In the August 13, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader fends off age discrimination.


ageI am 70 years old and still actively working. I have been a consultant for an energy company since early this year, serving in an interim role. The company had a disastrous last year. I was brought in to help turn some of this around in the first quarter and “stand in” until a full-time person arrived. This was to have been a 4-5 month assignment; I am still here. I know I will not be brought on because of my age and I accept this.

I have started searching again, now that the assignment is drawing to a close. I had a recruiter locate me on and ask for my “full” resume, which I sent. Later in the day I received a text asking for “your DOB.” I responded “16 July,” to which I received a note saying, “Before I submit your resume to my client I need the year.”

I told her to remove me from her database and thanked her for bringing ageism into play. Is there anything I should have done? Just because I am 70 doesn’t mean I’m senile or moving around using a walker!

Thank you for your column. Even in my “advanced age,” I get what you teach.

Nick’s Reply

I collect stories from people who continue to work well into their 60s, 70s and even 80s. Thanks for yours! They all have one thing in common: They are forthright and spirited.

The age question

No recruiter needs your date of birth (DOB) for any reason I can think of, so I’m glad you told that one to take a hike. But please consider that if you’re going to swim in shark-infested waters, you’re likely to get bitten. and its ilk are thick with recruiters like the one that found you. It’s up to you to avoid risky waters.

You could be discriminated against anyway, but job hunting online makes it even more likely a person will be rejected due to their age. The impersonal, rapid-fire Q&A that recruiters can do via e-mail, chat and texts with eager job seekers makes it easier to discriminate.

So, no, there’s nothing else you should have done. You avoided wasting your time further. If you expect to get hired because of your qualifications, then it’s up to you to control how a recruiting exchange occurs.

Show them the green

The only way I know to test a recruiting pitch is to expect the recruiter to evaluate you for what you can do to make the employer more successful. That’s also how you will get past biases. In the case of age, you want to arrange it so you can show them the green — how you will benefit their business — before they get distracted by the grey of your hair or your birth date. (See Age Discrimination: Help me market my dad!)

You don’t say how you’ve gotten your jobs during the past ten years. Whatever it is, keep doing it. My guess is that you rely on your reputation and abilities, not on random queries. Don’t be distracted by recruiters demanding to know your age. Fast-paced, high-volume, automated online recruiting doesn’t permit you to communicate the information that will get you interviewed and hired. That requires a one-to-one dialogue.

So ask yourself, no matter who is recruiting you, do they take time to talk with you about the job and about how — exactly — you might be able to help do the job profitably for the employer?

If the recruiter declines a substantive discussion about those two topics, you know you’re not being recruited. It’s just a cold call that’s not likely to go anywhere.

Personal contacts

If a recruiter indicates they don’t really know anything about you, don’t waste your time because that’s not really a recruiting call. I strongly suggest you rely on your personal contacts – and develop more of them – for your job search. Here’s a four-step outline for how to leverage this: Ask The Headhunter in a nutshell.

You’ve been doing this long enough that you probably know everything in that article. I just want to remind you that it works, and that the likes of don’t.

Are you still working in your 60s, 70s or later (hopefully by choice)? How do you do it? How do you handle queries from recruiters? Have you encountered age discrimination? What can we do about it?

: :

  1. 74 and still working. Two jobs, in fact. In one role, I manage EE teaching labs for a technical college, 20 hours a week. Just took another assignment as a tech writer, which will dovetail with the college gig. Recruiter found me on Linked-In, which was a surprise, since I wasn’t looking.

    In fact, I was just about to launch a marketing effort in my local area, as a free-lance tech writer. Companies need highly skilled folks to produce manuals, white papers, quick-start guides, and the like…but they don’t need that skill set full time. Project work would allow me to schedule down time for vacations and travel, maintaining life-work balance. For now, the marketing effort is on hold, while I service the new client. We’ll see where it goes.

    • @Jim: Never put your marketing efforts on hold!

      • Only for about a week, Nick. Maybe two. Meantime, I’m billing an annualized $65k while I’m developing the CEO list of high potential firms, and gearing up the marketing materials. And that’s on top of running the EE lab at Vermont Technical College’s local campus.

        Incidentally, I make my vintage an asset. I send a one page bio/CV, which includes a head shot. They get to see the grey hair.
        When we meet, I look ’em in the eye, and say, you can’t ask me my age, so let’s get the elephant off the table. Age is just a number, until it isn’t. What I offer is a strong career working with engineers, scientists and Subject Matter Experts, and nobody with a shorter career track can begin to approach what I bring to the party. You don’t get that without putting in the time, and staying current with technology. Incidentally, I’m perfectly happy approaching the necessary work on a project basis, as a contractor.

        And in fact, although I don’t say that, I prefer the contract approach. It forces a discipline on the organization’s staff, and
        sets the discussion on an even footing.

        Such, I must say, is the result of having Medicare Advantage for health insurance. I become the least costly provider of high quality content in the market.

