway, if they want.


I think you should trust yourself more, accept things the way they are, and not give a shit to what someone might think - especially about your age. Yes, be interested to be polite and respectful, to be knowledgeable and so on... They are things that you can control. But age? If anyone complains about you age, remind them that they will reach that age also - if they are lucky.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .