Below are quotes from people affected by age discrimination who want to share their stories anonymously.
” There is definitely rampant age discrimination in the Denver market. Perhaps it is because there are SOOOO many millenials here?
I am in my late 50’s, as are most of my women friends, and they too, are having much trouble getting a decent job offer. My resume makes me “appear” younger, and I think I look “younger,” (it “shouldn’t) matter, but I still get rejection letters after interviews. I feel my interview skills are top notch (I am a communications major) and a few times I have “spied” on who was hired, and voila- a MUCH younger person. I have years of experience from retail management to administrative, along with a real estate license, yet I cannot get a decent offer.
I feel it’s affecting my self esteem, and I do not want to get a bitter attitude, but it’s difficult to stay positive, when younger people without experience or practical life knowledge, are being tapped for higher paying jobs,and generally, looked upon more favorably. It just doesn’t make sense.
My brother thinks it is because employers think younger people are “easier to manage.” But don’t “employers” age as well???
“I didn’t realize until recently how difficult it might be for a person my age to find a full time position at reasonable pay. I feel certain that I am being disregarded for many of the opportunities I applied for because of my age. In some cases, it is very apparent that the client is very interested until they check my LinkedIn account and see a photograph or video that reveals my age. I guess it could be for many other reasons but my sense is that it is an age discrimination matter. I am quite fortunate that I am ok just the same but for many people such discrimination might be life changing.”
“My husband is a talented software engineer who keeps up with all the latest languages and tech. He was a VP when he was laid off in 2012 just before the company was sold. He has struggled to get interviews ever since for anything even close to what he’s qualified for. I’m convinced it’s because he’s 65. His skill level and experience never seem to be as attractive as whatever kids just out of school bring to the table… which is what?? Maybe it’s that young and inexperienced equals less pay. His previous executive salary would be great becwe would honestly be grateful for a steady income from software tech at this point. We’re getting by on his small SS and my $13.50 an hour.”
“A vacation rental company advertises for “young people” to join their team. I emailed to let them know it is illegal. They responded that they meant “young in spirit.” Never checked back to see if the verbiage is different.”
“It’s difficult to find bilingual professionals who are willing to work in the lower salary ranges of public education. However, after I was ‘encouraged’ to retire at age 55 (with financial incentive), my efforts to go back to work in another school district position forced me to work with no health insurance or other benefits (sick leave etc.) for a year to get my foot in the door before earning my way into a full-time school position. After three years in that position and several awards from Denver Public Schools’ alumni group, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and others, I was downsized out of the position and forced to a charter school that was subsequently closed for poor performance. Please note: I NEVER in 39 years of service received less than Adequate to Excellent performance evaluations. When I attempted to work in public schools through Goodwill’s support services programs, I came in second and third in multiple interview efforts to be hired after receiving positive feedback from my interviewers. Younger applicants (some without Spanish speaking skills and little experience) were selected. It’s helpful for me to remind myself that my rather large estate will contain no bequests to those organizations when the time comes for Karma.”
“Since moving to the Denver area more than three years ago, I’ve applied
for hundreds of positions and had many interviews. However, only one job
offer was made and that was by someone familiar with my career. I
believe several of the other positions I was a finalist for ended up
going to someone younger, although proving it is just about impossible.
I think companies and recruiters need to take a step back and really
look at someone’s potential and what they bring to the table that can
help that company, instead of seeing years of experience as a detriment.”
” I’m a recent graduate from U of _, Accounting degree, I had to remove 30 years of work experience from my resume to get an interview. Then I had to put it back on to be hired. These employers don’t understand that I have 20 more years to work before I can retire due to SSA rules (if its even around by then). I took a few years of to better myself by getting a degree at my age I thought I would be more marketable because previously I was stuck in Middle Management. I wanted to be able to grow more so I went to school after my children were gone and in college. Now I am working but the pay is ridiculous compared to my experience and education not even yearly what my student loan debt is. Its just very disheartening that employers would rather have millenials who basically have no plan to be loyal to any company regardless what perks they receive. My job feels like a playground half the time, not a workplace.”
