Don’t Highlight Your Age

I worked with a job seeker interested in returning to the workforce after several years of retirement. Like many people today, the combination of falling housing values and a large drop in the stock market have reduced the retirement savings well below what was expected. To maintain the standard of living, this individual decided a part time job would help. The job seeker is also excited to return to working after several years off.

I reviewed the cover letter written by the job seeker. In it, he calls attention to his extensive sales experience. This individual worked in sales for just over forty years. This makes it easy to figure of the age of the job seeker.

Many people report encountering age discrimination. How common it is and how likely this job seeker is to encounter it are tough to estimate. There are companies who will not discriminate, and there probably are some who will. Knowing how big a factor age discrimination might be for this individual is impossible to tell.

A job seeker can raise or lower the odds of encountering age discrimination. You are not required to tell an employer your age. You also don't need to tell an employer key information that allows the calculation of your age – for example, a high school graduation date should not be listed on your resume.

The individual's cover letter included a sentence highlighting the 40+ years of sales experience the job seeker possesses. Highlighting the sales experience is good, but there is little need for emphasizing 40+ years.

The job seeker had held several positions over his career, and we decided to omit from his resume several at the start of his career. The resume showed more than twenty years of work experience. Omitting the first few positions does nothing to obscure the candidate's experience or potential. An entry level position forty years ago will not make a difference in a person's marketability today.

In the cover letter, we changed the 40+ years of experience to 30+ years of experience. It is still accurate – the candidate has more than 30 years of experience. It is just less precise. The difference in the presentation expands the potential age range of the job seeker. With more than forty years of experience and several years of retirement, the job seeker should be in his mid to late sixties. Changing the cover letter to thirty plus years changes this potential range to mid fifties and older.

This is a small change but it makes the age of the job seeker less of a factor and this may reduce the chance of age discrimination.