Age Discrimination in the Job Search

The job search involves plenty of rejection—most of us have experienced it to some degree. Unless a particular interview question stumped you, it’s usually difficult, if not impossible, to know why you didn’t get the job. However, when you’re over a certain age, there’s a chance another factor is at play.

Maybe they said you were overqualified even though you knew the position was a stretch for you. Or perhaps they asked extensively about your computer skills, and didn’t seem to believe your answers. It’s even possible one of your friends worked for the company, and you knew for a fact it came down to you and one other applicant with the same skillset as you. But they were younger.

Age discrimination in the job search is a problem. As reported by Workforce, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, age discrimination complaints have risen dramatically in recent years. In fact, “between 1997 and 2007, 16,000 to 19,000 annual complaints were filed, compared to 20,000 to 25,000 filings per year since 2008.”

In the face of such odds, finding a job can seem hopeless. After all, you can’t change your age—it’s a part of who you are. So what can you do?

Revise Your Resume

If you aren’t getting interviews and think it may be due to your age, remove any graduation dates from your resume. Although this can be a minor red flag to potential employers, it’s better than being completely discounted because of your age.

Next, only put the last 10 – 15 years of work history on your resume. Everything else has to go. This work experience is what is relevant, and best reflects your current skills. Your older work experience is by no means worthless, but the lessons you learned in those positions are hopefully reflected in more current job responsibilities. Most importantly, listing such a long job history can make your age more obvious.

But what if you haven’t been in the workforce for a number of years? This is a common problem faced by stay-at-home parents, individuals that suffered long-term illnesses, and those who spent years taking care of sick friends or relatives. One thing you can do is retool your resume to focus on accomplishments. Make a functional resume that centers on skills and abilities first and the companies you worked for second. This can help the reader focus on what you are capable of as a worker rather than when you last held employment.

Train Up

Various certifications or degrees make sense for certain jobs. If you want to apply for a job requiring special training, make sure to get the required education. If you’re already competing with other applicants based on age, you don’t want to compete with them on education as well.

Online Profiles

If you are applying for a professional position, you might want to create a account. LinkedIn is the go-to networking tool for professionals. Research what a LinkedIn profile account should look like (you will need a professional headshot, as well as a well-formatted online resume).

You also may want to consider creating (or, if you already have one, updating) your Facebook account. Employers like to see that you have a life outside of work, one that supports their mission and values. You can also set certain restrictions on what people view on your Facebook page.

Interview Honestly

Hopefully your updated resume got you in the door. Now is your chance to shine. When you meet face-to-face, it’s obvious that you’re older. But still avoid actually mentioning your your age. Steer clear of dates as well.

Let them know why you’re right for the job. Talk about moments when you successfully delivered measurable results, not stories about how many years of experience you have. Your experience should come through in your accomplishments. Some employers stereotype mature applicants as being “tech-challenged,” so, if you have experience with technology, find an opportunity to mention that as well.

Use a Recruiter

If none of the above works? Consider a recruiting service. Because of their connections to local businesses, recruiters know about jobs you might never hear about. They’re experienced with helping others in your same situation. Their services are often free, so using a recruiting service can basically be two times the job search power for zero extra cost.

Express Employment Professionals is a leading staffing provider in the U.S., Canada, and South Africa, and can help out with these kinds of problems. If you have any questions about your job search, feel free to contact your local Express office or fill out our online contact form.


Have you been discriminated against because of your age? If so, were you able to work around it to find employment? Let us know in the comments below!


  1. Darri Johnson

    I have been in the workforce for bout 15 years now and did not realize my age was a factor until I have had to find another job. I am 49 and I have 10 years experience i. My profession as a Ph

  2. Michael

    Recently at a staffing company
    I was applying for a job which required I drive a truck chassis
    from one building to another….that’s it…
    I was asked to bring in two pieces of identification and
    bank numbers for direct deposit.
    After initial interview, those pieces of information were
    not reviewed! When I asked about them, they said to me
    it wasn’t necessary at this point.
    What it was in reality was age discrimination and the
    fact I was 55 & overweight. I still passed my physical, but that
    didn’t matter when you are stereotyping potential employees.
    I feel the agent was just collecting numbers (people signing
    up without thought to actually sending them out for jobs).

  3. Sharon

    I am in my early 50s and work for a municipality where started as a temp admin assist. When they offered me the permanent position, it was DOWNGRADED to receptionist/clerk. I have much experience on my resume that qualifies me for other positions in the city for which I’ve applied. While I did get interviewed twice, the third time they didn’t even bother and I realized I will never move up here.
    Through the years I’ve been here, older workers have been let go and new positions of authority are created and filled only by the under-35 crowd. There is not one single director in the entire structure over the age of 40. The only positions for which older women are hired are for clerical/receptionist positions. So, I guess they can cover their hind parts by saying they DO hire older workers.
    It is discouraging and disheartening because I know I am more than qualified for some of the positions. I am currently looking elsewhere.

