How to Overcome Age Discrimination

Since I started my newsletter about job searching, making career transitions and sharing secrets from the world of recruitment, I’ve had over 400 people message me asking how to overcome age discrimination when searching for a job. 

The majority of people who emailed me weren't even getting invited to an interview so I'm going to discuss how to overcome barriers at the prescreening phase. What I’m about to share has come directly from (ex) clients and hiring managers that I’ve crossed paths with during my time in the recruitment industry. 

Update Your Email Address

Hiring authorities will make snap judgments and disqualify you based on your email address. If you’re sentimental about your email address or have “had it forever”, get a new one specifically for your résumé/job search. Yes, this small detail can kill an opportunity.

Two key things:

  1. Sign up for a Gmail account.
  2. Don’t add your year of birth.

Use a variation of your name and initials and if you have a common name, add your cell/phone area code or airport/city code (e.g. jsmithyvr or janesmith604).

Generally, numbers 1-30 after an email should be fine (e.g. johnsmith17). It’s only a problem when people start to associate them with birth dates. Numbers 1-30 just looks like someone else registered your name before you did.

Try to avoid emails provided by your telephone/cable provider.

Hotmail is dead and is also considered unprofessional.

AOL emails are antiquated.

Yahoo is passé.

Bottom line: get a Gmail account.

Remove Positions More Than 20 Years Old

If you’re not getting any calls, rejections or gaining any traction on a search, and you think it’s to do with the amount of work experience you have, remove any positions more than 20 years ago. If you’ve been with a company for 20 or 30 years but have had different positions, display the most relevant positions from the last 15-20 years.

For the record, I’m not encouraging you to lie on your résumé; I’m encouraging you to condense your résumé to the most relevant positions that reflect what you’re looking for. That is, if you started as the mail clerk 30 years ago and you left as a VP, and are looking for leadership positions, then only display your leadership positions. You can clarify your tenure during an interview and explain that you only felt the need to list relevant positions. 

Remove any graduation dates from your résumé. If you first graduated more than 20 years ago but recently took a course or went back to school, then err on the side of caution and remove the date from your recent course too. But do list them in chronological order.

Readers, you might not agree with this but then you also might not be in the position where you’re unemployed, have a mortgage and family to feed, and people the same age as you (or half your age with half the experience) are disqualifying you based on your perceived age.

This is about giving people a fair chance to interview.

Google is Your New Résumé

Your online presence can kill an opportunity before you even get a phone call - and rightly so in some cases.

Google your name.

Google your name plus your city.

Google your name plus the word Twitter.

Google your name plus the word LinkedIn.

Google your name plus the word Instagram.

Google your name plus the word Facebook.

Google your name plus your current company.

If you think this is a bit excessive then you're out of touch. More or less every recruiter or hiring manager does this to some extent before they move forward with a candidate.

If you signed up for Twitter ages ago and only have a couple of tweets, or it looks outdated, or you don’t use it - delete it or remove your name completely.

If your LinkedIn profile isn’t up to date or doesn’t have a picture, update it and get a professional looking picture (NO SELFIES). You don’t need a professional photographer, just put on attire that is appropriate to your desired profession/industry and get a friend or family member to take a picture of you against a plain background (most smartphones will do). Make sure to smile and put a black and white filter on it.

If you’re on Instagram, and currently applying for jobs, lock it down.

If you’re on Facebook, and currently applying for jobs, lock it down.

Your Facebook profile picture is usually public so get rid of any selfies or pictures taken with a webcam and remove any photos that might be considered uncouth. If you have a fluffy, inspirational, sassy, religious or political quote as your profile picture, get rid of it. Think about the message you’re sending out.

This is about optics.

Once you’ve done that, scan your entire social media ecosystem. 

If you’ve made any sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic or transphobic comments online then you really don’t deserve to get hired so you might as well just give up and spend time trying to be a better person.

Good luck.

- S