Fighting Age Discrimination: 8 Do’s and Don’ts To Make Your Age an Asset in Interviews

How do you overcome ageism?

Age Discrimination hurts and it’s illegal. But, for many senior professionals, age discrimination is an unfortunate reality. Employers claim they are worried about an older candidate’s health, think they’re “over qualified” or fear their financial expectations, but we know it’s not the only reason. So, how do you turn your years of experience into an advantage and combat discrimination based on your age?

Avoid giving away information on your resume unnecessarily. I once saw older applicants putting their age on the top of their resume. Experience from the mid-nineties, putting their graduation year of 1984, This is not necessary and should never be on your resume.

Don’t... give away your age.

By including “tells” on your resume. What year you graduated or that you were an SVP of Finance in 1998, all say to a recruiter that you are older. It might be tempting to include previous successes in your resume as a bargaining chip when seeking higher compensation, or a more senior position. Unfortunately, HR folks are all about what have you done lately. Having experience included in your resume that goes more than 10 years back opens you up for age discrimination.

Do… fudge your history a little.
Remove all reference to education dates. That goes for volunteer work, certifications or boards you served on as well. Take off any employment beyond 7 years. 10 Years is acceptable, but only if it’s absolutely necessary. Be careful when including any steps back in your employment history also. If you were laid off and had to take a step back in your career, consider putting a spin this. Employers will often avoid someone with this type of work history. But if you include it in your elevator pitch, you can get out in front of the perceptions and remove the stigma. I know it’s unfair, but let’s face reality on reality’s terms.

Be prepared for inappropriate questions.

When they go low, you go high. Nothing exudes confidence and professionalism better than being prepared for awkward and illegal interview questions and knowing how to answer them.

Don’t…be defensive. Recruiters and hiring managers look at defensive behavior as evidence that you will be a problem employee.

Do…turn the situation around. For example, if the interviewer is focusing on your age, highlight how your expertise in the field. Outline how your years of experience have prepared you for problems the company might resolve at a higher level of responsibility.

Showcase your unique talents and skills.

Your interviewers don’t know you yet. Skills you may take for granted might impress an interviewer.

Don’t…assume that everyone knows what you know. You will be selling yourself short if you fail to point out your accomplishments, skills, and experience. Inform the interviewer how these skills bring a unique perspective to any position you are selected for.

Do…share stories of your successes in context of the role you’re being interviewed for. Often, a company is interviewing you because they see something in your past that they like. If you’re an expert in an area that they are lacking, you should highlights where you can help them create a solution.

Show enthusiasm and energy.

Companies want to hire excited candidates, ones that are not only knowledgeable but passionate about their contribution to an organization. Low energy or apathy in an older candidate will only serve to reinforce negative stereotypes.

Don’t…walk into an interview with a cloud hanging over your head or a bad attitude. Even if you’ve had a particularly hard time getting interviews, have been rejected, or are feeling undervalued, NEVER let that show.

Do…lean in a little closer in your chair to show more interest in the interviewer. Keep your voice upbeat and talk about how this type of work motivates you. Explain how your definition of success is about your passion and goes beyond a paycheck. For you, job satisfaction comes from your appetite for excellence.


I hope these tips have been helpful. Age discrimination is appalling but can be so hard to prove. Meaning sometimes the only option is to work around it in your search for a new job.

At Von Dier Career Cartography, we have worked successfully with a number of clients to rewrite their resume in a younger voice and prepare them for interviews. Our guiding client through this problem area has lead to many success stories. If you think we could help you get the job you have been wanting, give us a call, or email us at

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