The insider's edge on job search & hiring™

Trick questions for age discrimination

We can’t ask your age in this job interview, but please take this quiz about rotary phones

Source: The New Yorker
By Wendy Aarons & Devorah Blachor

age-discriminationPer the human-resources department and the federal government, it’s illegal to ask a job candidate their age because it may lead to discrimination. We carefully consider all candidates, no matter the year they were born, when hiring new talent. After all, age is just a number!

But, to help us get to know you better, please fill out this questionnaire that is not at all about your possible irrelevance in a modern office.

  1. Where were you when J.F.K. died?
  2. Do you know what a SASE is?
  3. Is it ever O.K. to use a smiley-face emoji?


And 17 more…

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Nick’s take on age questions

I love this assault on employers and recruiters who use trick questions to figure out how old you are. Give us a break! But it’s no joke. The only joke is how stoopid employers can be. This New Yorker column calls attention to the really wrong methods used to discriminate against older workers. Ageism has become so obvious — it’s really gotten old, dontcha think?

What’s your take? Do you disclose your age on job applications and in job interviews? What methods and tricks have employers and recruiters used to determine your age? How did you deal with it? What should be done about it?



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  1. The usual is to ask the month and year that you earned your undergraduate degree.

    Zoom calls tend to reveal that I read real books, a lot.

  2. I love how employers/HR claim they “value diversity,” and then immediately turn around and dismiss older workers out of hand. Sometimes they lamely try to justify it by insinuating older workers are tech dinosaurs.

    Hey, kid – we were programming computers before you were even a gleam in your father’s eye – I think we can handle the tech…

    • My favorite dismissal of older workers played out on me this last Great Recession “you’d be a drain on our health insurance”.

    • Exactly, I have been using computers since 1982 and have been in the workforce all along. BTW, we all know that you can look up anyone’s age online.

  3. I’ve been doing a clandestine job search while being employed, and have had both some phone and face-face sit down interviews, the last couple of months. Haven’t been seeing as much of the ageism as I’ve seen in the past (especially during this last Great Recession). Been also seeing less of the usual HR crones, and getting directly to the Hiring Managers, which is a good thing. Thus far, select multiple interviews have resulted in prospective employers going with another candidate, or unable or unwilling to meet realistic and conservative starting salary requirements. With this current job market (at least where I live) it appears to have humbled employers some, and I haven’t faced any of the usual ghosting practices thus far.
    I make a downplayed reference to previous employers from back in the day over 10 years ago, and education, in a column at the bottom of my resume, simply to show skills and progress in specific industries. I’ve had a small number of HR rogues outright ask for dates, and I’ve flat out refused, pointing out that that’s ageism, and illegal. While that’s no deterrent, it stops them in their tracks, and I’ve found that if you don’t play into their hand and their shenanigans, you still maintain some control in the situation. There’s a certain level of dignity and professionalism that should be expected, and if it’s not exhibited, that’s the litmus test to walk away.
    I’ve also heard “you have skills, but your skills are not specific to our industry” or “you have skills, but they’re not current”, both code word for “ageism”.