Getting Hired (or not) Based on Age

A reader writes…

I have been out of work for over a year and feel I am not getting any call backs due to my age. I am an Executive Assistant with over 36 years’ experience and feel that most employers don’t want to hire someone who is in their mid-50s instead of appreciating the experience and knowledge I could bring to the job. What would you recommend I do to make prospective employers know I am anxious to work as well as learn new things?

And another reader adds….

I kind of have the same question. I’m 53…and trying to find any NON-physical labor position in what already seems to be a job market for 20-30 year olds has been impossible. I’ve been unemployed for 2 years and 9 months…with only a seven week job a year after being laid off…that I was then laid off from AGAIN.

Dear “Frustrated Fifties,”

You, like many job seekers, are up against “Gen Xers”  (and, well, “Gen Yers”) who have grown up with today’s communications, media, and digital technologies and, quite frankly, are hot-to-trot on dominating the job market.

 Frustrasting?  Yes.
 Impossible to overcome?  No way.

(Now, for my young and eager readers, please don’t take offense.  You too have a lot to offer – but when it comes to experience…. you just can’t compete on this one!)

While I don’t know your exact situation, your interviewing techniques, or the details included in your résumé… there’s not doubt in my mind that you have a drive and willingness to work hard and dedicate yourself to a company.   It’s all about how you present yourself – in writing and in person.  Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Stress your loyalty and desire to grow with a company. I read somewhere that younger job seekers (mentioned above) have a tendency to switch jobs every 24 to 36 months.  This can be extremely costly to corporations… not to mention annoying!
  2. Highlight your availability and willingness to work extra if needed. Many “younger” candidates may not be as flexible or available as you when it comes to working overtime or going the extra mile.  Let’s face it…  your days of picking kids up from school or racing home to get toddlers in the tub are probably a thing of the past!
  3. Emphasize the fact that you’re not necessarily concerned about “getting ahead” or jumping to the next position.  You simply want a steady career where you can utilize your skills and experience, while learning new things.
  4. “Age-proof” your résumé and cover letter. Exclude college graduation dates. Limit previous jobs to the past 15 years. Also, don’t list the length of experience you have in your summary (or objective – if you use one); for example, it’s not a good idea to say you have over 36 years of experience. It will flag you as older.  Also avoid promoting your age with terms like, “seasoned professional” – this is sure to let the cat out of the bag!
  5. Tailor your résumé for a specific job. Hone in on your specific skills and experience relevant to the position.  The more you relate to the precise job at hand, the better.
  6. Take a look in the mirror with a critical eye. Now, unless you’re big on Botox, you can’t necessarily hide your age in person (like you strategically can on paper). Here are 3 areas to work on (for the ladies out there!):
    1. Hair – How are the roots? Are you in need of a new (updated) cut?
    2. Purse – Keep it classic (not trendy), but do some window shopping on contemporary styles.
    3. Shoes – Keep them comfortable but professional!
  7. Try networking!  Social Networking sites, especially LinkedIn, are a great way to connect with potential employers and other professionals.  Someone you know may know somebody, who knows somebody… and so on and so on!
  8. Keep your skills current.  Regardless of age, EVERYONE applying for employment these days needs to be able to send email, work on a computer, and have a basic understanding of software programs (like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint).
  9. Consider going through a staffing agency.  Select Staffing is part of The Select Family of Staffing Companies, a top 10 staffing firm in the US.  With locations throughout the country and thousands of open positions (many of which are in the Administrative and/or Light Industrial fields), they can help match you to the job/company that’s a perfect match for you!

Hey readers, anyone else experiencing the same thing?  Any additional words of wisdom?  Please post your comments here!

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. SM
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 11:43:58

    Companies have access to the internet and all they have to do is enter the first and last name and they will know your age; just no getting around it. I believe that is why the mid-50/baby boomers struggle to get hired. They can’t ask are age and no need to it on the internet.
    Do you know of any companies willing to train on the job?


    • anitaclew
      Apr 15, 2014 @ 12:54:46

      SM, fewer companies have the resources to train employees from scratch these days. If you are interested in a profession, be pro-active and take certification courses or college classes to get you to your end goal. Be sure to add these to your résumé, too.


  2. Y-Nette
    Aug 14, 2013 @ 10:58:56

    Hi Anita! I’m sorry to post on an old article, but I wanted to keep it relevant. I’ll admit, I’m one of the youngsters you speak of (23 yrs), but I’ve had trouble getting hired for the opposite reason!

