Age discrimination remains a problem in the hiring process (for younger candidates too)

Age discrimination in the hiring process is illegal, but it still happens, often unintentionally.

A recent survey of 1,000 hiring managers by Resume Builder found 42% consider age when reviewing resumes. Age bias by hiring managers is also difficult for a candidate to prove.

“If someone is reviewing your resume and they see that you graduated in 1970, that might put you out of the offering if that person has an age bias,” said Stacie Haller, chief career adviser at Resume Builder. “You may never know that is why you were eliminated,”

When qualified older candidates are rejected from multiple employers, those applicants might take that as a signal that age is a factor in not getting offers.

Reasons for age-related bias against older candidates include the likelihood of retirement, potential health issues, lack of experience with technology, a fixed mindset and need for time off, according to survey responses.

Job candidates can reduce the risk of age bias by making simple changes to their resumes. In addition to not including graduation dates, which Haller said is not necessary because it has nothing to do with qualification, avoid listing a work history that goes beyond 15 years back. Not only would that indicate age, but jobs 15 years or longer ago likely have no relevance to the job being applied for.

Including a picture on a resume or cover letter went out of fashion years ago, but Haller said job seekers still need a picture on career sites such as LinkedIn and Indeed. She stressed it needs to be a professional picture.

“If it’s not, and you have a picture that is not professional — and I’ve seen pictures of people holding a beer on a beach — well, you’re not going to get any calls,” she said.

Age bias in the hiring process does not affect only older candidates. It affects young candidates too — and beyond their lack of work history — especially since the pandemic, which changed the personal growth experience for many young adults.

“Gen-Zers are viewed as not having professional skills, or etiquette skills or knowing how to interface with co-workers,” Haller said. “They have that kind of age bias against them.”

Beyond those notions, hiring managers responding to the survey cited concerns about young job applicants job-hopping and lacking reliability. Of those hiring managers who have age bias against younger applicants, 46% said it is beneficial to the company to avoid hiring Gen-Z candidates.

Resume Builder’s full hiring manager survey results about age bias is online.

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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