What to Do if Your Age Is an Issue in a Job Interview
In this day and age, it is rare for an interviewer to ask a direct question about the age of a candidate. That's because asking how old you are, even in a roundabout way, is one of the things interviewers aren't supposed to do when conducting a job interview. However, age discrimination is still a significant issue for many older job seekers.
How to Respond if an Interviewer Seems Concerned About Your Age
An unethical or untrained interviewer could pose a direct query about your age.
Occasionally, a recruiter might fish around with questions that might yield some insight about your age, like asking when you graduated from college. In many cases, it is more common for interviewees to sense some concern or hesitation on the part of the interviewer.
It isn't just the presumption that an applicant is "too old" that is a concern for employers. Rather, it is the assumption (often an erroneous one) that older employees will be lacking in some critical qualities which will impact job performance.
Common negative assumptions by employers about older workers include:
- A lack of energy
- Health issues
- An inflexible approach to changing circumstances
- Being out of touch with current industry trends
- A poor grasp of the latest technology
- An inability to relate to younger workers
- An inability to relate to those from diverse ethnic backgrounds
Volunteer Information to Counteract Assumptions About Your Age
When it appears that the interviewer has concerns about your age, the best approach is to volunteer information that will counter those assumptions.
When responding to interview questions like "Why should we hire you?" or "What are some of the key strengths that will enable you to excel in this job?", use these types of questions as an opportunity to show the interviewer that you are not only qualified but have all the other assets the employer is seeking.
Emphasize Your Skills
Older candidates who can reference examples of long hours worked on critical projects and quantitative measures of productivity can easily counteract assumptions about lack of energy. By emphasizing creative approaches to problem-solving, older workers can demonstrate their flexibility and their ability to adjust to new challenges.
Older applicants should also present a clear pattern of engagement with professional development activities and reference the latest industry trends to allay fears that they are out of touch. Discussing any leadership roles with professional groups and conference presentations can go a long way to proving this point as well. Older candidates should make sure that they refer to any technology expertise which they have cultivated, especially knowledge and skills acquired recently.
Whenever possible, offer positive examples of teamwork and/or customer contact with a diverse mix of colleagues and clients (in terms of age and cultural background). Stories of how you successfully managed or mentored younger co-workers can effectively illustrate this point. On the flip side, sharing stories about how you successfully worked for a younger manager can help, too.
Be Careful About Bringing Up Health Concerns
You don't need to mention good health directly because you may bring up an issue that isn't in the mind of the interviewer. However, if you have a solid attendance record, you could mention that you have missed few, if any days, and can be depended on to show up for work and to be on time. Sometimes, mentioning active hobbies like running, skiing, spinning, and dancing during the less formal stages of an interview can demonstrate vitality and a high energy level.