        And as a good friend of mine who is retired likes to say, “Party On!”

        • Man with grey hair: He is experienced and mature
          Woman with grey hair: Why doesn’t she dye it?

  2. PS: Got up at 0400 to photograph the Perseid meteor shower. Total cloud cover here, unfortunately.

  3. I believe that the question was actually illegal and the agent should be reported to the appropriate authorities.

    • I get emails from recruiters (IMHO, bad recruiters) with job descriptions that have a list of things they claim to need from me before they can proceed. I haven’t been asked specifically for a DoB but asking for graduation dates is nearly the same thing. Luckily, the job descriptions I receive with these questions are typically so far off base that I just reply back with a quick blurb about the severe skills mismatch. If I’m in a mood, I might add the comment “You’re kidding, right?” after the graduation date question. After repeated emails from the same recruiter with the same list of questions, they get added to my spam filter. Life’s too short to waste time on them.

      • @Rick: That’s not recruiting. That’s trolling. Imagine meeting someone that you’d like to ask out on a date. You really want to impress them with how wonderful you are. After all, YOU are approaching THEM. So you ask their age, about their degree, where they went to school, and to see their driver’s license.

        So, what is recruiting supposed to be?

  4. 70 and still working. Didn’t apply for Social Security until I got a call one day from the local SS office by a gentleman who told me I HAD to apply before my 70th birthday or I was leaving money on the table.

    Retired enlisted military with a technical background and geeked out by computers since MS-DOS days. Have been working as a contractor since 1999. And have been subscribed to Ask the Headhunter since then, too.

    Traveled a lot working for financial institutions, Forbes 500 companies and Government branches. Had a high Security Clearance at the time of military retirement and have managed to keep it alive (and even had it elevated during some of my subsequent Government work). Current job is working remotely on a Government Logistics contract doing Unix/Windows and Middleware admin.

    Every day I receive several email job offers from “recruiters” who think they’re doing me a favor. No, if I even talk to you, I’m the one doing the favor. I stash all of these in a separate email folder so if I’m ever feeling the urge to jump ship, I have a bundle of potential contacts but on my terms, not theirs.

    Most of these “positions” are located in other parts of the country. I have zero interest in relocating; house and vehicles paid off, carry zero balance on credit cards so it’s just normal expenses and taxes going out the door.

    I’m going to cut back to part time soon. Owe it to the wife and myself to get out and travel and have some “us” time. The plan is to keep enough money coming in through remote gigs to offset the things we’ll be doing to finally enjoy life.

    My only regret is that I didn’t jump on the 401(k) bandwagon earlier in my career. Otherwise, life is good.

    Nick, keep up the good work and keep tilting at the windmills.

    • @John: Tilting? Who’s tilting? We’re WHACKING!

      “Every day I receive several email job offers from “recruiters” who think they’re doing me a favor. No, if I even talk to you, I’m the one doing the favor.”

      The U.S. is reportedly in a talent shortage. Unemployment is at record lows. Employers can’t find workers they need. It’s a job seeker’s market. Yet recruiters act like they’re doing you a favor! Employers look down on older workers. What’s wrong with this picture???

      Thanks for your story. Keep up the attitude. Make them work to get your attention. But take a trip or two! Thanks for your kind words and for being a long-time member of this community, John!

    • If you have special or rare specializations, gov clearances, high level certifications, etc you are in an elite group. Not enough people to apply typical biases about age, sex, appearance and background.

    • I am semi-retired, and make some money consulting, mostly from contacts I have made throughout my career. I have not yet entered into a contract from any cold call who has contacted me, but I keep thinking — earlier in my career I did receive and accept a really good opportunity from a cold call from a recruiter. So I say — it does not hurt to case a wide net.

      So, I never ignore a polite inquiry from any recruiter unless it is obvious they are way, way off base. I know that there are a lot of young folks just starting out who end up working for recruiting agencies (maybe it is the only job they could get with a non-STEM degree other than dispensing coffee). Some of these young folks really think they are helping you out by trying to fit your skills with an opportunity that the agency they work for is trying to fill. I doubt many of them will really make good “headhunters”, but it does not hurt to be polite to young folk doing this.

      As for 401Ks, you can buy a bass boat and have a lot of memories, or stash it in a 401K and have $$ but wish you had a lot of memories. Me, I ended up with canoe and both $$ and memories…

  5. Nick,
    Great picture of Jack!!
    I am 63 and preparing to advance from a director position to AVP or VP. Just looking for the right position. No rush, I know that I will find it without too much problem. The issue is relocate or not and maybe a slight career course alteration. But I am confident I will find a new gig on my terms.
    Props to all you guys doing it!
    P.S. I have to admit that I do get that feeling about retiring to a beach and living in an Airstream under a coconut tree sometimes!!!

    • @Tony: I was wondering who would first pick up on that photo! And a beach would be good right about now…

  6. Sometimes recruiters ask for the year degrees were awarded, as a “sneaky” way to get a candidate’s approximate age.

    That seems to have been ended, probably because enough people called them on it.

