Applicant Log-In | Employer Log-In

Find a Career at a JCC

Enter Keyword(s):

Age Discrimination and How to Overcome It

By Michael R. Neece, CEO, Interview Mastery


When I was a younger guy I never worried about age discrimination. When I hit 40, I still didn't think it was an issue. Now that I'm past 50, I'm concerned about age discrimination. I've removed the years of graduation from my resume and dropped the first 15 years of  experience.  People say I look young for my age but to a younger interviewer I might look like an old “geezer.”

Age discrimination is pervasive. It is everywhere, in every company and every city. On rare occasions, hiring managers are ignorant of the federal laws they're violating, but most of the time interviewers know they're breaking the law. They just don't think they'll get caught. Also, young interviewers can't imagine the day when they will be the victim of age discrimination. 

Age discrimination hides behind the “fit” issue. When interviewers are committing the age discrimination crime, they hide it by saying the candidate won't “fit” in the company culture or with the team. 

Whether the interviewer raises the “fit” issue or not you have to proactively address the potential concern about your age.  Below is a simple strategy for handling this sensitive issue directly and professionally.

Before the Interview
Before you start interviewing recall the different settings where you've worked. These can include paid-for work, volunteer positions, community service and academic projects. 

Team Cultures
Make a list of the organizations and positions you've held. Start with paid-for work then add your volunteer and academic roles. Next to each position describe the qualities of the team you worked with. Try describing the team's top three qualities. 

For Example: 
You might describe your most recent team as careful, analytical and risk averse. This is the typical reality of corporate environments even though management would like to believe their teams are different. Alternatively, you may have volunteered on a local sports team, a non-profit organization, or the local cable TV station. These team cultures might be described as high energy, entrepreneurial and creative. 

During the Interview
The strategy is to provide examples of similar team cultures where you've worked. The following is a four-step strategy for handling the “age” concern.

1. Ask a Question
Ask the interviewer to describe the qualities of the team where you'd work. 

For example, you could ask the following:
“In most positions, the new employee must not only be qualified, but they must also “fit” with the team. How would you describe the team's culture?”

2. Provide an Example
After listening to the interviewer's description of the team, you provide an example where you worked in a similar environment.
For example:
“Fitting with the team is certainly very important. Throughout my career I've worked closely with colleagues of all ages, both younger and older than myself. For example, when I was at ________________ Company, I was part of a six-person team responsible for ______________. As soon as we started working together the age differences became irrelevant. We achieved project goals and surpassed management objectives ahead of schedule.” 

“On this team I'm most proud of the recognition from my peers and supervisors for my ability to collaborate with all team members. We all had a job to do and team members counted on each other to work hard and get things done.”

3. Express Confidence
Express your confidence to fit well in the team. Also state that you feel highly qualified and interested in this opportunity.
“ Based on my track record I'm confident that I can fit well with this team, especially since I've worked in similar team cultures before.”

4. Ask a Question
Ask a closing question.
"Did I give you enough details?"
"Do you have any concerns about my “fit” with the team?"

If you haven't worked in a similar work environment as described by the interviewer, describe how you've thrived in several different environments. Then describe the team culture that is best for you. Whenever possible, describe your favorite work environment using words similar to the team culture described by the interviewer.

This article is a sample of the value Interview Mastery delivers to help you handle the most difficult interview situations and get you hired fast.