Help Wanted: Ageism

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Regional attorney from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Elizabeth Grossman, describes ageism as a legal issue in NY, NJ and CT. And job search and career coach Rita Ashley, also author of the e-books Job Search Debugged and Networking Debugged, offers advice for job seekers on how to combat ageism.


Rita Ashley and Elizabeth Grossman

Comments [30]

Rita Ashley from West coast

Robert, How frustrating to put in the time and effort to interview and get dead air as a response. There are so many reasons employers and recruiters don't get back to you.

They tell you they will as a polite gesture, but the raise hopes. Fact is, Robert, if they don't get back to you it is because they are not considering you for the job.

No amount of prodding will change that. In fact, if you annoy them, they won't consider you for other jobs in the future. They are telling you with their silence, to move on.

Sure, it's rude. And sure it makes you mad, but don't let them win twice by allowing their lack of response to affect your confidence.

If it happens repeatedly, it is your sign to review your interview technique. Conduct a mock interview and record it, analyze it; be very critical. Learn from it.

I doubt your age is a factor unless you are causing it to be (see my blog on the topic). They guessed your age before the interview and still talked with you.

I also suggest you read my book "Job Search Debugged" [downloadable from my site] which covers common interview mistakes and how to make corrections.

Best of luck. Rita

Mar. 31 2010 10:30 AM
Robert Vasta from Freehold, NJ

After listing to you on the Brian Lehrer Show I had a question about follow up to a interview. I have been on many interviews and 90% of them never respond back after I talk with the hiring manager. I send the followup email and I am told that they will get back to me, but never do. My question is what do I do to get an answer? Also does my career field, Retail Store Manager Small box, have any special hurtles to overcome to secure a position. I should also say I am a 60+ year young individual.
Thank you for your time.

Mar. 31 2010 10:13 AM

"Age and gender have definately affect how I am treated professionally. As a 20 something woman, it still takes extra effort to be taken seriously and my boss is a woman! They definately do not prepare you for this in business school"#18
And what exactly do they prepare you for in business school. How to be good Kommandanten? And you should be taken seriously, because?

Mar. 31 2010 03:59 AM

"Sometimes, it's vibe and attitude, and the applicant not embracing new ways of thinking and producing"#15
Yeah, new way of thinking and producing isn't actually new, but old, very old, as old as slavery.
People, what's wrong with you, join die Jugend and march, march, march, schnell, schnell, schnell, as a certain Jugend and other youths (Chinese cultural revolution, Pavlik Morozov and frieds, for example) did.

Mar. 31 2010 03:53 AM
Jim Warwick from Port Washington, NY


With all due respect, all you're offering is to enable the discriminators and telling those who are being discriminated against to "get along" instead of really doing anything about the problem - I think it is a given to be your best at an interview, including everything you stated. Where I strongly disagree, is making a career of accommodation and acclimation in what clearly is an epidemic of discrimination by companies. And if you can't see what others and I see as obvious, then you fail to understand that giving advice on how to fit in is acknowledging there exists discriminatory a practices by companies, which then begs the question, Why are you not doing something to stop discrimination at the company?

Mar. 30 2010 08:53 PM
Rita Ashley from West coast

Jim and Others...
Please don't misunderstand that by offering adjustments to your job search you can make to land a job in spite of your age, that I deny ageism exists.

Quite the contrary. Since it does exist, it behooves each older worker to do what it takes to control what they can control and get a job, do well and help dispel the bias against older workers.

Combatting ageism starts by acknowledging it exists.

My goal is to help people minimize the affects on their own career. A recent 60 year old+ client was seriously considered for four jobs and her age was apparently never a consideration. Why? Because she knew how to keep their focus on how her credentials mapped to their needs.

Does my advice work for everyone every time? Of course not. But if you want a job and you are over 45, there is much you can do to minimize affects of ageism.

I focus on solutions, not problems. The best way to fight ageism is to get a job.

Hopefully, this clears up any suspicion of my point of view.

Mar. 30 2010 07:01 PM
Jim Warwick from Port Washington, NY

I am "old enough" to remember when companies "claimed" they did not have any discrimination issues, including race or gender. Rita is now offering the same denial by saying the same thing about age discrimination -She is smart, speaks well, sounds sensible, and has credibility. This is the "legitimizing of discrimination," which was a practice that goes back a long time in America. I think the data from EEOC saying age discrimination is rampant and now is numbers far worse than race and gender discrimination suits should "wake up" Rita and HR people seek to deny this fact as a real problem. Many of the above readers got it right - Simply replace age with gender, race, and Whoa! We got some discrimination! Let us go back 25 years when no minorities were being hired in white collar jobs, was it because they did not read Look magazine? Was it because they were mad looking? Be wary, be very wary when those people seek to deny this problem by making it your self created problem. That is reality. In fact, I think if we could video job applicants at companies, we could stop discrimination.

Mar. 30 2010 04:26 PM
Jim Warwick from Port Washington, NY

So as Rita says:

Look "young" because if you do not, you will not get the job. However if you have wrinkles, and a weather beaten face, leave it.