    • Nope. I got one just this morning.

    • Hi Bob,

      No the ‘asking for year of degree’ has Not entirely ended. I got that just this past Thursday 8/9/19 and outright refused to provide the information. They said the client is asking for it and I made it very clear that it is illegal in the USA to ask anything that can be used to determine age (they are an Indian recruiting firm) and told them it might be okay in India or other foreign countries, however, it is not legal here in the USA. We got into a kind of yelling match, I said ok I’m 71, graduated from business college in 1966, if you use any of this information I ‘guarantee’ you the client will not even speak to me! I was really angry and let them know that I had already been discriminated against in the past and their firm was asking illegal questions! I also knew the name of their client and said do not submit me I will submit myself directly and basically hung up! That was with the sales guy then the recruiter who found me on LinkedIn and said I was a perfect fit, called me again and totally apologized and asked if I would speak with her boss, so I did so and told him the same thing, so he said they would submit me direct to their client without going through the special vendor portal! Today I got an email from the HR person asking a few questions (basically interviewing via email… really crazy), and for my availability to have a live conversation this week. I answered their questions, provided times and we shall now see. I know I’m very qualified and WANT to work to be able to do what I want, prefer no relocation (which has hindered me).. yes it’s crazy because just because you are an older worker does not mean we have one foot in the ground ready to go… UGH… Thanks for reading!!

      • @Karen: Your experience kinda tells us just how important that “required” information really is, doesn’t it?

      • Technically, what is illegal is taking an adverse action based on knowledge or perception of a protected class, NOT asking a question. It’s easy to say “that’s illegal to ask!”, and understandably so because of a gray area, but anyone can ask anything they want, they just can’t base their [adverse] decision on such knowledge.

        • @K-Ster … True, any question can be asked, however, unfortunately there is really no way to prove the reason one doesn’t get a job is biased or adverse decision based on age! All that is said is “we have decided to go in a different direction”… that is what is said after ‘everyone’ gives rave reviews, you are perfect, you are exactly what we need, etc. etc. case in point… years back I had a phone interview with the hiring manager, he told me I was the perfect fit, next step was to fly to Dallas to meet .. which was simply a formality as he implied… so they said they had to make my flight reservations even tho I offered to do so and then reimburse, I knew DOB was required and that would be a deal breaker. He had to have my date of birth for the flight so I ‘had’ to give it to him.. when I gave the year he asked me 3 times and repeated it 3 times .. I KNEW then that I ‘would not’ get the job. They still flew me out because a $450 RT flight was cheaper than a law suit for age discrimination but his entire attitude flipped when I arrived … lesson learned! It was hurtful and frustrating because if they were in my shoes they wouldn’t like it… that’s life tho!

          • I hear ya!
            I’m curious about one thing: did your attitude change between the time you provided your YOB to when you finally met in person? Though we could assume the interviewer had a negative issue with your age, your comment reads as though once you gave your YOB, it also demotivated you–and that thought change your moxie which may have played a part in your performance when you flew in.
            I’ve met people whose resume was SPOT. ON. offer-worthy, only to have them perform terribly in an interview. I’ve also had people in the opposite direction who didn’t come across as a star player in the application stage but once I met them in person I was humbled (corrected?) to see a star performer.
            I’m only curious about how providing your YOB affected your motivation. If, when you showed up, your attitude expressed ‘my age *may* be a problem’, then can you dog them for feeding off your energy? I say this because though some bad apples may be out there, many minds are easily changed when shown consistent star power.
            (But, your visit may have been a non-match, regardless, so you dogged a bullet)

            • I’m perplexed why you are laying the blame on the victim of age discrimination, i.e. Karen?!

              It was really odd that he asked for the year of her birth three times, after it seems that he was able to clearly hear the month and day of her birth.

              It is clear that the hiring manager’s attitude changed once he heard the year of her birth, e.g. 1965. I guess he was hoping that he hadn’t heard it correctly and that the candidate had actually said 1985, not 1965.

          • Karen, one day they might be in your shoes as they are now only temporarily young.
            Everyone gets old, unless they die young.

            • Thank you @Borne. I’m glad that you understood what I was saying. I’m a very positive person and do not ‘dog’ people. I know that when I arrived at that interview I was upbeat and put my best foot forward with shiny shoes and all. I’m a software pre sales person (job searching) and deal with prospects that may be difficult and I can work through it. However, when someone is blatantly discriminating it is not easy.

              Yes, one day those folks who age discriminate will be on the other side of the fence and may remember how they treated others! Either way, thank you @Borne for your support in my comments.

            • I assume this means your attitude did not change? Apologies if you chose to only see judgement in my question but please re-read it in hopes it may be credited more positively as it was meant.

