According to a recent WerkLabs survey of U.S. professionals over age 40, 60% of respondents said they had encountered ageism in their professional lives. In your job search, age discrimination can occur at any stage, from the language used in the job ad, to resume screening practices, interviews, and salary negotiations.
Fortunately, there are specific strategies and job search tips for older workers to combat age bias and make your next career move successfully.
We asked Lori Cole, Certified Career Coach and Advisor at iHire, for some quick tips on how to overcome ageism in your job search.
Your resume is a great place to start because it’s often your first impression to employers.
“There are a lot of easy changes you can make to age-proof your resume, including removing dates and details for positions held 15+ years ago and not including your graduation year unless it was a recently achieved degree,” advised Cole.
Only list one phone number (ideally your mobile phone number), trim down your address to the city and state, and don’t include dated software programs or other skills that are no longer relevant.
“Make sure your email address doesn’t include a year that could date you and also remove your photo if you have one,” added Cole. “Headshots don’t belong on a resume for a job seeker of any age, unless you’re applying for acting gigs.”
“The key to overcoming age bias during interviews is maintaining your confidence,” said Cole. “Your interviewers may be surprised when they meet you because they were expecting someone younger, or they may ask you questions to try to guess your age or determine how much longer you’re going to be in the workforce.”
If you’re prepared for these types of situations, you won’t be caught off guard and can maintain your composure. Even though it’s not legal for interviewers to ask about your age, either directly or with questions such as “How old are your kids?” and “When did you graduate?”, be ready to respond tactfully and direct the conversation back to the topic at hand: why you’re a great fit for their job opening.
One of the best job search tips for older workers is to be strategic about how you market yourself. In other words, be intentional about how you present yourself to potential employers and future coworkers in interviews and at networking events.
Also, make sure you’re active on social media. It'll show that you’re tech-savvy and understand the importance of an online presence.
“Focus on your relevant experience – not your entire career – and emphasize your flexibility, desire to learn and grow, and collaborative attitude,” recommended Cole. “You have a lot to bring to the table and a unique perspective that will add diversity to the team. Don’t lose sight of that!”
For more ways to age-proof your job search, check out our job search checklist for baby boomers.