Age discrimination

I don’t know if this belongs here so if it doesn’t feel free to move it.

How, if at all, could a person go about proving age discrimination when applying for jobs? I ask because I’ve been applying for jobs that I am qualified for. Yet I never hear back. Not a word. I can’t help but believe that if I were younger than 57, it would be a totally different story.

First: how do they know how old you are? You don’t provide that information on your resume, do you? Are they figuring it out based on graduation dates?

Sorry, hit send too soon.

Are these jobs you are applying for in person? That is, do they actually see you when you apply, or are you supplying your age on an application or resume?

Do you know anything about the normal range of ages they appear to hire?

You’re in the U.S., right?

Same damned thing has happened to me time and time again. Its probably worse than you think. I am only 32.

Seriously though, I work in IT. Some recruiters and HR people have said that “I am a dream candidate” and my resume just “lept out of the huge pile”. Other people apparently hit delete as soon as they came across it. That’s just the way it goes. I estimate that I applied to 20 or more jobs for every response and I was only applying to jobs that I was obviously qualified for. It is basically a numbers game in the initial stage.

First I would say that based on what you are describing, just sending resumes out and not getting any nibbles, my gut tells me to first work on your approach before jumping to the age discrimination conclusion. Age discrimination exists, but it’s not that rampant and across the board that HR folks, who know it is illegal, would not be calling you at least some of the time if your application was otherwise strong.

Whether it’s outplacement, your state’s employment office, or a trusted friend–or all of the above and more–get some good advice on your approach. Are you researching companies and contacting individuals with cover letters personalized for each job? Or are you just emailing resumes to companies? If you are looking for a position that requires relocation, and you’re willing to pay costs yourself, are you explaining that? If your next position is likely to be a step down salary-wise due to the market, are you explaining that you understand that to be the case?

Once you are confident you are taking a well-researched, personalized approach to the job search, if you still feel age discrimination is a factor, contact some companies to ask why you weren’t contacted/interviewed/hired/whatever. Most likely they won’t tell you, but it’s a step you should take before making an accusation. No sense accusing someone of something if it turns out they lost funding for the position or suchlike. Then if you really feel like you have a case, the folks to contact are the EEOC, They will help evaluate the validity of your claim. In some states there are stricter age discrimination laws than the ADEA (federal law) so you may have a contact in your state as well.

First of all, welcome to the club. I don’t know if you’re a man or woman, or I’d say “Welcome to the old ladies’ club.”

IMHO I believe that there is a fair amount of subtle age discrimination that is impossible to prove.

If it’s at all possible, leave ALL dates off your resume, especially ones like graduation dates which give a clear indication of your age. Just say “Graduate of XYZ University, computer science major.” The actual dates of your most relevant and recent employment are good – the potential employer may very well seek to obtain those anyway. For older (and less relevant) employment simply indicate “previous employment includes…” or leave it out entirely if it’s in a different field.

Another tactic employers use is to ask about time restrictions to see if you have young children (“Are your hours flexible?”). Do not indicate anything at all about family details if you can avoid it. They want youth, but they do not want to have to adjust to your daycare schedule if they can avoid it.

Obviously if you are emphasizing (as you should) your reliable work history, track record of achievement, etc., they will easily surmise that a person with 20 years experience is most likely over 40. If/When you get a face-to-face, other than the things we all do to look as youthful as we can, there is little you can do.

If the person outright says or implies that they are looking for someone younger (or more masculine, or with paler skin), it’s difficult to impossible to prove such discrimination but I’m convinced it happens more often than most people think.

I meant to say “Unless,” not “If.”