Your Office Coach: Neutralizing age bias in a job interview

October 1, 2018

Q: As a middle-aged woman starting a job search, I have found that most interviewers are much younger. I am afraid these young people may automatically screen me out because of my age. What can I do to overcome that bias and show that I’m a qualified candidate worth considering?

A: Despite being illegal, age discrimination is unfortunately real, so you are wise to consider the possibility and take steps to minimize it. Start by focusing on those traits which will impress almost any interviewer.

Smile, be friendly, project confidence, and show enthusiasm for the job. Explain how your background relates to the position and have relevant examples to share. Demonstrate knowledge of their organization and ask intelligent questions.

To reduce age prejudice, you must remain up-to-date. Keep your professional knowledge fresh and sharpen your technical skills. Stay on top of the latest news, including “soft” topics like sports and entertainment. You should also be familiar with mainstream social media and online job sites.

Dress in age-appropriate contemporary fashions and keep your hairstyle and make-up current, but do not try to look twenty years younger. Since poor health habits can make you appear older, remember to exercise, eat properly, and get enough sleep.

Unfortunately, you must also be prepared for age-related questions. Although employers aren’t supposed to ask, they sometimes do anyway. You should definitely be ready for this one: “How do you feel about working for a younger manager?”

Finally, maintain a positive outlook, because bitterness and resentment will always show through. And never make jokes about your age, their age, or the age difference, because no one will find that amusing.

Q: After every performance review, my manager tells me I deserve a better raise. He says that the company had another bad year and his own raise was also very small. Because he believes our whole group is doing a good job, he always splits our small increase budget equally.

The last time I got this run-around, I finally had enough. Because the cost of living has risen faster than my salary, I am actually moving backwards financially. I informed my boss that if the company didn’t want to pay me appropriately, I saw no reason to continue working as hard as I had in the past. What do you think about this?

A: Let me see if I have this straight. Business is bad, and the pay increase budget is limited. Your boss received a meager raise himself and is trying to treat a group of good performers equitably. While I certainly feel your financial pain, I can’t see what the issue is here.

Everyone wants their compensation to increase, but the unfortunate reality is that this doesn’t always happen. Just ask almost anyone who suffered through the last recession. So if you are concerned about rising costs and stagnant income, the only way to change that equation is to reduce expenses or find a better-paying job

The worst possible move, however, is to retaliate for lower pay by threatening to do less work. If you follow through on this warning, your increases may get even smaller. And if business continues to decline, your salary could ultimately drop to zero.

About the writer

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach.

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