Deal with Your Age in the Interview Head-on

We know it’s illegal for companies to reject a job applicant based on their age. Of course, we also know it still happens.

Deal Head On With Your Age in an Interview "Hiring managers and companies do sometimes blatantly and subtly discriminate against older workers based on stereotypes such as over qualification or cultural incompatibility," writes Gail Geary, author of The Over 40 Job Search Guide. "The truth is that mature workers are both blatantly and subtly ambushed or discriminated against by interviewers (or even themselves) who are harboring negative stereotypes about age. What’s worse is that you can unconsciously reinforce these stereotypes in your resume, interviews…"

With Age Comes Wisdom. Use it.

During interviews, your goal is to minimize any doubts a hiring manager have. You do that by addressing them head-on, writes Joyce Lain Kennedy, author of Job Interviews for Dummies. "The interview won’t move forward until you expose and conquer hidden hiring objections." If you think one of those objections is age, you need to bring up. Just be tactful about it.

For example, take the question, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" It could be hinting that you may be closer to retirement than the company would prefer. But it’s a perfect opportunity to respond with, "Well, if what I’ve read about (this company’s) head start to market is true, I’d like to be part of the team that not only launches it, but develops the second and third generation, as well." In one motion, you’ve shown that you’ve done your homework, understand the company and your role in it, and deflected the subtle zinger that this position may be your bridge to retirement. Also it didn’t hurt to put you on the team in the hiring manager’s mind.

If you’re asked, "Do you think you’re overqualified?" Geary suggests you very gently, and with a smile, reply with, "Can you tell me what you mean by ‘overqualified?’" This forces the interviewer to lay out the specifics, allowing you to address each one.

Geary recommends practicing answers that are built around the value your experience brings to the table. Be prepared to address the age issue even if it doesn’t come up. You want to communicate your ability to work in the company’s culture. And, even while you’re making age issue a non-issue, Marc Dorio, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Perfect Job Interview suggests avoiding "’age’ as a word or concept, but sell maturity. Literally drop ‘age’ from the conversation, replacing it with synonyms such as ‘seasoned’ or ‘experienced.’"

Humor

Humor defuses many issues, and a genuine laugh can immediately changes the tone of an interview. If you’re good at it – and you should really be good you are and that the interview has reached the right comfort level – pick an opportunity when one of the interviewer’s questions implies an age-related concern, such as, "How do you feel working in an environment where there is an age difference." You can say, "I understand and have no problem working with older workers. I’ve done it all my life…"

Understand that the sooner you can get age off the table, the sooner you can get onto your qualifications.

Be Careful of Your Age Discrimination

If you carry the thought that a 27 year-old shouldn’t be interviewing you, it’ll show, and when it does that will underscore your age. Think of the interviewer as a complete equal, and give them the respect of their position deserves. Marshall Brown advises how to view the young interviewer by asking yourself, "Can you identify younger colleagues who have earned your respect for their smarts and their ability to work well with you? If you can identify someone young and bright that you respect (a daughter, a nephew, a former co-worker), it can help to bring that individual to mind just before an interview and imagine how you would interact with that person. It’s a way of priming your mind to be open and can help counter any knee-jerk tendencies to judge."

Finally, Geary gives some obvious suggestions for the interview to communicate strength, but they bear repeating: Use color in your clothing to project energy, sit and stand tall, project mental and physical energy in conversation.

— Dino Londis

Comments

6 Responses to “Deal with Your Age in the Interview Head-on”

December 23, 2010 at 2:47 am, Daphne said:

This is practical information that can be used by everyone over a certain age. But also I appreciate the humor. I work in a field that changes rapidly and often the most recent grads are the best technical resources. However, as a consultant, I see the same problems being solved over and over by younger co-workers. There is no substitute for real life experience.

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December 23, 2010 at 5:01 am, Mel Wolinsky said:

Good advise, Gail. Especially about using humor to tackle the issue with your anser ‘no problem working with older workers’, which reminds me of Reagan’s quip about his opponent Mondale’s youthful inexperience. I think that an applicant is given some chance to fight perceived age issue by being selected for interview, knowing that his/her resume has plenty of indicators of a few decades of experience, not to mention any college degree with date of completion. Of course there is varying degrees of disadvantages, but hopefully also a sense of fairness and opportunity to hire an applicant who would be a great investment.

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December 23, 2010 at 5:58 am, unknown said:

Nice article

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December 23, 2010 at 10:12 am, Fred said:

When addressing an issue regarding your age, it may be best to say something like, “I feel blessed. I am in perfect health and biologically I am 35 years old. Sometimes that puts you in the age area of the interviewer. Do they consider themselves too old?

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December 24, 2010 at 7:00 am, Leonard Steiner said:

I am 77 years old and still working. However, I know for sure that I have been rejected numerous times due to age discrimination. I had one interview in which the young interviewer had a very discriminating attitude with questions like, “Why are you still working?” and “How long do you think that you would remain on the job?” I was even accepted for a job and showed up for work and was told that the job no longer existed. Age discrimination is practiced daily and by all firms, especially the large ones. And you cannot do anything at all about it. I tried once and the EEOC tried to talk me out of it. Of course, I am white.

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April 24, 2014 at 3:01 pm, Users Weigh In on Age and Interviews - Dice News said:

[…] got a lot of feedback from Deal with Your Age as an Issue Head-On that I’d like to share. Though I didn’t mention a specific age range in the post, it […]

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