Job Interview Tips

3 ways to handle age discrimination during the interview process

Written by Eric Titner

When it comes to interviewing, the unfortunate truth is that the rules of fairness and objectivity don’t always evenly apply to all people in all situations. Although we may like to think that HR professionals and hiring personnel stick solely to experience and qualifications when making their decisions, the truth is, they’re just people—and are subject to the same biases as everyone else.

Among these biases is making judgments about people based on their age. Ageism is still an issue in all aspects of society, and the professional world is not immune. This bias can go both ways during an interview, depending on who’s making a judgment based on a candidate’s age—being older can be seen as a sign of valuable experience and wisdom, or an indication that you’re lacking energy or are out of date and not up on the latest and greatest trends. Conversely, being younger can be seen as a sign that you’re full of energy and plugged into what’s going on in the world, or that you’re inexperienced and ill-equipped to handle serious responsibility. 

As you can see, sometimes biases based on age can work in your favor and sometimes they can work against you. But there is an aspect of ageism that you do have under your control: how you respond to it if it rears its head during an interview. If you’re concerned that your age may be a potential issue on interviews, consider the following strategies for dealing with it.

Beat it to the punch

Whether we like it or not, there are plenty of things that occur during an interview that is not overt or even discussed out loud. This includes judgments based on age. So, if age is a potential source of concern for you, then get out in front of it on interviews. If you’re an older candidate, make sure to give off the impression that you’re energetic and current. If you’re a younger candidate, make sure that every aspect of your interview game radiates maturity, responsibility, and wisdom. Here’s the bottom line—everything from the outfit you wear to the things you say and how you carry yourself will be on full display, so every aspect of your interview game should highlight the fact that the stodgy old biases about age don’t apply to you.

Shine a light on it

Sometimes in life, the best way to get through a roadblock is by going straight through it. If you’re worried about ageism during interviews, then be bold and address it overtly during your conversations. Discuss your age, and convince interviewers that it’s not an issue. If you have tangible on-the-job examples to attest to this, even better. In fact, make turning your age—whatever it is—into an asset and you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor. Be sure to handle this professionally and appropriately, and you just might impress whoever is sitting on the other side of the table with your confidence and candor.

Work around it

Sometimes in life, and in some interviews, subtlety is the best strategy. If this is the case, then working around your age just might be the approach to take. How? By overwhelming the interviewer with so many compelling reasons why you’re the right candidate for the job that even if your age is a potential issue it won’t matter—because you’re simply too good to pass up. Focus on your strengths and make sure that interviewers see and fully believe every last one of them.

Are you worried that ageism might be an issue on your interviews and want to deal with it? Consider using the strategies presented here to keep it from adversely impacting your chances for professional success.

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.