Don’t let age shut the door on job-hunting

The majority of job search clients we work with at are between the ages of 45 and 65 years old. Many of these job seekers have fears of not being able to find a job because of their age. Unfortunately, ageism is real and something that job seekers need to cope with. In fact, we hear this word a couple of dozen times per week from clients and is often cited as a reason they are experiencing no results or poor results in their job search.

We hear over and over again:

“Employers want to hire a 20-something-year-old, with the experience of a 50-year old, at the price of an 18-year old.”

“45 is the new 65. And no one calls me because of it.”

“I can see the HR manager’s shoulders slump down when I walk in, knowing I’m older than I sounded on the phone interview.”

Yes, ageism (as sexism, racism, and other -isms) in the job search is real. And the age-related rejection, real or perceived, is debilitating otherwise competent job seekers across the globe.

What are you supposed to do if you believe ageism is a problem in your job search? It’s not like you can change how old you are, right? Are you supposed to give up and just throw in the employment towel? Not at all.

The best approach is to accept it as a fact. If you were in battle, you would assess the power of your enemy and devise a plan around it, right? You wouldn’t walk around whining about your opponent having certain powers or advantages, right? You would accept it, no matter how daunting, and see how you can overcome it. Yes? So do the same thing here, assuming ageism is your enemy, your opponent.

Assume you will experience age bias. Don’t assume ageism is the reason for everything you are experiencing. This is not true nor wise. But assume it will happen and accept it. Face it and address it head on.

Here are some ideas to combat ageism:

  1. Don’t lead with your chin.

Over and over again, I see job seekers complain about experiencing ageism in their job search, and when I look at their resume/profile, it most often starts with “Over 30 years of experience.” If you want to be hired on merit, start with merit. If you don’t want age to be a factor in a hiring decision, don’t lead with age or seniority. It’s that simple.

  1. Control what you can control. And ignore what you can’t control.

Can you control if someone isn’t going to like you because you are visibly probably in your 50’s? No. Can you control how many times you send an e-mail or make a phone call to advance your job search? Yes.

Can you control that some people, no matter what you do, will have a bias against people over 40? No. Can you control how you learn how to communicate in today’s electronic age to show that you will assimilate into the company’s culture? Yes. For example, simple things such as don’t ask to fax your resume in. That is the “I have over 20 years experience” equivalent, since applicants last faxed their resume in for a job application 20 years ago. It dates you immediately.

  1. Don’t assume you are the only one experiencing hardship. Everyone is being wrongly judged in some way.

Here is what I’ve seen as a 20-year employment professional:

  • Women think they are getting discriminated against because of gender.
  • African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics and other ethnic minorities think they are automatically disqualified from consideration because of race.
  • Job seekers over 40 years old think age bias is holding them back.
  • Job seekers under 30 think they get wrongly judged for not being qualified, when they are, because they are so young and the older candidates get hired over them all the time.
  • Religious groups feel they are not hired because of their religious choices.
  • Individuals from various sexual orientation demographic groups see their opportunities diminish because of their sexual orientation.
  • And last, but certainly not least: The 35-year-old white male thinks he is getting looked over because of diversity initiatives.

Here is the deal: Everyone is (or feels they are) experiencing bias. So don’t assume you are unique or being persecuted. Accept it and plan accordingly.

  1. Make sure your resume isn’t outdated. Resume trends change all the time. What worked 15 or 20 years ago will not work today.

Furthermore, if you’re still working with the resume your college’s career center taught you to write, and have just been adding your jobs as they happen, then you’re in for a very rude awakening. You wouldn’t wear a suit from 1995, so why would you use a resume format from the same era? The days of sending in paper resumes are gone.

Objectives have also been thrown out with yesterday’s trash. Additionally, everything has gone digital, so if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile or a way to participate in mobile recruiting, then you’re going to struggle finding a job.

(5) Don’t make it hard for people to reach you.  Make sure your resume has a mobile number, e-mail address and LinkedIn profile URL listing in the top section easily seen.

Put some variation of your contact information in the summary section of your LinkedIn profile, Twitter bio and/or “about me” pages. Google your name and see what options come up and see if it is easy to contact you when clicking on those links.

  1. Don’t be too focused on the past during job interviews. While it’s good to touch upon past accomplishments during job interviews, you must remember to balance it out with some forward-thinking conversation. For instance, don’t forget to mention how your skills can help the company with their current issues. You also need to talk about how you can contribute to company goals, both now and in the future.

Yes, ageism exists today, and that does make your job search a little more challenging. However, as you can see from these tips, you still can control the outcome and land the job you want by making a few adjustments in how you are doing things.  And don’t forget: A resume writing expert can be instrumental in helping your resume and profile work.


Lisa Rangel, who wrote this article,

Landing a job is tougher if you're 45 to 65, but there are ways to get past ageism.
Landing a job is tougher if you’re 45 to 65, but there are ways to get past ageism.

is an executive resume writer and LinkedIn moderator at, a Forbes Top 100 career website.  She is the creator of