age discrimination

Age Discrimination – One Professional's Story

iStockphoto.com |  OSTILL

iStockphoto.com | OSTILL

Age discrimination is very real. And as workers get older, they find themselves in situations where their age suddenly becomes a factor, much to their surprise. After all, it wasn’t an issue before. Sometimes, it culminates in rethinking an entire career.

Kay in her, early sixties, worked in the non-profit sector at the executive level for over twenty-five years. To be near her children, in early 2018 she voluntarily left her previous job and moved to a different state.

After a year and a half of interviewing, Kay is now one of the many disillusioned older workers who have all but given up on being offered a meaningful job commiserate with their past experience and compensation.

With family support, she has had to reinvent herself and create her own opportunities, and while she has already successfully launched herself as a consultant for causes she is passionate about, Kay believes ageism is the main obstacle she faced finding a new job doing what she was doing at the highest levels just a short time ago.

Are you actively searching for jobs right now?

 “I’m not actively searching for jobs. I decided to go out on my own since I won’t discriminate against myself.”

 

When was the last time you applied for a job?

I recently applied for one. I follow up on personal recommendations, but beyond that no. I’m building my consulting business.”

 

How would you rate ageism as a factor in your decision to go out on you own?

“Well, it is always something I wanted to do, but because of the ageism, which I believe is the most socially acceptable form of discrimination, it really became a huge factor to do it at this point in time.”

 

Give us an idea of how you see yourself as a job candidate.

“I have a history of interviewing well and getting positions that were well regarded in the non-profit industry. I’ve kept up to date. I’ve expanded my knowledge. I’ve even been a presenter at national conferences.”

 

You’ve used the word ‘discrimination’ a couple of times. In your experience, describe the kind of age discrimination you have faced.

“Since I moved, I interviewed four or five times when I noticed I was hearing the same things over and over. That’s when you know there is something happening.”

 

What have you heard over and over? 

“Well, it really starts with organizations that are excited to interview you upfront. You are well received on all points, and hear things like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to meet you,’ or, ‘You sound like you would be an ideal candidate’. I remember one Zoom call I had where the principals of the company told me, ‘You are exactly what our organization needs’.”

“Then you go in and get, ‘How old are your children?’ or ‘You seem to have many years of work experience,’ or ‘Do you plan on working for much longer?” and you think, ‘Here we go again.’”

 

Since you moved in 2018, how many interviews have you had where you had a serious chance of getting the offer?

“Ten times [since interviewing] I’ve been one of the top finalists.”

 

What’s been your most difficult experience?

“With this one organization, a large national organization, I went through seven interviews. The CFO, four regional and national Directors, the CEO, oh, and I they had me talk to three employees that I would be supervising as well. They flew me across the country to their headquarters and I met with a man and a woman, both who would be my bosses.”

 

When they flew you to their headquarters was it your expectation that you would be given a job offer and were there to sign an employment agreement?

“I wasn’t told I would get an offer, but I was told it was a big deal, and it was a very expensive ticket. The HR woman later apologized to me and told me she never would have sent me there if she knew what was going to happen.”

 

So what happened at the headquarters?

“I met with the man who would be one of my bosses. He was the second highest person at the organization. We had a great interview. We had both lived in the same small town, and had common work and personal history, and when it was over he walked me all the way to the CEO’s office for my scheduled interview with him. The CEO was my second to last interview. At the end, he said to me, ‘I hope you get to do what you do for our organization’. When I was leaving, one of the Directors I met with saw me and left a meeting to come say goodbye and he told me he hoped we would get to work together. All the feedback was great. I felt like I was there to be rubber stamped.”

 

But you didn’t get it?

“No. They hired a much younger person, and it would be impossible for her to have the expertise I have because she is too young. Call me naïve, but I had no idea my acumen would be drowned out by my age. I was shocked. I thought about legal action.”

 

What other obstacles have you faced because of ageism?

