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. Look in the mirror and make an honest assessment. 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 – If you haven’t updated your hair cut or color in over 5 years – it’s time for a makeover.
    2. Handbag – 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!

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 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.


  2. 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!


  3. 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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