Senior Center

Tackling Ageism in the Job Market

By Jan Bolder - March 7, 2014

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Not all seniors want to retire when they hit retirement age, but convincing an employer to hire you can be a much trickier process when you’re older. You know you’ve still got a lot left to contribute, and not only in terms of life and work experience. But how can seniors break down the ageist barrier and get a job offer call?

Craft a Good Resume

A senior’s resume doesn’t have to include every single job they ever had, as well as when they graduated from college. Employers use two simple formulas to figure out how old an applicant is:


  • Graduation Date: Age = (current year - graduation year ) + 22 (roughly the age when most students graduate). Using this formula, employers can guess within a couple of years how old applicants are, and then discriminate accordingly. It’s not fair and it’s something that needs to be stopped, but that doesn’t mean it won’t continue to happen or that it couldn’t/wouldn’t happen to you.
  • First Job: Age = (current year - year of hire at earliest job listed) + 22 (roughly the age when students graduate from college and get their first “real” job). This is a bit of a rougher calculation because not every student graduates from college at 22, and nor do they get their first career job right after they take off their mortarboard and tassel.

    Instead, write a resume that works to your advantage by not listing your graduation date, and not going so far back in your work history. With decades of experience, it’s a little redundant to list every job, and a degree may be assumed for some occupations (e.g. engineer, law).

    Another thing to keep in mind for resumes is to strategically use keywords. Many companies are increasingly turning to software that scans resumes for keywords, and you need to make sure the right ones will get highlighted. Using keywords like “typewriter” or “Atari” will provide huge clues about your age, possibly stopping the job application process before it has a chance to get started.


    As horrible as it may be sometimes, people get judged on their looks all the time, especially seniors. Employers will make snap character judgements based on how you look, and if you dress in frumpy, messy clothes, it doesn’t matter if you’re as bright as Albert Einstein.

    It’s fine--more than fine, actually--to have strong personal convictions about appearance, but seniors have to ask themselves a question: is it more important to me that I dress and look exactly what I’m comfortable with, or is it more important to convey a good image to the interviewer? If it’s the latter, seniors should consider the following:


  • Men: shave/trim facial hair, dye the gray out of their hair, go to a tailor and get fitted for a work suit, see a barber about getting a stylish and contemporary cut, and invest in a smart, semi-trendy pair of dress shoes.
  • Women: color your hair a natural color, wear an age-appropriate pantsuit, buy dress shoes with a little bit of a heel in them, dab on a bit of makeup (and use concealer to disguise age-related clues), wear long sleeves and pantyhose, and don’t show cleavage.

    For seniors of both genders, the following may be perceived as controversial tips, but they should at least be considered:

    they should at least consider the following:



  • Buy a trendy pair of eyeglasses, or switch to contact lenses
  • Lose weight
  • Look into Botox
  • Make sleep a priority one week before the interview
  • Ignore body and aches and pains while walking semi-briskly, upright, and cheerfully
  • Straight-backed and natural posture, no matter how much discomfort it may cause
  • Strong handshake, even if arthritis makes you want to scream on the inside
  • Contemporary hairstyle that’s age-appropriate, yet simple
  • Researching what the latest industry and technology buzzwords are, and how to apply them into the conversation

    Final Tips

    It’s quite unfair, but seniors face a much tougher slog in the job market than their younger competitors. Typical stereotypes associated with seniors--no matter how untrue they are--include:


  • Won’t have enough energy to work efficiently
  • Only applying as a stopgap before retiring to Florida
  • Out-of-touch with technology
  • Set in their ways
  • Will take too long to learn a new style of work
  • Will demand too high a salary
  • Won’t be able to get along with younger colleagues
  • Frailty can become a serious issue and liability

    Many of these stereotypes are not true, but it doesn’t matter: seniors face an uphill climb dispelling them. However, by tweaking the situation to work in your favor, you can better your odds of getting a job later on in life.