“It’s not just about getting a job; it’s the kind of job too. I started off interviewing for jobs that were over $100,000, then $80,000, then $65,000, and suddenly you’re two or three rungs lower than what you’re use to and then you’re overqualified. This was a life changing realization. I had no idea I would be facing this as a professional woman.”

How do you feel about the tips and tricks on job hunting sites for older workers, like leaving out dates and limiting how much work experience you put on your resume?  

“Background checks reveal your age. Once they meet you, they know how old you are and if they’re not sure they can always find out if they want.”

 

Now you’re consulting for non-profit clients. Consulting is synonymous with experience. Do you feel that you have found a way around ageism? 

“I’m not advertising my age. Being a consultant, age tends to work in your favor. It’s actually a benefit, or can be a benefit. Many people do not know I am as old as I am. But my earning power would be greatly increased if I could look ten or fifteen years younger than I do. But I can’t even do that and be hired because a background check will show my age anyway. I don’t ever want to retire. I love working so much I don’t want to retire. So, this has been very disheartening. I now live with one my daughters. I used to be the reliable, stable one in my family, the one who helped out others financially, the one who could be generous. I was making very good money. You go from very successful, to being treated like an idiot, to being treated like you’re useless. Ageism has brought me to the cusp. If it weren’t for my friends and family, I don’t think I would have made it, and I’m now on all the social services you never think you’re going to need. It takes away all the dignity you hold dear, and I don’t think most people realize how much dignity they have until they lose it. This is a problem everybody should be concerned with, everybody at every age, because you’re going to be next.”


Philip Roufail contributed to this article.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

Facts And Tactics To Help You Battle Age Discrimination In The Job Market

iStockphoto.com |  fizkes

iStockphoto.com | fizkes

Age discrimination is a lightning rod of a topic. Ageism quite real, and it can serve as an invisible barrier to being considered for a job to anyone over 40 years of age.

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission’s (EEOC) 2018 report, The State of Age Discrimination and Older Workers in the U.S., concludes that, “After 50 years of a federal law whose purpose is to promote the employment of older workers based on ability, age discrimination remains too common and too accepted.”

DATA TO CONSIDER

We all want very experienced people when our lives are on the line (doctors, pilots, firefighters, etc.) or to design and build items that aren’t going to fall on our heads or explode (engineers, contractors, rocket scientists, etc.), but to older workers searching for a job ageism can seem like a pervasive, guiding principal of the labor market. Consider the following:

  • The Wirtz Report, the study that led to the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), concluded the primary reason for age discrimination was, “unfounded assumptions about ability.” This perception can be just as strong today as it was in 1967, maybe even more so given the dizzying pace of contemporary technological changes and “start-up” culture, which can be translated as youth culture (EEOC).

  • According to the AARP, “Two out of three workers between ages 45 and 74 say they have seen or experienced age discrimination at work, and job seekers over age 35 cite it as a top obstacle to getting hired. And if you happen to work in the high-tech or entertainment industries, your chances of experiencing age discrimination are even higher” (AARP).

  • “From 1992 to 2016, 56 percent of older workers are either laid off at least once, or leave jobs under such financially damaging circumstances that it's likely they were pushed out rather than left voluntarily.” Of that 56%, 9 out of 10 workers never reach their previous earning power, or become unsuspecting new members of the “Gig Economy” (Urban Institute & ProPublica).      

  • Multiple studies from the last five years reveal the majority of workers believe age discrimination is “common”, and have seen or experienced it first-hand. Rates are higher for certain demographics, women, and those employed in information technology (EEOC).

  • After being sued by unions and civil rights groups, Facebook recently agreed to eliminate targeted job advertisements that screened out certain categories of job seekers, including older workers (NY Times).

  • Over the last twenty years (1998-2018), 18% - 26% of complaints filed with the EEOC alleged age discrimination. That was roughly 1 in 5 complaints (EEOC).