  4. Patty

    It most certainly does exist. I’m now 61 and have experienced it numerous times over the last several years. You say don’t put dates – most jobs now require you to fill out on online app – OK they can’t ask your birthdate but they can ask when you graduated high school! Same difference! I have been reduced to working jobs that don’t pay anywhere near what I used to make – heck 30 years ago I was making twice what I make now. It isn’t fair but there isn’t much to be done. I did file a complaint with the EEOC on the last one – I was interviewed for over eight hours over a week and then poof – nothing – and guess what – the gal they hired was a twentysomething……..

  5. Jennifer

    I am in the same boat. I have 30 years of work experience and find that the 30 something people get the job or the promotion. I am 56 now and I have been unemployed twice in the past two years (the first job was after working for 14.5 years).

    I have revamped my resume and did not included more than about 15 years, I didn’t include my graduation dates other than my MS which I got as a non-traditional older college student (so the date is more current). Even with the revamp – I do get interviews, but have yet to land a job. I have even “dumbed” down my resume and not including my MS – which did get me an interview, but not the job.

    I dread the thought of working in a call center, retail or a factory, but might have to do it to keep up with bills. It’s a shame to waste all this experience. I have thought of taking more classes, but to what point – as my master’s is not getting the jobs. Unless I take specialized high demand job training – I don’t see the point. No easy answer.
    Best, Jennifer

    1. frank

      they also ask if you are disabled and your gender this is a form of discrimination it’s a shame none can blow the whistle on these companies i gees our govenement does not or politshions don’t give a dam about the working class

  6. Karen

    It is a loss for the U.S. that we do not value middle age and older citizen’s mind capacity and still capable abilities. Other countries do not mistreat their citizens in regard to employment.

    At this point in time human beings are taking care of themselves better and are in good health in their 60’s and 70’s, more than they were 25 years ago. Yet, employers are widely discriminating against healthy, capable individuals.

    Very sad! And I hope it will change soon as this affects people’s lives!

    Best Regards,


    1. Barbara Carrera

      I truly believe that the only time it will change will companies cease and desist their discrimination practices like continuing to ask for birthdates, high school graduating dates, MBA dates. It has to hit them in the wallet and the government (EEOC, etc;) has got to lean more towards an employee and less towards an employer. All these laws are allegedly meant to protect and help discriminated employees, yet unless you are wealthy, you cannot pay an attorney to take it all the way. In addition, employers are saavy in the ways that they do it. Someone has to “crack down”.

  7. David

    I have had a similar experience as Jennifer. Although in my case, I am looking for Call Center and other Customer Service / Inside Sales positions. And age discrimination exists at those companies as well. I’ve already made changes to resume’ as suggested in this article (actually did that a few years ago). Getting the interviews doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem. But when I get to the interview, I can see a change in the facial expression. Sometimes a dramatic change, sometimes it’s subtle. Once they see that I’m a bit older than what they expected, everything changes. One gentleman even told me at the beginning of the interview, before discussing anything else, that I should continue looking for work.

    It’s as though none of them are even aware of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (A.D.E.A.).

    1. Jennifer

      Nothing against call centers, but I have been a manager working with budgets, clients, many database systems, with a variety of roles and can’t phantom myself on the phone all the time at a call center. I know exactly what you mean about seeing their reaction and/or facial expression – says it all – you are too old. I once went to an interview where everyone looked 20-30 years old – awkward.

      Regardless, I keep applying and keep going to interviews. But with the realization, that someone might be hired, not because of qualifications, but their age. Unfortunately, I have worked in a university setting for 15 years and they are notorious for wanting to have a youthful vibe.

      I have thought about putting my birth date as 10 years later and just summing it up to a data entry mistake. Also as to when I received my bachelor’s. I feel I do look fairly youthful and am still in good shape, but figure the truth would come out and it would disqualify me anyway.

      When my kids were young and I wanted to make some extra money, I worked at a distribution center during the holiday season (while still working full time). Good money in a short temporary time span. I remember seeing old people (60-70’s) that were barely able to walk working the lines – probably the only work they could get. And they would keep coming back! I also recall some young workers walking off the job because it was too hard, not enough breaks and couldn’t stand on their feet 8-10 hours/day. Our generation knows what hard work is, are dependable and don’t spend half their day “yammering” or blabbing/texting/snap-chatting others.

      What a shame! Good luck with your search!

  8. Carolyn Batten

    I retired 4 years ago but now want to return to the workforce. I owned my company for 40 years, and it was successful to the end. I was certain my experience would make it easy for me to find a job. I was willing to work either full or part time. I didn’t need benefits, which I thought would be a plus. Also, I was not going to be pregnant, didn’t have children at home that would require me to take off work. I had excellent references. I couldn’t think of any single thing I did or did not do that would disqualify me. My resume looked good, my cover letter was written for each specific job for which I was applying. There was one thing I did that someone told me was a problem–I used double space after the period! Really? I finally came to the conclusion it had to be my age (75). The telephone interviews went great, but when I went to the business that’s where it stopped. My clothes were up to date my hair and make-up were current. What am I missing? I was told over and over they would let me know after they finished interviewing. I never heard. It is extremely frustrating.