Wear Trendy clothes, because people judge you more on your appearance than your achievements.

Downplay your achievements, because that means you are a show off.

Do not be mad, because if you look like you are mad, you will not get the job. Opposite of mad is happy, so look happy.

Learn about the job, if you can, and try to answer their needs.

Good advice - but I don't think it works against age discrimination.

Case in point, I always work at the above and it hasn't worked for me yet, however, I did win an age discrimination law suit, because age discrimination really does exist -

Mar. 30 2010 02:49 PM
Rita Ashley from West coast

Thank you all for your participation. I would have like to shared more advice that older workers can implement to combat ageism, but time ....

Here are a links to my blogs which address specific actions older workers can take to optimize their job search. Click on the over 45 tab to see links. The landing page for the blog addresses the Facebook issue.

Appearing current and contemporary are important, but one should not spend a lot of time on social networking. It is a check off, not a job search tool.

Appearance is something you can control, and control is a great way to reduce anger. Well, you might direct the anger towards me instead. But don't shoot the messenger. My mission is to help you get employed, not to blame or supply excuses. These are not opinions so much as field tested advice I know works.


Feel free to keep the questions coming because all who visit this forum will benefit.
Good Luck.
Rita Ashley, Career Coach and Job Search Coach
Follow me on twitter: jobsearch4execs.

Mar. 30 2010 12:20 PM
mozo from nyc


There are also people who can use the Internet or attach a dcoument to an email who can't write a simple sentence or problem solve when something unexpected happens. I am assuming the people you allude to are older. I would suggest that their lack of computer skills does nothing to diminish their skills at what their job ultimately requires. It's like saying you are a better writer because you type faster. On the other hand, someone should tell these people to go to the Help menu on their toolbar and learn how to perform the basics computer actions you and I take for granted. You won't feel abused and they'll be more self-sufficient.

Mar. 30 2010 12:08 PM
Rita Sweeney from Scarsdale, Westchester County

I am a 79 year old female. I find that my life experiences have given me wisdom with superior knowledge and strengths. On the other hand, I observe some of my abilities diminishing and, although slight,they certainly should be a part of any evaluation of me and my abilities to perform in certain areas. My point is, why can't the condition connote both without stigmatizing the older person. The problem is how to protect against an easy, automatic, negative, prejudice applied to all in the "OLD/OLDER" category.
Thanks for the opportunity to say this.

Mar. 30 2010 12:04 PM
Annie Shreffler from WNYC

Mozo from NYC, your point is well taken!

However, some Facebook pages like The Brian Lehrer Show's Help Wanted, exist as a forum for members to discuss employment or job search issues. That is exactly why we produced this segment--people there were talking about it.

For those of you who can visit us when you're NOT at work, we welcome your questions and advice on Help Wanted also. Here is the link:

Mar. 30 2010 12:03 PM

Age and gender have definately affect how I am treated professionally. As a 20 something woman, it still takes extra effort to be taken seriously and my boss is a woman! They definately do not prepare you for this in business school!

Mar. 30 2010 12:03 PM
Katrina from North Plainfield, NJ

Having been an employment lawyer and ethics expert for many years now, I completely agree with Rita Ashley about noting your experience. The majority of mployers are not asking about your graduation date and/or years of experience in order to figure out your age. They are asking to figure out your level of experience and whether you can do the job for which they are recruiting someone. If you leave out information they request, you will arouse suspicion and that is the absolute worst thing you can do! Experience does have some correlation to age, but you cannot go into a job interview or application thinking of how you can hide your age. Take your chances! Most employers these days are happy to find a bargain - an experienced employee whom they can hire at an inexperienced employee price! And if they are not, then you are better off not being hired by them in the first place.

Mar. 30 2010 11:59 AM
eric from park slope

I'm listening and what I'm hearing is how I'm supposed to "adjust" for being over 40. If I'm african-american, should I speak more white? Or if I'm a woman, should I be more (or less) feminine? Ageism is the last bastion o free discrimination.

Mar. 30 2010 11:59 AM

This lady is clueless. Not every turn down is because of age. Sometimes, it's vibe and attitude, and the applicant not embracing new ways of thinking and producing.

Mar. 30 2010 11:58 AM
mozo from nyc

Ah, yes -- you must be on Facebook or Twitter to prove your... what? Proficiency in your work? I have several employees that I CONSTANTLY have to tell them to stay off Facebook at work as they are wasting time updating their pages. And don't get me started about Twitter. Inane.

A word to the wise: some things in your personal life should stay personal. I don't think the pics of you wasted at that weekend kegger further your job hunting.

Mar. 30 2010 11:56 AM
lynn from NY

I am about to lose my job soon b/c layoffs are going to be quite extensive throughout City Agencies.

The employees that will be saved are yes older, but also not capable of doing the technicial work that many of us more recent college grads can do.

Not to mention the younger employees make less money!! But the bottom line is unions make it very difficult for directors/bosses to layoff the employees that are not qualified--anymore for their job title.