  • Since a 2009 Supreme Court ruling created a higher burden of proof to prove age discrimination than other forms of discrimination (sex, religion, race), the EEOC pursued a smaller percentage of age discrimination cases (SHRM.org).

  • Proving age discrimination is difficult and costly, and since many of those affected have been thrust into financially precarious positions, the likelihood of a legal fight has decreased to levels too low to be an effective deterrent (New York Times).

 

THE GRAYING OF THE U.S. WORK FORCE

Workers over 65 years of age are projected to be the largest growing sector of the labor market through 2050 (EEOC). Additionally, a perfect storm of demographics, societal shifts, and historical events over the last twenty-five years impacted, and continue to impact, older workers in ways that could not be anticipated at the time of the Wirtz Report. The resulting landscape for older workers is a hyper competitive labor market in which they are battling the same ageist perceptions, competing with younger workers, and competing with more workers their own age that cannot leave or must re-enter the workforce.

Not only are older workers generally healthier and have longer life expectancies than previous generations, this directly translates into an increase in older workers who will remain in the workforce longer (The ADEA @ 50). Changes in Social Security benefits have resulted in increases in the “full retirement age” to collect benefits, meaning older workers must stay in the workforce longer before they are eligible to receive full benefits (Congress.gov). Additionally, traditional pension plans and other employer driven retirement plans are declining rapidly, shifting the responsibility for retirement to individuals and reducing retirement income (EEOC). This combined with many individuals impacted by the Great Recession, resulted in an increase in older workers remaining in the workforce longer (EEOC).

 

BATTLING FALSE PERCEPTIONS

At the same time, older workers and employers battle the same false perceptions, just from opposing points of view. Older workers need to be aware of the extra obstacles they face, know their rights, and learn how to shuffle a stacked deck. Here are some of those perceptions, and some tactics for older workers to negate them and effectively compete for jobs:

Perception: In salary and benefits, older workers cost a company significantly more than younger workers.

Reality: A 2015 study by AARP contends that, due to reward/benefit systems with a “more age neutral distribution of labor costs”, hiring workers age 50+ results in only a minimal increase in total labor costs, and that is without factoring in the true value the employee brings to the company (Aon Hewitt).

Tactic: Understand the market for your skills. Individuals who spent several years with the same company may find themselves with a pay structure that is generally higher than the market for their skill set and level, due years of compounded raises (or lower – sometimes individuals who stay in the same role don’t get raises that can come with changing roles. Use salary tools like Paysa.com to get a clear picture of the value for your skills in terms of salary in your market. This will arm you with the correct data to help you negotiate an appropriate salary. When talking to the company recruiter, try to focus on your enthusiasm for the role, and minimize the salary discussion until it makes sense to get into the weeds. By the way, don’t forget that you have value – your experiences and knowledge can clearly help an employer.

 

Perception: Younger workers will spend more time at a company than older workers.

Reality: In 2018, median employee tenure among workers 55 + was three times higher (10.1 years) than median employee tenure among workers 25-34 (2.8 years) (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Tactic: If you’ve had longevity in prior roles, play this up in the interview. Make clear that you’re looking for a place to work in the long term. Don’t mention retirement; it’s important to convey that you intend to be there a while.

 

Perception: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Older workers are perceived to be less capable at learning and understanding new technology. As Mark Zuckerberg once said, “Young people are just smarter”.

Reality: This is simply not true. Experienced workers create a more productive workforce and excluding them in hiring and promotions has produced a major “skill gap” fueled by institutionalized bias that older workers have less to offer (Marketplace).

Tactic: Don’t get stale. Always be training to keep up on the latest technology. If you see some new tool emerge in your industry, learn it. And make abundantly clear in your resume and interview the currency of your skills.

 

Perception: Older workers will not be as engaged as younger workers.

Reality: Study after study rates older workers with higher levels of engagement than their younger counterparts. An AARP research study found that 65% of employees age 55+ are considered engaged based on survey data, while younger employee engagement averages 58% to 60% (Aon Hewitt).