  7. I have an interesting counter-punch. There’s a great Freakonomics study on the why the “Nigerian Prince” scams are successful despite being so ludicrously obvious that they are scams. Apparently there is huge value in quickly weeding out the people who are likely catch on to the scam. There is value in not wasting time on someone who will drop out anyway. So why hide my age and invest a lot of time to get in the door, if in the end they are going to reject me anyway? Better to “pre-screen the screeners” by being upfront with my skills and accomplishments and background and age. Even so, the best thing is to do as Nick recommends and work through people who I have independently cultivated and therefore know me already.

    • I’m with you! Your analogy to Nigerian princes is apt. Please read Matt Bud’s comment below!

  8. @R. Tanenbaum <—Nailed it!

  9. Anyone older looking for work should focus on Private Equity Groups. They honestly don’t care how old you are. Typically they are only in it for at most 5 more years. One of my members who was in his 70’s was actively being considered for a job in Denver, and the Private Equity Group was prepared to move him from Rhode Island! In general, if YOU make your age an issue, it is one. If you leave off your graduation dates and your early work history, you are telling folks you are old. Only “old” people leave off this information. I’m 72 and I’m not old. Most of the folks I see doing this are not old. (They are younger than I am.) You will never win applying for opportunities on online job posting boards. Work your networking contacts. In your 40’s and on, the most likely audience for your skills are people who know you, know of you, or know people you know. However, you must have a compelling resume. Regards, Matt Bud, Chairman of The Financial Executives Networking Group

    • @Matt: Thanks for spelling it out!

      To those who don’t know him, Matt Bud runs the inimitable FENG – a real networking group.

    • My comment above about having rare qualities, talents, certs, etc. applies to PEGs. Not enough people, so you overlook the typical screen outs.

  10. I am 66, and started working 10 years ago in what was a completely new field for me.

    Over 15 years ago I was asked by a young interviewer when I graduated from high school. I replied with my age, told her she should have just asked and that the interview was over, as I got up and left the room.

    • @Royce: Ah, it IS a job seeker’s market!

  11. I am 72 years old and still working, part time. I have been receiving your e-mails for many years and have referred people to your website. You make a lot of sense.

    I have 2 things going for me; 1. I do not look my age and 2. I am considered an expert at international insurance, specifically employee benefit programs for local national employees throughout the world. I work for a consulting firm and our clients are multinational employers. Although it is not rocket science there are very few of us in this niche specialty.

    Recruiters still contact me usually through LinkedIn where I do not post a photo. I just tell them I am not interested.

  12. My uncle, an engineer, turned 90 this year and is as sharp as a tack. He got a job a few years ago at a firm where his job is to check everyone’s work…and he is needed. He finds mistakes all the time and the other engineers are all many years younger than he is.

    • @DBeee!: That’s the record! 90! Please give him my compliments! I would love to hear from your uncle to learn more about what he does and how he works with the rest of the engineering team. (Please drop me a note!)

      • Nick – I will check with my uncle on that!

  13. Currently seemingly retired, but did a lot of swimming in the old guy sea. Terminated from a traditional industry (IT) path at 63…in an industry slump, looked for a job following the usual job hunting approaches talked about much in this blog over the years…took heed of the definition of insanity & turned myself into a recruiter at about age 65. Learned that trade in agencies, (through 2 companies and jobs) then decided to move to part time at 69. Changed industries in the process and moved to part time internal recruiter. Worked there to age 76…then for personal reasons (relo to help divorced son) quit.
    Learned much about job hunting as an “elder”. Which worked well for me.

    1. As noted…take note of that definition of insanity. doing the same thing over & over and expecting different results. I’ve seen it labeled as boringly overused. But it’s not. In my case I spent over a
    year chasing my traditional role in my traditional industry in a slump. Not working. I changed to something else I thought I’d like to try & refocused, where I could leverage my past experience. That worked. Along these lines note #3. If you hit the reset button & change to another vocation, industry, role, expect to change your’ll be a newbie & paid accordingly.

    2. Keep or get in good condition…physical, mental, emotional condition. This is something I controlled completely. No excuses.

    3. Park your ego. Being occupied & paid for it trumps sitting at home frustrated because the working world can’t see your value. I made 6 figures when working at my vocation in my industry & took a part time job as a cashier at The Home Deport. for about 9+ bucks an hour. In many ways one of my best jobs ever (& in some ways working life). for me the benefits of having a place to go, being valued, and yes being newly challenged, far outweighed the money. I didn’t need the money. I needed my purpose back. The other part of my time I kept looking…and from my pickup truck as a wage earner on my lunch hour..I connected via my network to the door into the recruiting world.

    4. Age: My approach was to ignore it. Best put by @Matt Bud above. If you make it an issue, it is. I didn’t. Also, Clint Eastwood who’s still making movies was asked about his age. If I’ve got it right he said when he gets up in the morning he “doesn’t let the old man in”. & keeps on truckin. This includes your or their reservations about working for younger people and theirs about supervising older people. Forget it. Highly unlikely you and they don’t know what a boss is. for example in my case I think I was about 40ish when I started working for younger people, and my last job at age 69, the guy who hired me, was about 32.