I feel bad for those that believe it is ageism, but in reality there are so many people that did not take courses, learn how to use the computer, etc. to remain current.

There are about 6 people in my office that can not use the internet or understand how to attach a document.

Perhaps unions should be abolished in professional fields. They are most appropriate in industries that require manual labor.

Mar. 30 2010 11:50 AM
mozo from nyc

It seems to me that a lot of job interviews are beauty contests. Ms. Ashley is right to mention that horrible reality.

Mar. 30 2010 11:48 AM
Hugh Sansom from Brooklyn NY

Rita Ashley is absolutely right.

Here's another problem for older workers: If you look like you know more or are better than the manager/employer, you're not going to get hired.

Mar. 30 2010 11:48 AM
josh karan from Washington Heights Manhattan

I know numerous people in the TV industry who have been laid off because the networks say that they can get the same job done for lower pay.

The replacements are invariably younger. with lower salaries and benefits.

They cannot do the same job as experienced reporters or editors, but with the dumbing down of broadcast news,in competition with Fox, the networks do not seem to care, as long as they can put something on screen.

Is this age discrimination, or acceptable business practice of lowering cost?

Mar. 30 2010 11:41 AM
Hugh Sansom from Brooklyn NY

There are plenty of code-words in job listings indicating employers who are trolling for young people -- "intern", "recent college grad", "junior level", "entry level", etc.

Plenty of job posters will actually stipulate a "young" person.

It's reassuring to hear a legal eagle say that something is being done, but I have *never* seen any evidence that the government is pressing or even investigating the systematic age discrimination in New York.

Mar. 30 2010 11:40 AM
Hugh Sansom from Brooklyn NY

If a person thinks he/she has not been hired because of ageism, how can he/she press a case? Especially if it isn't even possible to find out who's been hired?

Mar. 30 2010 11:34 AM
Paul from New York, NY

The problem is one can rarely prove age discrimination. For all the Equal Opportunity laws there is still the factor of decisions made behind closed doors and in the minds of the interviewer. Here's an anecdotal story though.
I went to an employment agency about a year ago and applied for an office job advertised in one of the online job search services. While I was waiting to be interviewed by the young woman recruiter I was able to hear the conversation she was having with a younger woman. This woman was probably about 19 or 20 years old.

RECRUITER: "How would like for us to submit your resume for an Administrative Assistant position?"

JOB APPLICANT: "But I don't have any experience in that position"

INTERVIEWER: "That's OK. Your skill set seems to show that you could do that sort of job"

JOB APPLICANT: "I don't know but you can always try it".

I have similar office skills but have never been given the opportunity to demonstrate them and be allowed such a title.

Mar. 30 2010 10:15 AM
Teal Postula from Tarrytown NY

PS. My principal has also allways made it a policy to hire ( yes PAY) young design interns in college, and when possible, hire them full time when they graduate.

Mar. 30 2010 09:26 AM
Teal Postula from Tarrytown NY

I must be unusually blessed, I'm pushing 60, have worked for my company for almost 13 years, yet each year I feel more valued and appreciated. My principal knows that I give my heart and soul to my work. He values my experience, skill, creativity and knowledge, and when times got really bad last year, even though I may be his higest salary in our little team, he told me essentially that if he lets me go, it will be because he will have to shut the doors. Yet,even looking as pudgey and middle aged as I do, he takes me to many project interviews, because he knows that most all of the portfolio projects on our website came from my head, hands and heart. There are still good bosses in this world.

Mar. 30 2010 09:21 AM

This country is truly mad. Illiterate MBAs are life couches, illiterate 20 something raised on manipulative memos only "evaluate" experts, illiterate ("greed is good," no memento mori) New York magazine editors promote equally illiterate ("push and grab," no memento mori) New Yorkers, "public" radio is the radio of corporate America only, etc.
Maybe Bush is right and we see the end of the world?

Mar. 30 2010 08:56 AM
Hugh Sansom from Brooklyn NY

The teaser for this segment mentioned job applicants "aging themselves out of a job".

Nice that the onus should be put on the job seekers. Consider the following:
- "Don't 'race' yourself out of a job."
- "Don't 'ethnic' yourself out of a job."
- "Don't 'gender' yourself out of a job."

Sound objectionable?

If an employer rejects someone because of race, ethnicity or gender, the problem is NOT the applicant's.

Likewise, if an employer rejects someone on the basis of age, it is the EMPLOYER that is breaking federal law.

Mar. 30 2010 08:37 AM
Adriana from Brooklyn Ny

Are not we supposed to get wiser and more balance with the age?
I am 45 years old and this is the best decade when I really work with passion without ego or greediness of the early years, why the employers do not want to take advantage of it?
It's all aobut money and not about performance?
Where are we going to be if all of us are going to live to 100 now?
If Meryl Streep is breaking rules we can do it!

Mar. 30 2010 07:55 AM

As a 36 year old woman who looks 25 I can testify to the fact that this happens! There are differences in the way people treat you at work if they think you are younger than you really are!

Mar. 30 2010 07:45 AM

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