” At age of 59 my position was eliminated due to corporate cuts. I sent out hundreds of resume over 2 years and got 2 interviews. They were both old boy interviews. The first one they had already made their decision but needed to interview an older person. I had just got out of the building when I received a call on my cell phone telling me that they had decided to promote within. The person they promoted sat in on the interview. The second interview I sat in front of a panel of 5 people. They started asking me questions that had nothing to do with the position I had applied for. It was for a position that was not related at all. After I brought that to their attention they asked me a very basic insulting question for somebody that had been in the business for 32 years. I picked up my stuff said thank you and that I did not want to waste anymore of my time or theirs. I then took a job as a security guard at the age of 61. I’m currently 70 and working as grocery store stocker a commissary. Hopefully going to retire completely at the age of 74. When my position and several our positions (mostly elderly employees) were eliminated they had us sign a statement that we would not file for age discrimination or we would not receive our severance package.”
“I get amused at stupid questions on LinkedIn electrical engineer groups that ask “where are all of the knowledgeable electrical engineers?” I replied that there are plenty over the age of 40, but we are tagged as “overqualified.” Needless to say there was no response. Others are from entry level engineers asking for you to solve their problem performing a calculation or interpreting the electrical safety codes. Their design and calculations software does not take into the applicable standards and codes. I reply that they need to retain a licensed professional rather than seek free help. Dish Network has refused to answer a EEOC subpoena regarding their exclusion of anyone over 40 or who has a disability that prevents them from working 24/7.”
“I spent more than 30 years as a Corporate Real Estate Director for National Brands, mostly in the restaurant and automotive fields. During that time, I was laid off a few times, which is the nature of the business. Often, when the U.S. economy goes into a recession, and the stock market drops significantly, companies focus on Marketing and Operations, not Development, so members of the Development Team are often laid off. For more than 30 years, I always managed to be rehired by another company in less than 90 days. Then I got laid off in 2011 when I was 65 years old. I love the work and had no desire to retire. So, I responded to every opportunity for a Real Estate Director for the next five years. In every case I was rejected and was told that the company hired another applicant. I was definitely discriminated against, but the H.R. people know how to cover their discrimination, and we can’t prove it.”
“Laid off when the company lost a contract renewal. After 4 years of pumping out customized resumes and individually-written cover letters and following all the other job search advice, I’ve gotten only a handful of interviews and zero offers in spite of my Master’s degree, PMP credentials and years of experience. I have never filed a complaint or contacted an attorney because I had no way to prove or provide direct evidence of age discrimination. Even recruiters I’ve called tell me “Don’t even try to get a job” Start a business instead.”
“It seems like the word “experience” on a resume has become a red flag. Perhaps recruiters see it as a synonym for “expensive,” “outmoded,” “burnt out,” or “Mom/Dad.” As a thirty-five year veteran of the tech industry, with an engineering degree, an MBA, and continuing study to update my technical and business skills, I’d found that job searches had become increasingly difficult and discouraging. Early in my career, when the unemployment rate was around 5.6%, I found a job within about a month after a layoff. In subsequent years, as I searched for better positions to leverage my deeper experience, I found that responses from recruiters began to slow. Why was that? It’s supposed to be easier to find a job when you already have a job. The unemployment rate was in decline. My resume showed long tenures with continuous growth at respected companies. I was older and wiser. It made no sense! Removing dates from my resume would only be another red flag – in fact, online applications won’t accept job histories without dates. I researched and wrote some great cover letters, and made phone calls. I networked as much as possible for a confidential job search. I finally decided that it was better to put all that effort into a fresh start, working for myself. I went to film school, and started my own production company to make documentary, commercial, and industrial films. It was the best decision of my life! I feel energized each day. I get to create something every day. I’m surrounded by young, creative, enthusiastic people, and have more variety in my life than I ever did in the corporate world. I’m makin’ lemonade baby, and I don’t need a recipe!”
“I’ve tried every way that I know to hide my age on my resume. It’s very difficult to do that. And if you actually get an interview, then it’s all over. I talked with a friend of mine that’s an Executive Director of a nonprofit. She said in hiring situations, she saw over and over again that the hiring team would always pick a younger person rather than an older. And she said they tended towards men rather than women – even the younger women on the hiring team preferred younger men.”
