15 Jun How to fight potential age discrimination with candor
CHICAGO – As retirement funds become depleted due to the dismal economy, more older job candidates are competing for employment. Thirsting for skilled workers with experience, companies are now welcoming them with open arms.
Views held of older workers are changing rapidly. In the recent past, it was widely believed that older workers were less productive, had more injuries at the office and cost employers more in health care and other benefits.
None of these statements is true. Studies show that older workers are just as productive as when they were younger, can contribute as much as their younger counterparts, are more dependable and have better problem-solving abilities than younger workers.
A growing number of employers recognize this and are seeking more experienced workers. However, there are still many older job seekers having a difficult time getting a job. The easiest explanation for some of these older job candidates is that age discrimination is blocking their entry into the labor force.
In reality, the only roadblocks to employment are most likely self-imposed. Many older workers simply need to believe in themselves, be more assertive in their job-search efforts and make sure that age is a non-issue.
One way job seekers can head off potential age discrimination is by displaying a special openness and volunteering the answers to questions an employer is not legally allowed to ask. Such an approach might just help to tip the scale in the job seeker’s favor.
Inquiries as to age, health, marital status and property ownership are off limits for interviewers to ask a job candidate. However, the job seeker bringing up this information can go a long way toward dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with age and assuring the employer that he or she is the right person for the job.
Companies seek people who are enthusiastic, fit, stable and confident in their skills. By confronting age issues head on, one is in effect saying: “It’s no big deal. In fact, there are many advantages to being more mature.”
With a growing number of older job candidates in the marketplace, one can really get a leg up on the competition by revealing information that may be on the minds of interviewers but which they are forbidden to ask. Openness leaves a positive impression. It’s a big plus.
The following are examples of statements a job hunter might sprinkle throughout an interview to keep the hiring authority from thinking of age as a possible problem:
“I am 55 years old.”
“I am in very good health.”
“I had my annual checkup recently and received a clean bill of health.”
“My goal is to join a company where I can help the business grow profitably.”
“I enjoy learning and enhancing my skills.”
“I am active in the community and have friends of all ages.”
“My wife of 30 years and I both enjoy working.”
“Our children are grown and out of the house we own.”
“Retirement is something we both think is for the very old.”
Even if the job candidate making these statements has graying hair, the interviewer is likely to be impressed with his or her openness. Maturity is expressed as a positive factor and the job hunter’s enthusiasm for working is clear. Any possible unasked questions that the interviewer might have about the person’s health are answered matter of factly.
Statements about home ownership and marital status reflect stability.
The fact that retirement plans are not in the near future sends the signal that the person (if hired) will likely remain for a number of years and will consider the position as his or her last job. The willingness to learn and a social relationship with younger people both display flexibility and dispels the stereotype that older people are rigid in their thinking and attitudes.
The worst thing a job seeker can do is apologize or act defensive about being older. Never say this: “Nobody really wants to hire someone older than 50.” One can’t have a defeatist attitude or it will show during the interview.
Older job seekers should also try to focus on their most recent achievements. They should not mention accomplishments from 10 years ago unless they are extraordinary or the only example of experience that meets the employer’s needs. If it’s necessary to mention a past accomplishment, it should be spoken about as if it happened today.
Finally, one should not talk down to, patronize or become convinced that it’s impossible to work for a younger manager. It’s critical that older job seekers avoid making the interviewer inferior. If there is a problem working for someone younger, it should be resolved immediately because odds are that many jobs will involve working for people who are younger.
Employers hire people they like. Candor is a preemptive strike that removes unspoken roadblocks and puts the interviewer at ease. Additionally, older job seekers who voluntarily discuss an interviewer’s unasked questions distinguish themselves from other candidates.
Recent columns by James Challenger
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- James Challenger: Slow hiring of college graduates: non-profits to benefit
- James Challenger: Teens face uphill battle in summer job search
This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
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