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How to Combat Ageism to Get Hired

Yes, ageism is prevalent, especially when you are over 50. When given a choice, most employers will choose the younger worker. However, there are things you can do to update your brand, leverage your skills and improve your marketability to get hired.


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The Facts About Ageism

How to fight ageism to get hired. Best careers for older workers. How to leverage your experience into a high demand field. Job hunting tips for older workers. What to do when you are unemployed over 50. Tools you need to be marketable

With getting older generally comes wisdom, experience, and self-knowledge. The hard truth, though, is that some employers see age as a disadvantage. Ageism in a job search is a real issue. Older workers can face high hurdles in the competition for jobs—often due to tired misconceptions and just plain age discrimination that, sadly, is pervasive in the job market.

Studies have shown that ageism is real–one found that the callback rate was higher for younger applicants and lower for older applicants, despite otherwise identical applications. In one category: “Relative to the young applicants, older female applicants for administrative jobs had a 47% lower callback rate, 7.6% versus 14.4%.”


Here are the facts about Ageism:

  • Age discrimination is illegal at any stage of employment, including during hiring, promotions, raises and layoffs
  • A 2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling made it harder for older workers who have experienced proven age discrimination to prevail in court
  • Most people believe age discrimination begins when workers hit their 50s
  • Among older workers, not getting hired is the most common type of age discrimination they experienced
  • Ageism is prevalent, so you must have a strategy to combat it

My Experience with Ageism


I was laid off several years ago, but at the time, was not concerned initially. However, I quickly ran into a brick wall. Recruiters who used to call me all the time suddenly would not return my calls. I did not know better, so my resume had every job I ever had, making it very easy to calculate my age. I could not figure out what was going on until I saw an article that said if you are over 50 you will never work again. I started to research the subject, and almost all I saw was more doom and gloom.

Here are the Steps to Overcome Ageism and Get Hired

First—Understand the Job Market

You know going in that employers prefer younger workers for many jobs. To fight this, you have to identify the careers that do prefer mature workers and identify the jobs that are in the greatest demand and which ones where your skills can transfer.

How to fight ageism to get hired. Best careers for older workers. How to leverage your experience into a high demand field. Job hunting tips for older workers. What to do when you are unemployed over 50. Tools you need to be marketable

Supply versus Demand

Research your local job market to see what jobs/careers are in the highest demand. Where are there more openings than qualified applicants? Then start looking at your transferrable skills to see which skills transfer to these areas.  The greater this disparity, the less your age will matter. A good example is Cyber-Security. In the Tampa/Clearwater/St.Petersburg job market there are almost 7,000 job openings but the supply of qualified workers is very low. 

Are you a Career Advancer or Career Changer?

Ideally, you want to be a career advancer because you can leverage your experience. Ask yourself the following question:

Are there many jobs in your field?

If not, is there something where your skills can transfer easily?

If the answer is still no, then what careers are in high demand where you can get up to speed quickly?

Career Advancer

Career Advancer

Start by identifying jobs that are in the highest demand where you have transferrable skills. For example, let us say you are a senior manager in a field where there is not much demand. However, there will be more demand for your leadership skills. Did you lead many projects? Did you work with teams with stakeholders from various departments? There is strong demand for project managers.

It is one of my favorite opportunities for mature workers with management experience. Employers prefer mature workers because younger workers often do not have the life experience or maturity to be as effective at getting stakeholders with different agendas and backgrounds to collaborate and work together effectively. You will probably need to get certified, but this could be one of your best options.

There are many similar examples, so get creative and do your research. Find out what skills are needed and if you are missing any, see if you qualify for a grant or other no risk options that will cover it. It really impresses an employer if you have related experience and the latest certifications.

Career Changer

Sometimes you have no choice but to change careers. Your skills are not transferable and the field you were in has died or is dying a slow death.

Here is the cold, hard truth: Most employers do not want to hire an older worker for entry-level, at least not for a decent career where you can make a decent income. If you do not want to end up being a greeter at Walmart or bagging groceries, you are going to have to face the facts and act accordingly.

You must find a career where the demand far exceeds the supply. Two of my favorite options are information technology and cyber-security. They are closely related. Cyberseek shows over 500,000 job openings nationwide and the supply of qualified workers is very low. With such a large demand and such low supply, your age does not matter so much if you are qualified. However, you will need to be certified to get your foot in the door. If you qualify for a WIOA grant, you can get them, for free. If not, there are no risk options that will help you get what you need.

10 Important Job Hunting Tips For Mature Workers

1. Make sure your digital brand is up to date

 If you are using an email provider such as @aol, @yahoo, or even @hotmail, update it. Just create a account to use during your search.

2. Focus on your expertise, not how many years of experience

Don’t say, “Network Administrator with 30 years’ experience…” Say, “Experienced Network Administrator with expertise in Cloud Technology

3. Check the mirror and update your look

Find that one friend who will tell you the truth. First impressions count.

4. No negativity

This is poison in the interview. Do not criticize your last employer, old boss, etc. Vent to someone else.

5. Do not reminisce

“Avoid, “I remember when…” It will date you. Save the war stories. You can tell the interviewer about specific accomplishments but make sure you are focused on demonstrating the desired skills.

6. Update your resume

Focus on jobs from the last 10 – 15 years.  Emphasize your expertise in handling challenges.

Do NOT use an Objective Statement. They are outdated and make you appear old

Use Job Scan! Get Hired Faster with Jobscan to optimize your resume!

7. You must use social media, especially LinkedIn.

Make you have an all-star profile. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is in your job search. Not having an optimized profile will not only mean you are less likely to have a recruiter reach out to you but will also make you appear older and out of date. Make sure to read up on this hear: How to Optimize your LinkedIn Profile.

8. Practice your Interview

Chances are you have not done an interview in years. Find someone to do a mock interview if you have not done one for a while. Make sure you practice your answers to common interview questions.

9. Learn these three interview lines

If you go into your interview and the person questioning is much younger, you can bet they have some preconceived ideas about older workers. They might not even address these, so you need to work these into the conversation:

Belief 1

“Older workers have outdated skills, especially technical skills. Younger employers will likely assume that you are set in your ways and aren’t committed to accepting a new challenge”

You say:

“I am committed to ongoing professional development.”

If you recently added some relevant job skills/certifications, this has a big impact.

Belief 2

“Older workers may be overqualified for a position, which means they will quit as soon as something better comes along”

You say:

“At this point in my career, I have realized which aspects of my work give me the greatest pleasure.”

Belief 3

“Older job applicants are resistant in taking direction from someone with fewer years on the job and less experience. They might feel threatened by your skills and experience. (You might take their job)”

You say:

“I want to make YOU look good.”

10. Get Past Resume Robots

If you are not familiar with applicant tracking systems, you need to read up on them here: Applicant Tracking Systems. Otherwise, people may never even see your resume.


See if you Qualify for a WIOA Grant

Are you unemployed? There is a little known federal grant program that can pay for you to get trained, certified and placed in your career at no cost to you. Availability and amounts are based on where you live. If you qualify, this program can pay up to $10,000 to get trained, certified, and then get help getting placed in their career. The amount and availability vary by county

This can be used to get certified in fields such as Cyber-Security, Information Technology, Project Management, Business Analysis, and more. Some of the most highly sought-after certifications include CompTIA, Microsoft, Cisco, Project Management Professional (PMP), Scrum Master, and others.