We all know age discrimination is not legal. I’m an analytical chemist with a graduate degree and 40 years experience in analytical chemistry. Although I would love to retire and enjoy my grandchildren, I still have the desire (and mental capacity) to work. My issue is simple. I can’t get past the front door. Employers just look at the experience in years and it becomes a matter of “Let’s interview him so we can check off the EEO box.”
What’s the best way for anyone over the age of 50 to meet age discrimination head-on?
Nick’s Quick Advice
Part of what you’re experiencing — perhaps 20% — is definitely age discrimination. But the big backdrop is automated recruiting. That’s what is killing job opportunities across all age brackets. (See Why am I not getting hired?) In other words, your obvious concern is actually overshadowed by a far bigger problem.
Age discrimination is just part of it
I think 50% of rejections are about the algorithm missing the match. 30% is the personnel jockey reviewing the match and deciding this chemist can’t really do that particular job. Of course, that personnel clerk knows little if anything about chemists, chemistry, or the actual job, but since executive management doesn’t care what HR knows, you’re still screwed.
The best way to meet this problem is to avoid all automated recruiting tools that funnel you to personnel jockeys. You just have to get over the idea that “this is how hiring is done.”
It’s the people
The only solution I know is to carefully select companies you’d like to work for, figure out what problems and challenges each faces, and triangulate to find people who know people at the company. It’s all about the people who are near the job.
- Hang out with them.
- Talk with them, whether by phone, e-mail, discussion forums or over beers.
- Make friends.
- Then ask for advice and insight about that particular company.
- Finally, request an introduction to someone in the department you want to work in.
Then repeat with each level of contacts as you get closer to a hiring manager. Never submit a resume or ask about jobs or job leads. Talk shop. This approach takes a while, but it works. Most managers prefer to hire through trusted referrals.
The Antidote: Get the manager past the grey
So you’re not looking for a job. You’re looking for people connected in some way to the company who will talk shop with you. That leads you to managers.
There’s an antidote to age discrimination. It doesn’t always work. For it to work, you must be talking with an employer whose goal is making profit. So pick employers carefully.
Your age doesn’t matter when someone tells a manager, “Hey, this person can do XYZ for you” — and XYZ is what the manager is dying to have done as soon as possible. At some level, XYZ always means making a business more profitable — always. (See Stand Out: How to be the profitable hire.)
When you show a busy manager the green, the manager looks past the grey. Here’s the catch: If this were easy, everyone would be doing it. So get to work.