How to Avoid Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Marsha Hebert, professional resume writer
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In a perfect world, employers would recognize the very real value that a seasoned employee can bring to their organizations. Alas, this is not a perfect world. The reality is that all too many hiring managers and business owners subconsciously discriminate against older workers. And that discrimination is only becoming more pronounced in the emerging digital age.

Today’s hiring managers often assume that older workers just can’t keep pace with today’s ever-evolving technology and business paradigms. As a result, many will simply dismiss a seasoned candidate’s resume without a second thought. Fortunately, we have 9 tips on how to avoid age discrimination in the workplace, including what to do during an interview and how to protect yourself by writing your resume in a certain way.

Discrimination is sometimes intentional, but not always

It’s easy to go into a new job search with a rational fear of being discriminated against. Even with equal employment and fair labor laws, age discrimination, albeit unintentional, does happen. 

In most instances, hiring managers really do want the best candidate for the job opening – regardless of that candidate’s age. Unfortunately, several potential factors might give them pause and prevent them from interviewing you and it usually has nothing to do with whether you’re good at your job or a stable employee with tons of experience. 

  • Some may worry that your salary demands will be more than they can meet

  • Others may wonder how you can fit in with their younger workforce

  • Most will be concerned about your familiarity with new technologies

  • They may also feel that they can get younger staff members to do the same job cheaper

  • Sometimes, older generations are already counting down the days to retirement

Overcome ageism during an interview

In most instances, the only way to overcome unintended age discrimination is in an interview setting. Once you land an interview, you can demonstrate your potential value to the employer by highlighting your broad experience working with teams of all ages. You can also allay any salary requirement fears and talk about how you’ve adapted to changing technology.

Obviously, the interview isn’t the only key to avoiding age discrimination. Your cover letter and resume also need to be designed to remove any obstacles to that interview. Remember that you do not need to include your age on a resume! Your resume should be an honest representation of what you bring to the table – but there is no need to give personal information you weren't asked for!

9 tips to help you age-proof your resume and land more interviews

To craft a professional resume that helps you avoid age discrimination when applying for a job while maximizing your chances of landing an interview, follow these tips.

1. Modify your education section

First things first. If you want to avoid age discrimination when applying for a job, get rid of those graduation dates in your education section. They’re a clear “tell” that quickly reveal your approximate age to anyone who can do simple math. Simply list the schools, course of study, and any achievements or awards.

2. Be selective about your included experience

Seasoned employees always have a lengthy history of job experience. That experience can be a disadvantage, however, if you insist on including everything in your resume.

If you’re been working for thirty or forty years, you really shouldn’t include your earliest jobs. After all, they require employment dates that will help to reveal your age. You only need to include the last 10 to 15 years on your resume.

If you have relevant experience from before that time, consider covering it in your skills or qualifications section where no dates are needed.

3. Get a LinkedIn account

These days, many employers and hiring managers always check social media before reaching out to candidates. You should have a LinkedIn profile page with a professional photograph and a more personalized story about your career. Then include a link to that page on your resume.

Tip: Use a profile picture that looks how you would when entering an interview. Don't invite any surprises – employers do value honesty! We have more tips for online pictures in the next tip.

4. Cultivate an active social media persona

While you’re perfecting your LinkedIn profile and the work experience section, you can also avoid age discrimination by choosing the right photos of yourself for social media. Try to find photos that reveal your more youthful side while staying current. Hair dye, make up, and clothing is all fine if that is part of your normal look, but heavy filters, outdated photos, or tons of Photoshop probably won't help you out.

5. Emphasize recent technology in your resume

To alleviate the technological doubts that often fuel age discrimination, emphasize your familiarity with new tech. Find places in your resume to include details about your tech savvy use of various programs, machines, and tools. That’s a great way to highlight the fact that you’re more than ready to keep pace with any challenge!

Tip: You want to focus on technical skills or programs that are current. For example, it's now assumed that today's job candidates have experience with Microsoft Word. For more information on choosing the right skills to highlight, check out these posts:

Remember that most companies use ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) to automatically scan your resume. Include skills found in the job description to increase your chances of getting past an ATS.

6. Make sure you know that technology

Of course, age discrimination when applying for a job will rear its ugly head in the interview if you don’t really understand the tech you mention in your resume! To avoid that, do your homework. Want to mention your familiarity with any piece of software? Get familiar with it first. That will enable you to honestly claim that knowledge.

7. Highlight desirable skills on your resume

While your experience is useful, it’s just as important to highlight skills. Figure out which hard and soft skills are needed for the job and focus on them throughout your resume. Remember, the goal is to convince the prospective employer or hiring manager that you’re the best candidate for the job. Doing that will diminish any potential for age discrimination when you’re applying for jobs.

"Desirable skills" will vary based on industry and position, but check out advice on our post about tailoring your resume for more ideas.

8. Focus on value

What do employers want? Obviously, they want value. They need a team filled with people who can add value to their companies. You should emphasize your value-added prospects by highlighting specific accomplishments you’ve had in other jobs. Moreover, link those achievements to real numbers that demonstrate the value you brought to your jobs. In this case, the bigger the number, the more impressive you look

9. Be flexible on salary

Finally, prepare to be flexible on salary. Even if the job listing asks you to include salary expectations on your resume, be sure to leave it open to negotiation. Allow the employer the opportunity to discover your potential value first, and everything else will fall into place.

Avoid age discrimination when applying for a job

The good news is that it is possible to avoid age discrimination. Just follow these simple tips and focus on creating a value-added resume that any employer will love. If you can achieve that goal, you can land more interviews and secure the employment you deserve.

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Marsha Hebert, professional resume writer

Written by

Marsha Hebert, Professional Resume Writer

Marsha is a resume writer with a strong background in marketing and writing. After completing a Business Marketing degree, she discovered that she could combine her passion for writing with a natural talent for marketing. For more than 10 years, Marsha has helped companies and individuals market themselves. Read more advice from Marsha on ZipJob's blog.

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