    5. Flip the traditional job hunting perspective and your targeting. Stop looking for jobs…look for companies/hiring managers. Make your 1st objective to assess them on their views of age. Yes there’s ageism along with many other isms. So what. Make that some company’s problem..not yours. All that means is before you invest your time with someone, you determine if they care about your age. I don’t give a crap about the legalities of their caring…I care about my time. You only need to tweak your thinking, to think that it’s your interview…application etc and your opportunity to assess them..on that score, not the reverse. This does not mean you’ll get a job. this means you’ll have a higher probability you’ll have a worthwhile use of your time. If you smell any kind of “isms” move on. Don’t waste your time trying to teach pigs to wastes your time and annoys the pigs.

    6.NETWORK. When age comes into play, a viable network will be the means you find what you’re looking for. This blog has stressed networking for years. If you’ve got some age on you, you’ve got a network. But in my experience, me’ve sinned and not kept it viable. But you can build, reactivate your network and utilize it to your benefit. But. utilize it to the fullest. You’ve got time. Give not just try to get. Help others. Nothing beats helping as a network builder. For example, if you had a decent interview..& it didn’t pan out..share what you’ve learned with other’s who will benefit from the info…if you felt the hiring manager gave you a decent shot…& you know someone he/she should talk to, broker a connection… Be a broker and connect people & help them grow their network. Guess what? They will help you.
    Somewhat related…don’t cop some kind of attitude that says “real men don’t need help”. Because people really do want to help & there’s no shame in taking it. You just have to show them how to help. And as noted, return it.

    7. Follow up. Don’t walk away into the woodwork. If your gut tells you, that you established rapport with people inside a company, particularly the hiring decision makers…AND you liked what you heard about that company stay in touch…let them know you’d very much like to work with them. And apply # 6. Do not waste some managers time telling them you love their company, what their department does, and seemingly walk away never to be heard from again. In effect telling them all you were interested in was some job.

    8. Be tenacious. Don’t give up.

    In sum, there are people out there who truly value experience coupled with a solid work ethic. They may not be low hanging fruit, but they are there. Remember its a learning process, in my case…When I was 69…I had no experience being 69, and looking a job at 69…Had to learn how. But I did, & so can you

  14. Age is an issue, unfortunately, but how much of an issue depends to a significant extent on your field of employment and prevailing attitudes in your local area. My field is cybersecurity, and when I attend chapter meetings of cybersecurity organizations, I feel young at 63. When looking for work, my age, when I graduated from college, when I received my certification, and other questions that reveal my age are nobody’s business. If that’s a problem for a potential employer, that’s a sign to me that I don’t want to work there.

    On a related topic: These days it’s rare to be with the same employer for more a long time, like 10 years or more. Millennials I speak with have no such ideas. Work now is a few years here, a few years there. I feel that may make things easier for older workers, because companies no longer look at hires as long term investments.

  15. To all my fellow “geezer greats” who are vibrant and remain active in the marketplace. Another approach is to establish yourself as an independent consultant aka your own business name complete with ein number. I did this at age 50 (22 years ago and counting) when companies started the age insanity mindset. The past 3 years I’ve been approached numerous times by recruiters for jobs. When I inform them of my business name the conversation takes a decidedly different turn. Instead of them asking inane questions, I’m able to take control and offer my services as a consultant with my terms and conditions. Thus far, the respect factor from these recruiters has been positive. Some end the conversation when I don’t reveal age related questions while others continue and I’ve been able to assist their clients. As an independent contractor rather than employee, the focus is on the job, time required to complete, etc. and not on nonsense of age, graduation, health and other items.
    I strongly suggest going this route. It’s better and you have the opportunity to control not only the interview but establish the working terms and usually at a higher price point than as an employee. One recruiter revealed to me that several of his clients sought the “older, retired or semi-retired” individual because they came cheaper. Not me baby. My marketplace scars are worth gold, so all those “youngins” just need to pony up and pay the price. If one entity balks, there’s always another willing to reap the wisdom and experience I supply.

    • @Geezer: Walkin’ the talk. I love it.

  16. Good point. Earlier, I had decided to let my LLC expire. Recently, however, I realized that it makes it easier for clients to engage
    than it does with an employee, even a temporary worker.

    And so, The Morse Group, LLC will ride again!

  17. Yep! Yep!, Yep to everything said.Just to add a slightly different slant on the job hunting market.

    Face time / Skype is just an easy way for companies to say NO and not be sued.

    Think about it.

    They don’t want to talk to YOU and discuss YOUR accomplishments by inviting you in, paying for your travel, parking fees at your airport, your hotel, plus Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner and any other associated costs, including mileage to / from your home to your airport.

    Why spend a few thousand on 5 candidates when you can “Virtual Interview” them for 5% of the other process.

    HR just saved 90% on 4 candidates. They are no longer an expense / drain on the bottom line. Now they are a profit center!

    Follow the money!!!!!!

    They want to SAY they tried, then once the 26 year old “Recruiter” who never looks at you beyond the first smile, and “HI” but then focuses on typing and NEVER looks at you again.

