Three Ways to Overcome Age Bias in Hiring, Critical to Finding That Great Job

April 11, 2017 Steven Watson, PhD, CPRW Job Search Strategies

There has been a lot written in recent years about the challenges older workers face in finding gainful employment. In general, people over the age of 55 take longer than their younger job competitors to secure the work they desire with many choosing to leave the workforce out of frustration.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that people aged 65+ still in the labor force reached 22.1 percent for men and 13.8 percent for women at the end of 2010 compared to 17.7 percent and 9.4 percent respectively in 2000. This trend has undoubtedly continued as more baby boomers have approached  their 60s and even beyond.

Although age bias in hiring has become a violation of federal law in most cases, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that it is alive and well. It might be tempting for older workers to just throw up their hands and move out of the workforce. However, a better alternative is to design a job search strategy that includes steps to overcome age bias issues.

Here are three approaches older workers can use to minimize the impact of age bias.

Create Dynamic Résumés, Cover Letters, and LinkedIn Profiles that Reflect Energy, Enthusiasm, and Flexibility
Older workers are often stereotyped as being narrow minded, inflexible, and unwilling to learn. There is plenty of evidence that these are myths and do not accurately reflect older workers at all. However, an excellent way to deflate these stereotypes is to create dynamic career materials that demonstrate a positive tone, as well as recognition that teamwork is important.

In most cases, prospective employers do not know applicants, so rely on written documents and social media searches and profiles to make decisions about who to interview. Employers want to hire people who will fit into the organization’s culture and be willing to be a valued team player. An older worker needs to make sure that her résumé, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile tap into the attributes prospective employers are looking for in new staff, beyond just experience, past accomplishments, and credentials.

Become as Technology-literate as Possible
Another stereotype faced by older workers is related to lack of comfort in using technology to perform work tasks, along with reluctance to accept the required training. While it does seem clear that older workers may not be as well prepared to learn and use technology, this may be due more to fear of failure than lack of ability.

Older workers can enhance their chances of finding great jobs by becoming and remaining current on the use of technology tools. This issue was recently addressed in regard to a more general job search population in an earlier post . It is not necessary to be able to use all state-of-the-art technology, but it is important to be knowledgeable of what is currently being used and show enthusiasm in learning to use what is needed. We live in a technology-driven age and older workers must adapt or face the potential of being left behind.

Seek Out Organizations That Have a Reputation for Being Open to Employing Older Workers
There are many companies and non-profit organizations that have a reputation for being more receptive to hiring older workers. They recognize that these people have extensive experience and maturity that can add considerable value to a work environment. Older workers can often find such organizations through online resources. This does not mean that an older worker has to only seek out these organizations, but it is nice to know that many prospective employers appreciate experience and maturity.

The important thing to remember is that older workers do not have to be dissuaded from remaining in the workforce because of stereotypes that do not necessarily reflect truth. There are steps that can be taken to anticipate and proactively addresses these myths as part of a winning job search campaign.

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