Tactic: I’ve seen this play out many times, where hiring managers are drawn to the younger employee due to their boundless energy. You’ll need to really amp up your presentation. Sit on the edge of your chair during the interview. Smile. Be engaged, friendly, and in the moment.


Philip Roufail contributed to this article.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

Don't Let Age Discrimination Win: Interview And Resume Tips For The Over-40 Set

iStockPhoto.com/ aelitta

iStockPhoto.com/aelitta

Age discrimination exists – it’s illegal, and it’s regrettable. Sadly, employers miss out on many highly qualified candidates if they consider age as a factor in the hiring decision.

The good news is there are tactics older workers can use to compete effectively for jobs. Remember, the job interview is an opportunity for the employer to not only meet you and get a sense of your technical abilities, but also whether you fit the competencies (i.e., “soft skills”) required to do the position.

And if you hear post-interview feedback such as, “We don’t think you can keep up with the fast pace," age may be creeping in as a factor. I’ve seen several job seekers from the over-40 set turned down for positions for that reason – but I've also seen it happen to recent college graduates who didn’t convey the sense of urgency or excitement that interviewers wanted to see.

You've got the skills, and you've got the experience. Here are some tips you can use to overcome age discrimination and demonstrate your true value to an employer.

 

ACING THE JOB INTERVIEW

Your job in the interview is to sell yourself. You need to prepare – and be aware of – how you project yourself.

Record and review a practice interview on video. This way, you can see for yourself how you come across, and you can have someone critique your practice interview with total honesty. Do you convey tangible energy that employers want to see? Do you smile enough? Do you ask impactful questions during the interview? Does your body language show that you're fully engaged in the interview?

Prepare your interview answers. Employers want to see examples from your prior work experience which demonstrate how you will deal with situations in the future. You can prepare your answers in such a way that they show your ability to add value over less experienced candidates.

Prepare concrete examples from your work history of how you dealt with tight deadlines, adapted to fast-moving work environments, and successfully brought programs to conclusion. Some sample questions you might be asked:

  • How did you meet that impossible deadline? (Demonstrates quick reaction time)
  • How did you rally your coworkers around meeting a time-sensitive task? (Demonstrates team-building and leadership abilities)
  • How have you dealt with balancing a heavy work load? (Demonstrates energy and planning skills)
  • How did you train and develop your team to be successful? (Demonstrates leadership and succession planning)

Review your wardrobe. Does your outfit reflect current fashion trends, or does it need updating? A modern suit can do wonders in helping make a great first impression.

 

OPTIMIZING YOUR RESUME

Your primary task with the resume is to have an employer spend more time focusing on the value you've added lately, and less on your age.

Focus on the past 15 to 20 years. Don’t list jobs from any further back than you need to.

Don’t give too many “tells” of your age on the resume. Examples of these include the year you started your first job, or the year you graduated college.

Include as many recent professional successes as will reasonably fit. Show that you're continuing to make an impact and add value to your organization

Check for – and remove, if possible – clues which may make you look older. For example, if you list a skill it should be because you've been working in it recently as an important part of your career. An example of this is COBOL – it's an older programming language, and it still exists in some corners on older computer systems; if you've been using COBOL the last few years and think you can get a job writing code in it, by all means include it. Otherwise it could be considered old and may adversely date both you and your skills.

Pile on the latest technology or business strategies you've been using. If it's current, in demand, and you're an expert, include it. Examples - cloud solutions, talent management, SAAS, etc. are all hot and current terms.

Lastly, if you're an older worker and would like to learn more strategies about how to succeed in the job hunt, here's an additional resource for your review, a webinar on this very topic I presented last year in partnership with Boston University: https://youtu.be/igIWEBIRYow.

(Special thanks to Jeffrey Murphy, Associate Director of Career Programs with Boston University's department of Development & Alumni Relations).


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.