  9. Jimmy Peterson

    Age as well as many other factors are what is know as the “silent discriminations.” Other areas in this consideration is military reservist, high education degrees, obesity, disabilities, even being “non” bilingual is factored here. Where companies get you is with EEO surveys. Because it is actually illegal, the disclaimer say that it would not be considered. They state that these surveys are for EEO purposes only, but are attached with your resume. The catch is if you fill it out they find out areas that lead to discrimination. If you don’t fill it out, it red flags the resume and it most likely does not make it to consideration. I have a Master’s degree in Human Resource and I too have been the subjected to the silent discrimination factor. It is hard to prove and therefore, the companies who practice discrimination based on these factors, have anonymity. Until the Department of Labor cracks down on this breach of ethics, companies will continue to discriminate.

  10. La Donna Kelly

    Hi Everyone, I understand all your dilemma’s. I am 52 and with my health problems, I am cast out as well. At age 2, I was diagnosed with kidney dysfunction stage 4, now bounce back n forth between stages 3 & 2. Since 2009 I have 2 hernia surgeries: Double and Triple, and 3 different kinds of cancer removed: no chemo or radiation praise the Lord!

    Started working for Pikes Peak Respite Services to give back to the community and help others in need.

    If you know how to handle special little children, teens, and adults, you know how to work with them, care for them, and clean their homes. If you enjoy working with others and spending time with younger people. Then it is a fun and scary job. Hard at times…but rewarding.

    Some pay privately and others pay with insurance. Pikes Peak Respite Services is paid through Medicare.

    You get to help parents have a little time to themselves and spend time getting to know a child, a teen, or a young adult and learn how they live and help them grow with your knowledge and their capabilities.

    These children/teens/young adults have:
    Down Syndrome
    Feeding Tubes
    A Form of Parallelization

    All they want is someone who will give them a lot of TLC and teach them day to day living expectations. Like going to school and listening to the teacher, do your homework, how to pick up their toys.

    Someone to listen to their stories or someone to read them a story.

    Someone who is trained to care for their medical needs.

    Someone who is not their parent and can help them and will not scream at them, but love them and make them feel safe, special, and loved, but help them and guide them. What young person has that knowledge or patience, unless they were blessed from the start.

    Places like Pikes Peak Respite Services is always looking for help. Each client gets 2 hours minimum a day and a person can work a 40+ hour week. The need is their and very few workers to carry the load.

    I wish you all the love and luck.

    God bless!

    La Donna

  11. Riad

    Good day Express Employment Professionals, Recruitment specialist,
    I would like to thank you for all your informative E- Mails and specially of today, and wish you a good week.
    Riad Nakhoul.

  12. Raymond Akles

    The main problem I see is that as I age I see my son and daughter getting to the age they are about to be on their own. When you look at the typical HR person they are not much older than our children. I look at my children and think of what it was like to be that age and realize that I should never have been put in charge of people that are my age now. I would have picked peers over the needs of the company. I would have discounted the experience and wisdom that age affords. I would not have had the ability to see that an older person may move at half the speed of a younger one but the older person may be 2 to 4 times as efficient, and or has no need to do his or her work again since it was done right the first time. Employers of today want fresh soldiers for the battlefields of the workplace and ones that do not ask questions because it might challenge the notion that they may not be right or worse, that they may not be as intelligent as they once believed. An employer of today wants to filter out those with what they consider to be “desirable potential” such as creativity and are willing to let the “bullets of the workplace,” pressures, overtime, perhaps dishonesty of the work culture, etc. “kill” employees and are replaced by the new “soldiers” eager to take their place, not realizing that they may fall as well. Power of body and freshness of skin come at the cost of experience and wisdom. Experience and wisdom come at the cost of power of body and freshness of skin. How do you tell someone that they don’t have enough experience when they have spent their whole life accumulating it? When you can say to them ” I have spent your lifetime acquiring knowledge and I have spent an equal amount of time figuring out how to use it correctly.” This was not the case 70 years ago where the older where always in charge of the younger based on what a person knew and deference to age but we have entered an age where college degrees somehow take the place of maturity. Arrogance is not maturity. I would be foolish if I said this applies to everyone broadly. The people that I have personally dealt with in Express have not conformed to the above for which I am grateful. I have worked in places that a younger person has bent themselves in to pretzely shapes to accommodate me in a problem I was having that was not of my making. I have also been in situations that fit the above well and have the figurative knife-wounds in my back to show for it and sadly this is becoming “normal.” In short this will always be a problem as long as the young are put in charge of the old. “Employers may say they want creativity and innovation but tend to reward lock-step and conformity.”-Steven R. Covey.

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