Friday, June 1, 2007


A friend of mine was recently in the second interview stage for a large winery sales position. She was working with another recruiter who works on various executive search positions. Before she was scheduled to attend the interview, the recruiter contacted her to fill out an additional form that included her birthdate. The recruiter was insistent that she complete it and return it to him before the interview. He also had asked previously how old she was. Although before I was 30 I was thrilled to tell people how old I was, most of us are a bit reluctant to disclose our age, especially when a chance for employment hangs in the balance.

My friend asked for advice. Being a placement professional, I am up to speed on employment law. A potential employer is never allowed to ask a person's age, except to make sure they are old enough to be employed. Assuming we're all above age 16, age should not be discussed. But interviewers are not always up on employment law.

Discrimination based on age is a real concern. As Kate Lorenz recently reported on Career Builder, "Ageism on the Job" In California, nearly half of the working population will be considered older workers by the year 2010. AARP has reported an upswing in age discrimination claims.

I believe it's prudent to make age a non-issue as much as possible. First, look at your resume. Your resume is your calling card, a way to get in front of a hiring manager or HR professional. Represent your education, work history and qualifications accurately. At this point, dates of graduation are not necessary, unless they are very recent and can explain a recent jump in job position or qualification. Also, if you have a good employment record, you can afford to remove some of your early jobs. The harvest internship or customer service position can be removed without misrepresenting your abilities. When a company is interested in you they can then ask for specifics on education or related areas. With more credentials being checked, this is a very likely reason a potential employer will need specifics.

Recruiters should also know that they cannot discriminate against potential candidates based on age. If you are working with a recruiter who hounds you about your age, be careful. AARP has reported blatant discrimination from an executive search firm that screened out all candidates that were older than 45.

On the flip side, the baby boomers who are experiencing ageism for the first time may be turning age to their advantage. While some jobs lend themselves to an older workforce, such as senior management positions, lawyers and doctors, the baby-boomers have pioneered workplace reform in the past. Bringing work experience and energy to the job makes 50+ year olds very attractive to many employers.

So, keep your age private, but think about how you can use your experience and achievements to challenge any employer's notions about an older employee. If a interviewer raises the age question, try to tactfully avoid the question. Or, use your age to show them a thing or two and then wow them with what you can do.

For more resources on ageism and discrimination, visit

No comments: