How to Avoid Age Discrimination in Your Job Search

Career Advice

With years, comes wisdom. Yet far too often, with years, comes age discrimination. If you are over age 40, Federal law provides some protections but you, as an employee or job seeker, can help yourself as well.

There are a large number of Federal, state and local laws and regulations that cover the topic of age discrimination. Federal law begins your protections at age 40. People over the age of 40 are a class, “protected from the employment discrimination by law.”

Along with knowing your rights, you can use your age in a positive way, to find a job or to secure your current job. Older workers have been studied many times by management gurus and several important findings are in your favor.

The Cornell HR Review highlights several studies demonstrating the value that an older worker brings to his employer. For example, “older employees are committed to their employers, highly motivated, and engaged.” The study also concluded older workers:

  • “Use less health care, take fewer sick days, are more productive, have longer tenure, and create stronger customer relations”
  • Create a “more loyal atmosphere full of employees who decisively want to stay with their company”
  • Demonstrate a greater degree of productivity and stronger ethics.

Older workers require less training, reducing both costs and time. Their experience, having “been there and done that”, can reduce or prevent costly errors or provide cost-saving shortcuts.

Avoiding Employment Barriers Against Older Workers

All that said, older workers will still find barriers. You can avoid some of these with preparation and planning.

Every book or website on job hunting advises that you research the prospective employer prior to applying. You do that, right? If research shows that the oldest person in the company is 27, it may not be a good match for you.

Do they use Human Resources as the first hurdle in hiring? HR often operates with a limited set of criteria, and makes assumptions that line managers might not. Bypassing HR or applying to companies where line managers take the applications puts your skills and experience before the people that need those benefits.

Finally, don’t feel a need to offer up your age. Most HR professionals know well enough not to ask. But in the nervousness of an introduction or an interview, too many job seekers volunteer the information. Something as simple as noting the year you graduated college may peg you into a certain ‘demographic’ in an interviewers mind. Let your experience tell the story – not your age.

Charles Simmins brings thirty years of accounting and management experience to his coverage of the news. An upstate New Yorker, he is a freelance journalist, former volunteer firefighter and EMT, and is owned by a wife and four cats.

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