Guidelines to Combat Ageism Bias in Your Job Search

If you are part of the mature workforce (generally age 55+), you’re facing intense competition for jobs. Not only is it a candidate-driven market, but professionals over 55 are often confronted by ageism, discrimination and stereotyping based on age.
With age comes wisdom, and with wisdom, we become more knowledgeable and experienced. And while a mature workforce possesses these attributes, they are often faced with ageism in their job search. The reality is that companies are searching for younger, less experienced and most cost-effective employees. Companies tend to prefer employing staff at a relatively lower cost, and typically, seasoned, experienced professionals cost more. Companies may exhibit ageism biases in hiring will onboard younger workers because they simply cost less.
In Canada, our human rights legislation prohibits discrimination against job applicants based on age, and legally you are not required to state your age at any stage of the hiring process. While most organizations don’t intend to be biased, discrimination based on age can and still does happen. Mature job seekers need to be aware of potential biases and take the necessary steps to reduce the possibility of ageism and discrimination from happening to them.
Combating biases in your job interview
Age bias is prevalent in all industries, but there seems to be a growing trend in seven sectors, including technology, healthcare, marketing, hospitality, retail, and finance. For mature job seekers, it’s important to be aware of the most common (often baseless) biased assumptions employers make about seasoned professionals.

Let’s review these six common biases and how you can combat them during the interview process.

1. Older adults have lower productivity and motivation

This can apply at any time to anyone. Productivity and motivation are not synonymous with ageing. To demonstrate your ability to be productive, highlight your measurable achievements; how has your knowledge increased over time? What skills have you recently learned? Talk about your motivation to find meaningful and stimulating work and indicate that now is the time for you to focus on your career (kids are self-sufficient, etc.).

2. Older adults are more resistant or less adaptable to change

Adaptability varies from person to person. Talk about new systems you implemented, or processes you’ve made more efficient, and innovative projects you have led. Don’t forget to address any revenue-generating ideas that were yours. Blast the bias that older workers won’t teach younger employees for fear of being replaced. Talk about people you’ve mentored; how much you enjoy team collaboration. Show that you are willing to work for younger managers or indicate if you’ve done so in the past.

3. Older adults are less likely to learn or develop new skills as fast as others

Share how you are a continual learner. Highlight any additional training or free courses you have taken and address your updated job skills. LinkedIn Learning offers so many free courses – take advantage of these and target industry-specific ones. Professionals who are committed to continuous learning and career growth are often the most desired by employers.

4. Older adults dream about retirement with one foot out the door

Be transparent about your plans; weave your 5-year or 10-year plan into the conversation, so assumptions about how close you are to retirement aren’t made. Express your interest in advancement and commitment to a company or career path.

5. Older adults are likely to have health problems that will affect their work

Talk about activities you do in your spare time, such as hiking, travelling, yoga, volunteering, and socializing. These things imply that you are an active individual and are just as capable as younger candidates.

6. Older adults are more costly to employ because they expect higher salaries

Be upfront about the pay range you are open to accepting. If you are “overqualified”, then explain why someone with your skillset would be open to taking a role with less demanding duties. Are you looking for more work-life balance? Are you no longer interested in working around the clock or travelling 50% of the time?

Age-proofing your job search tools
Resume writing can be challenging, but it can be even more difficult for those 55+ with a wealth of work experience.
How to age-proof your resume
  • Use a modern template and avoid dated or fancy fonts
  • Omit outdated skillsets and graduation dates
  • Focus on your recent (relevant) experience and be conscious of pages (2 max)
  • Highlight your achievements
  • Include a link on your resume to your LinkedIn profile
The social network, LinkedIn, is commonly used by job seekers on the hunt for a new job. But it is also a valuable tool for hiring managers and employers to review your work history, education, etc.
How to age-proof your LinkedIn profile
  • Lead your profile with a passionate summary
  • Include a professionally taken photo on your LinkedIn profile or consider not having a profile picture
  • Eliminate dates on your education
  • Focus on your recent work experience
  • Indicate that you are open to new opportunities
If you’re not interested in age-proofing all your social media profiles, consider making them private. An astonishing 93% of employers run social media searches before deciding who to hire. Your online presence is just as important as the impression you make in person.
Seasoned mature professionals have a wealth of valuable work expertise to offer. It’s essential to effectively demonstrate that value to potential employers during the hiring process. Align yourself with the skills needed for the job, customize your resume to fit the job description, and apply for opportunities with companies that value your experience.

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