As a mature job seeker, you’d expect potential employers to be attracted by the skills and experience you have built up in your career. However, although HR leaders report that nearly 90% of older workers ‘performed as well or better than their younger peers’ in a study by McKinsey on The Economic Impact of Ageism, they also found ‘hiring managers were much less likely to extend an offer of employment to older candidates.’
Although discrimination over age by employers is illegal, it seems to be commonplace. A recent study by AARP found that 61% of respondents over the age of 45 have experienced age discrimination in their careers.
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, ageism in recruitment often begins even before humans are involved. Although employers can’t reject applicants due to their age, ‘ageism can arise subtly in job postings and the algorithms that screen them.’
What can you do to overcome ageist algorithms and attitudes in the recruitment process? Be prepared!
Here are 5 effective methods to prevent age discrimination affecting your job search.
- Update your resume to avoid being screened out
The goal here is to emphasise your knowledge and skills and not the amount of time you’ve spent gaining them. Making the following changes will ensure employers focus on your strengths and enable you to avoid in-built bias in CV scanners (Applicant Tracking Systems.)
- Use a modern font (Ariel or Calibri work well) and template
- Create an email address to use for applications that doesn’t use an old email provider, (such as Hotmail or Yahoo) and make it professional, (e.g. swap email@example.com for firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Only list work experience which is relevant to the role you’re applying for – focusing on the last 15 years or less will make it harder to screen you out due to age
- When it comes to education, only include relevant professional and university qualifications. Don’t feel it is underhand to remove the dates – legally, you don’t have to signal your age on applications, so remove the clues
- Remove any technology skill sets that are outdated, such as software that is no longer used and replace them with up to date versions
- Keep it focused – remove any unnecessary dates and information. The whole resume should be no more than two pages
2.Use modern methods of highlighting your skills
If writing is one of your strengths, creating a blog can demonstrate both your industry knowledge and portray you as a candidate who embraces modern communications. Try using free website creation platforms such as WordPress, popular because it’s so user-friendly for blog beginners.
A simpler way to highlight your strengths is to create an effective LinkedIn profile. In a 2020 survey by The Harris Poll, (featured by PR Web) 21% of hiring decision-makers said they wouldn’t consider a candidate who doesn’t have an online presence.
LinkedIn has five levels of status, indicating how complete your profile is. According to LinkedIn, users with All-Star (the most complete) profiles are 40 times more likely to receive job offers and new professional connections.
Follow these tips to achieving LinkedIn ‘all-star’ status whilst age-proofing your profile.
- Describe your professional history by focusing on your accomplishments. Consider using statements such as ‘over ten years’ for long-term positions rather than specific dates
- Create a summary which communicates your passion for your industry or role. This should your capture your strengths, skills, and experience.
- Include your vision for the future of your career. This creates the impression you are still driven towards goals and ambitions.
- Keep the language of your profile upbeat and friendly; being too formal can age your profile
- Glowing recommendations always help. If yours refer to experience from five years ago or more, reach out to your contacts to get some more recent examples
- Remove any dates which give clues to your age such as your year of graduation
- Invest in a professional headshot to create a great first impression
3.Knowledge is power
Knowing the stereotypes sometimes applied to older workers in the recruitment process helps you to confront bias. Here are some common examples and how to get around them.
Older adults are resistant to change. The trick to challenging this misconception is to give examples of how you’ve embraced or led new ideas at work. Technology is a good place to start, as some recruiters won’t expect older workers to keep up with tech advances.
Taking online courses associated with your profession is a one way to prove your willingness to learn new skills. Also mention experience you have of leading new projects or implementing innovative ideas. Don’t forget to add how your employer benefitted.
Older adults feel threatened by younger workers. Hiring managers sometimes assume older workers will resent taking direction from younger team members. Get ahead of them by suggesting that you enjoy collaboration. Let them know of good relationships you formed with younger team members in the past.
Older employees are more likely to be absent through ill health. Although you can counter this through mentioning your attendance record, taking care of yourself certainly helps. Looking fit, energetic, and healthy in the interview always makes a positive impression.
Employees over 50 are just waiting to retire. Hiring managers may be concerned about this for two reasons. First, companies aim to keep recruitment costs down by hiring employees who intend to stay. Stress that staying around is in line with your plans by mentioning how you’d like to see your career progress over the next five to ten years.
Although it’s a misconception, some hiring managers may believe that employees getting closer to retirement age lack the necessary energy and drive. Show them this is unfounded by your enthusiasm for tackling new challenges and picking up new skills.
4.Pick the right employer
Ageism does exist in recruiting. However, there are many employers who don’t discriminate and value the experience of older workers.
Before applying, try to get a feel for the company’s culture. Look for information on company values on the website and see if they align with yours. Employee review sites such as Glassdoor can also help you judge if an employer is a good match.
Remote jobs can also work well for older workers if you are comfortable in this type of environment. These focus on the quality of your work rather than being assessed on your social life or appearance.
5.Shift the focus away from your age at interview
At interview, play up your skills and not how long you've been in the workforce. Stress what you can do and what you've achieved. Highlight your adaptability and give examples of how well you work with others.
Aim to communicate your enthusiasm for the role. Try researching the company or industry to suggest some ideas of how you could make a difference there.
Using these techniques, you’ll deflect attention away from your age and show you have the qualities to tick the interviewer’s boxes.
Although ageism exists, don’t let it affect your confidence. Employers should do more to remove age bias but you can prevent it from affecting your career. Awareness is the first step to overcoming age bias. By confronting stereotypes and showcasing your skills and knowledge you can help hiring managers see you and not your age.