    WTF? Fool me once…………….

    Did happen and that was my realization that it was, in fact, a very subtle form of age discrimination

    Its is difficult for those of us who passed another decade to think. Well Maybe??? Come on!! It’s a New Age, and using videoconferencing is something I have used before with my own customers.

    Makes sense, until it doesn’t.

    So I learned the difficult and disheartening way. Age bias exists, probably will always exist.
    The best we can do is just say NO, let them hire someone who is 30 with “25 years of experience” and let them go under.

    But we need to continue to leverage our acquaintances and friends for the next job.

    You know NETWORKING!!

    • @Joseph: Anyone that sits for an automated video interview must flush twice after they get up; it’s a long way to the HR department.

      Geezer says it all, above: “If one entity balks, there’s always another willing to reap the wisdom and experience I supply.”

      Life’s too short to waste time with jerks who won’t invest the time to actually talk with you.

  18. Hi, I typically get Nick’s email each Tuesday. I responded to the email and Nick wanted me to comment here. I’ll post my response here and make a comment afterwards:

    Hi Nick,

    Don’t know if this will go through, but need to make a point here – saw that you don’t know why recruiters need to know your age.

    If a person has a security clearance, it is ensure checking the records of the correct candidate. If someone is named John Smith, makes it even more difficult

    So folks with security clearances have no choice but to disclose their DoB and SSN. Unfortunately given ageism, it is very important for people who want to maintain that clearance. Makes a difference in pay also. In the private sector, the same exact job could pay less. If a contractor for the govt, you make even more money.


    I brought this up with co-workers today and was corrected somewhat that it is still illegal to ask your age (DoB) in the state of Mass. However, govt jobs are federal. Still, JPAS requires last four of your social as well as your DoB to verify you have a security clearance. Its been awhile since I’ve had to go through this, perhaps someone here will have better insight.

    • @David: Thanks for that bit of information about certain kinds of government jobs. But even then, a recruiter who contacts a potential candidate can do a better job of enticing them if they avoid questions about DOB etc at the outset. Establish whether there’s mutual interest first, then let the person decide whether to proceed.

      Do you approach someone you’d like to ask out on a date and ask their age off the bat? Of course not. Recruiters need to learn common business courtesy, even if they represent the government.

  19. As to providing graduation date. Used to do it since I was about 40 when I got my degree. Fun when they saw someone much older than the math inferred…but a time waster eventually

    • I got a BS at the age of 39. Shortly thereafter, prior to the on-site interview, I passed the telephone screening, was flown 1000 miles, and was put up in a hotel. I’ll never forget the bum’s rush I received when I arrived at the job site.

      • Yep. I can relate. I’m sure I went through a carbon copy. Flew in, had interview, etc.
        Pro forma interview and off you go!

  20. My philosophy is that it’s just a number, until it isn’t. And I have adopted the philosophy of raising it,
    early in a meeting. Something like, “I’m experienced. You can benefit from it, or you can reject it on
    generational grounds. Your call. Do we continue to talk, or wrap up now? No harm, no foul, if you’d
    rather have someone less experienced and capable.”

    I just don’t want them wasting my time. The effectiveness of the confrontational approach may depend
    on your delivery.

  21. I am on an International internet discussion forum that discusses many topics and issues. One of the areas they discuss is employment, things like how to write a resume, how to be a good manager, how to excel in your job etc.
    Back in March someone posted a question about why you get the “Your overqualified” speech after the interview. I posted an answer that basically said that your too old and that was there way to get out from being sued for hiring discrimination. I had more to say about why you should only hire the “Overqualified” and an example about how I only hire overqualified people and how that lead to my success. I thought I would see a few dozen responses, but as of this morning, more than 72K people have read it, and I received more than 2,800 positive feedback responses, and private messages.

    So this issue is a major sore point across our country, and to a lessor extent Canada, UK, Australia, and in Europe from the feedback.

    • @Joseph: The “overqualified” excuse reflects poorly on any employer. Given that people’s tenure at a company has gotten shorter, it simply makes no sense to reject a great candidate because you’re afraid they’ll quit when a job more at their level appears. Any candidate you hire is likely to leave before you’d like!

      Isn’t it smarter to hire the best, even if they’re over-qualified, then take it on yourself (as a management task) to keep them stimulated and busy enough that they won’t WANT to quit?

      Who’s in charge, anyway?

      Excuses are for weak managers. Good managers will hire the best talent every time, if they can.

  22. There are some sensible managers out there. I noted before, Last job, I worked for owner of a small
    company. A young guy too. To quote him. “I don’t get the over qualified statement…why would I want to pass by someone with a lot of qualifications?” and what have too much talent in the

  23. What advice would you give to a 70 year old whose livelihood as a self-employed commercial property building inspector/consultant over the past thirty years has virtually come to a screeching halt due to the recent corona virus pandemic whereby in order to survive the 70-year old now needs to rely upon what may be considered exceptional computer software skills that can be used to streamline the work flow in a professional office environment in today’s electronic age.

