Ageism: Does it Exist or Is It a Form of 'I'm a Victim!' Mentality? [ Part 3 ]
The Art of Finding Work

Ageism: Does it Exist or Is It a Form of ‘I’m a Victim!’ Mentality? [ Part 3 ]

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Your age is irrelevant.

This is the third column of a 4-part series dealing with ageism while job hunting.

Career coaches and job search experts claim you can fool employers about your age and beat ageism. The truth is, regardless of your age, nobody can “beat” ageism.

Say you land an interview by concealing your age using experts’ tips and tricks. When you meet the hiring manager, will your age not become evident? Deflecting your age until an in-person or Zoom interview is pointless. At some point during the hiring process, your age will be revealed.

Then there’s the Internet, which “experts” never mention. Employers Google candidates to determine if they’re interview-worthy, which’ll turn up many ways to assess the candidate’s age:

  • Your graduating years. 
  • The years you played minor league baseball. 
  • The picture your son, who tagged you, posted on Facebook, in August 2004, of you dropping him off at university.
  • The whitepaper, Advancing Asian Markets Are Undermining Globalization, you wrote back in 1994 for the brokerage firm you were working at.
  • Last March, you tweeted you were celebrating your 25th wedding anniversary.

There’s plenty of information on the Internet, either placed by you or not, that employers can use to determine your age. The Internet has made attempting to hide one’s age from employers futile. Employers can easily determine, even find, your age outside of your resume and LinkedIn profile. Hence, the advice to leave off dates, etc., seems illogical to me. It’s actually telling that you’re trying to hide your age when you leave off dates.

Employers can find almost anything about potential candidates thanks to the Internet. (e.g., age, place of birth, your social media posts). Consequently, employers won’t schedule an interview if they see something they don’t like about a candidate. The Internet allows employers to exercise their biases, right or wrong, before contacting a candidate. When you apply and don’t hear anything, the reason(s) is unknown to you. It’s a guess—a pacifying belief—to say you’re not getting interviews because of your age.

An employer invites you to an interview because you have the skills, experience, and qualifications they’re looking for, and your digital footprint has passed their scrutiny. If you’re not hired, it’s not because of your age. Assuming you didn’t arrive late, dressed professionally, built rapport with your interviewer, and didn’t knock over the picture of their dog, you weren’t hired because (the two most common reasons):

  • You didn’t sell yourself as the solution to the problem the position was created to solve, or (brace yourself)
  • There were better candidates. 

Obviously, candidates get rejected for various reasons, not just the ones I mentioned. However, rejected candidates often use excuses, such as ageism, to justify why they weren’t selected rather than evaluating their interviewing skills.

You’re not owed friendship, love, respect, health or making a living. Everything in life—everything worthwhile—must be earned. No matter how old you are, you need to earn (READ: prove) why you deserve to be on an employer’s payroll.

Now that you know you can’t beat ageism, what can you do? As regular readers of my columns know, my first advice to jobseekers is to find their tribe. Look for where you belong and will be welcomed. Pursue the right employers! My advice to “find your tribe” applies not just to ageism but to overcoming all perceived “isms.” An undeniable fact: As humans, we prefer to be around people we feel comfortable with. 

When you focus on where you belong, your job search will be much more successful. 

I’m confident there are just as many employers who value the experience a seasoned candidate will bring to their company as there are employers who prefer less seasoned candidates for what they’ll not bring to their company. (I know, this is a bit of a mind pretzel. Flip it around in your head for a few minutes. Slowly it’ll make sense.)

Regardless of whether you consider yourself young or old, you can make your age irrelevant by: 

  • Demonstrating your ability to generate revenue, save money, improve processes, improve safety, etc. (Share your expertise and track record of delivering results.)
  • Adopt a consulting mindset. (Treat interviews as consulting conversations. Show curiosity and a learning mindset.)
  • Communicating your confidence in your ability to hit the ground running. (This isn’t your first rodeo.)
  • Show you’re energetic and enthusiastic.

Look at that; I provided ways to negate your age over which “older candidates” have more leverage. 

Whatever your age, remember, an interview isn’t about you. It’s about convincing your interviewer you’re the best solution to their problems. Remember, you were vetted before getting the interview; your age isn’t an issue. 

Next week, in my final column of this series, I’ll discuss having the right mindset to cope with ageism during job searches.

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Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send Nick your questions at [email protected].

Nick Kossovan
Nick Kossovan
Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send Nick your questions at [email protected]