3501432476_0ccfce919e_zIn the past, we’ve addressed the age discrimination some older employees face in the workplace. It’s a big problem, and getting worse every year, according to the EEOC. Older workers are reporting more and more that they are being harassed, passed over for promotions and raises and even wrongfully terminated because of their age.

This week we’ll take a look at another aspect of this illegal practice–age discrimination during the hiring process. As a cause for litigation, this issue is more difficult to pin down, because a potential employer doesn’t have to give any reason for not offering a candidate a job. In fact, in today’s world of e-mail and web-based job searching, employers have to wade through sometimes hundreds of resumes before they can even begin the interview process. This means candidates are often weeded out based on arbitrary criteria before they even get in the door.

While it is illegal for a potential employer to reject an applicant because he or she is over 40, there is no law in place to prevent rejecting a hire for any other reason, from hair color to lifestyle choice. Unfortunately, without indisputable evidence, failure-to-hire cases are very hard to prove. In these cases, additional legislation is not necessarily the answer.


So, as an older applicant, what should you do if you get an interview? Instead of remaining at the mercy of the hiring manager, there are a few steps you can take to disrupt the standard hiring process and help yourself get a fair shake. One strategy is to set yourself apart from younger applicants by using the insights you’ve earned throughout years of employment to gain an edge.

Liz Ryan of Forbes calls this the Pain Hypothesis: “Get your hiring manager talking about what’s really going on behind the job ad, and you’ll find that the quality of the conversation shifts dramatically… Job-seekers who use their interview air time to ask questions about the processes, the obstacles in a hiring manager’s way and the thorny problems they’ve seen before in similar situations vault themselves to a higher level of conversation than the ones who don’t.”

For all the disadvantages of being an older member of the workforce, there is also the great advantage that many younger applicants lack: experience. If you use that experience to really pinpoint what an employer is looking for, rather than just trying to say what you think an interviewer wants to hear, it is possible to break down barriers and show yourself as the valuable employee you will be. Make age discrimination work in your favor by giving your hard-earned experience value!

Have you developed any strategies for avoiding age discrimination while looking for a job? Let us know in the comments below! But, if you’re more than 40 years old, think you’ve been discriminated against because of your age and have further questions, please contact us here!

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