Age Discrimination in Job Interviews? Confront It (tactfully)

Age is the elephant in the room. Most employers are not going to come right out and say it, but a lot of them are thinking it. They know they can get sued for discriminating, but there are many ways to discriminate without running afoul of the law.

They may be thinking you’re over the hill, you don’t have that drive you used to, you’re way too expensive, you’re skills are out of date, you can’t collaborate with young co-workers. A younger boss may feel sure you won’t be able to take direction.

Many–or all–of these assumptions about you may be absolutely false. But ignoring them most likely won’t make them go away. It may well make sense for you to speak up and bring the issues out in the open where they can be dealt with.

You might say, “I know that a lot of times decision makers have concerns about hiring older workers like me. Even though you’re not supposed to ask age-related questions, I think it’s important to get some of these issues out in the open and talk about them so you can make an informed decision about who you hire.”

Note that when you bring these up, you can avoid sounding confrontational. Instead of saying, “You are probably thinking … “ you might soften it by saying, “some hiring managers … ” or “I’ve noticed that many executives ..,”

Here are a few topics you might want to address:


“A lot of managers wonder whether someone like me is up to date with technology. I want you to know that I’m the kind of guy who actually reads the software manuals cover to cover (assuming this is true), and people in the office come to me with questions.” OR “While I was unemployed, I took a number of courses to update my computer skills and feel comfortable with….”


“If you’re wondering about how long I’m going to stay in this job, I’m in no hurry to go anywhere. Younger workers are often switching jobs every two to three years—and turnover is very expensive, as you well know. If this is a good match, I’d like to stay till I retire, which won’t be for at least five years.”

Are You After My Job?

“Sometimes hiring managers are afraid that someone like me is going to be after their job. Let me assure you that I’m more than happy to be working for someone like you. From what I’ve seen, you’re smart, and you’re someone I can respect and trust. Anyway, I’ve been there, done that, and I’m happy to play a supportive role, rather than jockeying to move up the ladder. You can count on me supporting you 100%.”

And be sure to let them know:

Advantages of Hiring Me

“I know there’s a temptation to hire someone who’s got less experience and a lower price tag, but let me ask you something. When you’re down by a few points and it’s fourth down and goal with less than a minute to go, do you want to have a rookie at quarterback—or do you want a seasoned vet who knows how to handle the pressure? I’ve shown that I can get the job done under the toughest circumstances.”

Every candidate has their pluses and minuses. Make sure that you’re not getting judged based on minuses that are only perceived, rather than reality–and be sure to play up your pluses.


If you’d like to talk about your job hunt or career situation, I’m happy to have a no-obligation conversation. Find a time that works with your schedule.

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