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'Age bias' excuse gets old

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Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

I know it can be hard to find a job these days, but I have to tell you, I am getting tired of hearing older job seekers blame age discrimination. While I'm sure some employers discriminate because of age, let's analyze why older workers may struggle getting hired.

Just this week, I met with a 53-year-old client, a sales rep who had been downsized. She had never learned her employer's sales system and was terrified she would never find a job because she felt she could never learn to use complex software. With that attitude, she is probably right!

“Unwillingness to learn new technology and keep up with technological changes” is one of several ways older job seekers flub the interview, says Pittsburgh- area careers expert Carol Silvis.

Silvis, author of “Job Hunting After 50” (Cengage 2010), says failure to get along with other generations is another reason older applicants don't pass the interview. When you interview, be sure to mention successfully working on a team with people of all ages, or the great relationship you had with a former supervisor who was 20 years younger.

Older job seekers should update their appearance. That includes wardrobe, make-up, eyeglasses, jewelry, grooming and hairstyles. Says Silvis, “If your personal appearance is outdated, it may give the interviewer the impression you are unwilling to change or to keep up with the times. People do not have to be fashionistas to recognize old-fashioned collars, hemlines, styles and patterns. These things will stand out to most interviewers.”

Silvis recommends that older job applicants demonstrate enthusiasm, which may be lacking in someone beaten down by the rigors of a job search. Remember, you are competing with candidates who may be decades younger, so you need to give the interviewer the impression that you are up to the task. “Walk with confidence, smile, use positive language, give examples of being an innovator, and use your experience to your advantage,” urges Silvis.

A final reason older job seekers fail is because they may come across as being unable to change. While people of any age may find change difficult, older workers have an often well-deserved reputation for wanting a familiar rut. “The majority of job applications must be completed online, and resumes must be submitted electronically. Nearly all jobs involve some interaction with computers. Job titles, duties, reporting relationships and workplace environments change constantly. Only those job seekers who are willing to go with the change will be successful,” says Silvis.

Overcome such concerns by talking about how you successfully worked with employees who came on board after a merger or how you learned the ERP system so well that you trained new hires on it.

If you've read this far and haven't seen yourself in any of these reasons, you may indeed be a victim of age discrimination. It could be you don't want to work at that employer anyway, if that's how they treat someone with so much knowledge and wisdom. Why not go down the road and apply for a job with their competitor?

Chris Posti, president of Posti & Associates in Pittsburgh, is author of “The Shortest Distance between You and Your New Job.” Email questions to her at

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