    I have worked in a program coordination capacity for the past 3 years at an academic institution. This job lost its funding and I have since applied for similar administrative positions outside of the institution, all of which are entry-level to an extent. However, I’m continuously told that I do not have enough experience. Well, of course I realize this and I cannot help my age/lack of experience (especially when I’m not being hired), but my quality of previous work experience should be able to circumvent, that, right? Nope. I’m still told the same. It’s come to a point where I’m too overqualified to work entry level jobs, but do not possess enough work/life experience to qualify for anything else. I’ve been in the final candidacy three times, yet I’m always told someone else was chosen who possessed more work experience than I.

    Any tips for us youngsters who are “overqualified” yet under-qualified in many other ways? For instance, is it safe to “age proof” my resume considering my situation, or should I be highlighting my lack of work experience?

    Thank you in advance for your help. Your advice is much appreciated, and very much needed!


    • anitaclew
      Aug 15, 2013 @ 10:23:50

      Hi, Y-Nette. You’re in a unique position that I can see is tricky. First of all, congratulations on your early success. I wonder if the obstacles you’re experiencing now are more prevalent in Academia than elsewhere? I don’t have tons of advice in this situation except to keep plugging away and maybe cast a wider net and look at jobs outside Academia that can provide you the experience needed to re-enter the educational setting at a later time. I wish you much luck with finding your way!


  3. Lawanda Mc Gaugh
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 10:42:48

    I know that age plays in getting a job, I was doing work though a tenparary hob agency and i put in a appalication for the job i was doing filled it out give to the people in the personal dept.with my resume and they told me in the interview that i had to much expenence for the job and that i wanted to much to get payed.


    • Lynn
      Nov 27, 2011 @ 20:11:41

      I am having a differnt, yet similar problem finding a job. I was laid off from my last position in 2008. Since then I have renovated 3 houses, relocated, and want to “downsize: my life. But employers seemd to look at the long gap of employment as an extreme negative. Any suggestions on how to present this without sounding like I’m coming out of retiremtn?


      • anitaclew
        Nov 29, 2011 @ 10:15:38

        I need to chew on this one a little and will get back to you, Lynn.


      • anitaclew
        Dec 01, 2011 @ 09:17:44

        Hi Lynn,
        Wow! Renovating 3 houses in and of itself is a big job! You had to deal with contractors, budgets, timelines, management, and more! – All of which are key skills that can be incorporated into your résumé and that would easily transfer to a variety of industries or positions. If home renovation is something you like (or are passionate about), have you considered exploring opportunities in that field? People get paid to do what you’ve done… who knows, you could be a great consultant in this niche! I suggest networking and updating your résumé by listing your responsibilities involved.

        Another reminder (since you’ve been out of the “workforce” for a few years now), be sure to brush up on your computer skills – the key is to be able to keep up with the basic software programs, email, etc.

        Last, but not least, keep your options open. You don’t necessarily have to go back to the same type of work you did in 2008… maybe try something new. Just be sure to do some research, tailor your résumé accordingly, and prepare yourself before diving back in.


  4. anitaclew
    Apr 27, 2011 @ 12:39:23

    Hello Baby Boomers! I stumbled upon this article that summarizes the results of a recent poll from the Associated Press: “Working boomers say age a plus at office”

    Some of you have commented on my blog that you disagree… Would love to hear opinions from others!
    Happy reading!


  5. John
    Apr 21, 2011 @ 14:50:23

    Another alternative , (one that I’m currently seriously considering) … Make your own job. I am a laid off computer manufacturing repair tech. When the Co. filed bankruptcy in Dec of 08, my neighbor started teaching me the ropes of chimney masonry. Now, 3+ years later I find that $500.00 of liability insurance and a $30.00 contractors registration will allow me to conduct business on my terms. Granted, I won’t have a 401K, paid medical/dental/vision, etc. but then I won’t have the stress of management breathing down my neck dictating “time VS quality” either, I won’t have ISO 9001 rules to comply with, I won’t have to worry about being 1 minute late, or living by the “clock” for break, lunch, etc. The benefits are just too lucrative to bypass. With just a little imagination anyone can do this with their long years of experience. Remember our youth… “rage against the machine…. break out of the mold”? Now is the opportunity to do that!!


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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