    • @Marty: I would probably reach out to engineering firms in my area, especially those involved in construction of projects in your area and ones you’ve worked on. I would not ask for a job. I’d ask their advice and insight about how someone with your extensive credentials could help the industry. People hate being asked for help finding a job. But they love to talk about their work and to share advice. This can open many doors. It’s all about knowing how to start the conversation. I wish you the best!

  24. There is an incentive in not sitting around on somebody who will drop out in any case. So why shroud my age and contribute a great deal of time to get in the entryway, if, at long last, they are going to dismiss me at any rate? Better to pre-screen the screeners by being forthright with my aptitudes and achievements and foundation and age.

  25. I’m with you, Demi. Rather than repeat it, read my comments from August of last year.

  26. I believe a technique used to find out your age on most job applications is to ask “year graduated from high school”. Since most people graduate around 18 years old they have your approximate age within a year or two range without directly requesting it.

  27. Hi Phyllis. There are a number of similar questions that get asked. I’m holding with my confrontational approach…(see above)…but basically, I tee up experience and capability. They can benefit from it, or not. Although it’s confrontational, it’s delivered with a smile, with a “no harm, no foul” offer, if they want someone of lesser experience.

    And on that note, I just started as Zoning Administrator in my community, at 76. Experience with difficult people, across cultures and countries was persuasive.

    At the same time, I’m accepting project assignments in technical writing to supplement the zoning gig. (just in case someone might know of a need for an experienced tech-writer.)

    • Hi JL,

      I probably should have asked you this in my previous reply (if you don’t mind answering) namely, what have you found to be most effective in applying for a job, getting an interview for those our age, i.e., apply online, find a job recruiter, headhunter, etc. Thank you ahead of time.

  28. Hi JL,
    I received an email notice earlier today informing me of recent comments (yours included) made well after my original comment posted last July. In brief, your words are refreshing for one 76 years young as I am now 72 and close behind. Maybe we can exchange email and keep in touch. In the event I come across anyone in need of technical writing, I will keep you in mind as I am going to trust that not unlike myself you are old school with many years of experience. All considered, you can obtain my contact information posted on my website which I believe is open to view for all to see on. Thanks again for the wonderful comment.

  29. in brief: I try to avoid online applications, period. Many of those job descriptions are written by committees of people who have no idea what the job is about; they only know keywords.
    You have to make human contact within a firm. Nick’s ‘ask for advice’ advice is solid.

    In 2019, a temp/headhunter agency found me on LinkedIN. It resulted in a $60k contract.
    As it developed, Covid and an acquisition blew up the contract in 2020, but I had gotten them out of a 3 year backlog of work by that time. Their GM has moved on. His replacement recently emailed me and said, “don’t be a stranger”. There is no substitute for human contact in a company you’d like to work for.

    I have some thoughts about your website, which I’ll share privately… but I’m offering a full review of the site, free, to see if there might be room for improvement. My email is in your site’s contact file.

    • Hi JL, we had a similar round of discussions on oldie job hunting last year. Nick graciousless let me expound as a guest writer.

    • Hi JL,

      Regarding your perception pertaining to online job applications and there being no substitute for human contact (thank you social media), you and I are definitely on the same page. The only thing you forgot to mention are the robots that sift through the hundreds/thousands of resumes submitted online only to delete most that never come into contact with human eyes. What a joke! As my website is relatively new, I am always interested in suggestions, comments that may serve to improve it. Thank you. I will be sure to check it out.

      • @Marty: Isn’t it astonishing? HR relies on robots to reject most (sometimes all) candidates, meanwhile the press is awash with HR execs crying they can’t get people to apply for jobs!

        Perhaps HR needs to sift through the sludge piles those robots produce. There’s probably a brown pony in there!

  30. Nick,

    Right-on. Not to come-off as immodest, however, given my age (72) and the fact that I am more computer savvy than those half my age, I am very much disillusioned in that our society utilizes but a fraction of the digital technology available preferring to rely on dated/dinosaur technology like fax machines and snail mail. Meanwhile, HR’s futile attempt and reliance on robots to narrow the playing field sifting through resumes has only made the situation worse as opposed to improving it. Needless to say, this is pathetic and a real joke as is HR to begin with. Unfortunately, I cannot change but have to deal with what it has become. In reality, it’s a hard pill to swallow.

  31. Sorry. In my previous comment, I should have also added that HR’s misguided attempt to use robots to sift through and delete resumes represents a good example how not to use technology. This added to the fraction of digital technology available and utilized is inexcusable to say the least.

  32. yep, let’s see…. Human Resources is in the people business, and their firms are hurting for qualified people… but HR chooses to use third party keyword searching robots instead of doing the actual work for which they’re hired….finding people and managing organizational responses to personnel and legal needs.

    What does it mean when people in the people business won’t actually talk to people?

    Rhetorical question. In my world, I don’t want to waste time with them.

    • Jim, beg to differ HR is not responsible for hiring people. Hiring managers are responsible for finding and hiring people. HR can support it, but it can’t be delegated to HR.
      One reason for hiring problems is where hiring managers delegate it to HR…and then complain about the results.

      • @Don: Technically, of course, you’re correct. HR hires only HR people. Other managers hire their own. But we also know that in many companies HR is given a heavy cudgel with which to terrorize managers into complying with HR’s counterproductive hiring rules. You and I have often railed against weak managers who will not stand up to take control — but that doesn’t eliminate the problem.

    • @Jim: I don’t think it’s rhetorical at all. It’s THE question HR needs to answer. Today, it begs a more specific question: If the tech HR relies on for hiring is justified, why are employers crying that they can’t hire the people they need?

      Blaming education, unemployment benefits that are “too good,” Millennials and anything else they can think of has gotten old.

  33. We agree, Don. Loose language on my part. HR cannot and does not hire..they just assist cognizant managers in that role. BUT, in the present context, an awful lot is left to them.

    To the point where hiring managers are sometimes afraid to counter HR’s opinions. I’ve got personal experience with a position that was specifically created around me… but an HR manager decided they couldn’t pay the going rate for the position…and nobody would counter her. Their loss, long term. Mine, short term. Politics and culture.

    • opps something happened on the site and my beginning wisdom disappeared.

      Something happens in companies when they cross a tipping point. When managers willingly or unwittingly concede too much hiring ground to HR.

      For example, I worked for a tech company where the
      Director reigned supreme. One decided to hire a contracting tech as a junior s/ware engineer. Made all the promises as a done deal, filled out the paperwork. Which HR to his utter amazement kicked back.
      their view is the person needed a degree. when he looked into it, basically he was informed he no longer had the juice to ignore that or override it.
      He had the choice to eat crow. And did

      • @Don: And there we go. HR wins.

        • that was the best/worst example of HR intrusion, because it seemly like it was done sneakingly.

          I think business (and life I guess) works best when there’s balance. I’m not anti-HR. Have worked with some good ones. By balance w HR matters I mean the managers are 1st line of people recruitment and management. HR assists.

          I’ve had a lot of experience when the managers run amuck or don’t do due diligence on their HR jobs. Low priority on recruiting, slipshod on comp and guiding their teams. Or where their negotiating for comp on behalf of the company is non-negotiating. Simply buying people, paying them anything they want, & screw their peer managers, other employees on any consideration of fairness.

          Which comes back to bite the company in the ass. Good HR plays a useful role in objective equity management. Keeping everyone honest. HR assistance in working out starting bonuses a big help. And the little things. schedule management, travel matters etc.

          It’s gets unbalanced by even indirect intrusion into the manager’s space..enabled by an apathetic or misguided upper management. For example under the guise of “improving the workforce” they impose hiring requirements not requested or driven by line educational requirements which limit a manager’s pool of candidates and challenge their hiring judgement.

          In my experience, this is when HR crosses the line hobbling operations & sapping a company’s startup mojo. While assuming angelic claims of not hiring people.

  34. In response to JL’s comment. I think his explanation was quite clear in that I didn’t draw the inference that HR is hiring. Likewise, it wasn’t my intention in my earlier comment to give that impression. The point is, in using computer algorithms, robots, whatever you want to call it, IMO HR is limiting the talent pool considerably for those looking to fill job openings with qualified applicants. While HR may not be doing the actual hiring, they’re essentially limiting the talent pool (which is altogether much worse) performing a Great disservice to those looking for good, qualified job applicants and candidates alike.

  35. I just remembered that I wanted to obtain Nick’s professional opinion (if any) regarding posting ads on Craigslist in an attempt to promote and gain exposure for a product or service that can be shown to be beneficial in both the public and private business sectors.

    • @Marty: Sorry, can’t help you. I don’t know much about Craigslist.

  36. Nick,

    No problem. While I know my previous question deviated significantly from the subject matter normally discussed on ‘Ask the Headhunter’, just thought to ask anyway as I have been totally impressed by your comments posted thus far. Needless to say, it’s refreshing to know I’m not alone in my perception of ineffective job hiring practices in this day and age as it affects everyone regardless of age.

  37. Nick,

    One last question if I may? While I believe the majority of headhunters focus on trying to find/match job applicants they believe to be a good fit or best suited for a job opening advertised by a given company/organization, are there by chance headhunters that specialize in finding/matching freelancers or business entities with a company/organization looking to outsource a specific project/task as opposed to looking in-house or hiring an additional employee, or is this something more often than not provided online by websites such as Indeed, Upwork, Fiveer, etc.?

    • @Marty: I don’t doubt there’s a service like you describe (for every need an opportunity!) but I’ve never heard of one. Such a service would create 2 levels of cost to you (the employer). You’d pay the headhunter, then you’d pay the staffing firm that provides the worker.

      As you suggest, I’d turn to the online freelancer sites. Good luck.