“My experience may be different from others in that I had a position, but left due to a culture of age bias in the organization. The discrimination was so obvious that I talked to several age lawyers about it.
I was a highly qualified technical consultant with 35 years of experience in two disciplines but had switched companies because of financial issues within my former company. I initially thought that I had secured my dream job. What I didn’t know what my new company was having serious problems, not the least being that many of the experienced people had left and they had hired and promoted enormous numbers of millennials with little or no experience.
I hadn’t been exposed to age discrimination in my previous position, so I didn’t recognize what was happening at first, but it was so obvious that it didn’t take long. The company funded an organization to assimilate junior and mid-level professionals into the organization. The group was very active and, without any senior oversight, created their own ecosystem that served to cement the inexperience, gossip, and already existing biases, forming a culture of discrimination that became pervasive throughout the company. They believed that older people were out to hold them back, so they felt justified in their solidarity against them. It was madness, but they got away with it due to sheer numbers.
Because I am an older woman, I was immediately dismissed as mother, aunt, teacher, etc., but certainly not a colleague. I was held to the stereotype of older women; completely selfless, supportive, easily manipulated, and not too bright. They assumed my career was over and that I had no further aspirations. Instead of leading projects and procuring new contracts as I had been hired to do, I was expected to coach from the wings (usually without budget). This was not just the opinion of junior staff; management told me on several occasions that I didn’t need to worry about my sold time, that despite the position description, my primary responsibilities were to be a support system for the younger staff in the group.
Here are a few specific experiences.
-I learned that the company had reduced the position I had applied and qualified for. I was given a lower level title but didn’t realize it until someone pulled me aside later (I was not the only other senior person this happened to). I was then strung along for a year and a half trying to secure the title I should have received while younger women in the group received promotions.
-I was passed over for a lead position on a large project in favor of a young, very attractive woman with little technical experience in the discipline and no experience as a lead. I was then told that I needed to mentor the young woman for the role, which included teaching her all the technical skills that she lacked.
Needless to say, I never found the time…
The take home message was always “we want your experience, but we don’t want you”. The company couldn’t negate my skills and experience and I did achieve a measure of success, but because I refused to play a solely mothering role, any success was marginalized. I resent the idea of being a victim and so railed against the bias, but it was like swimming through grease. Every day was a drain. I finally had one experience that crushed me like no other and suffered a psychic break that required counseling and medication. I left the company after only 2.5 years. Because I was integral to some highly visible projects, the resignation was keenly felt.
I have no remorse, but I am bitter. My self confidence and motivation to continue in consulting has been severely shaken and I have yet to seek another position.
Some last thoughts – I was a scientist and engineer, broke numerous glass ceilings, and have dealt with discrimination all along the way. I am truly puzzled that supposedly intelligent young women take their opportunities in the world for granted, reviling the very women who made that world possible for them.
At the end of the day, age discrimination will happen in any organization without a balanced demographic. Any group I have been associated with where one age or gender group dominated, a bias existed. I have often benefited from this arrangement; this time, I did not. Organizations can avoid these unnecessary biases by ensuring age/gender heterogeneity in their workforce.”
“On Jan 2, 2018 I went on an interview for an Branch Administrative Assistant position for a bank. This bank deals with sub-prime loans and they needed someone to assist 7 salespeople (mail, documents, etc). I sent my resume to the recruiter and she then sent it to the Branch Manager. When I interviewed, I was asked if I had finance experience. I told her that I did (but realized she never had my resume in front of her). The description of the duties wanted someone “with personality, no banking experience required). Anyway, I should hear something by Friday. My question is….why would you want someone with no banking experience to be handling documents in the first place????”
“My last job was as a sales account manager for a startup company in the horticulture industry, after five years of revenue growth I was laid off at the age of 57. My previous 25 years of office management and sales experience got me the job but when younger candidates were willing to work for less I was let go. I raised my kids and my husband now supports me after 2 years of fruitless job searching. I am not willing to stop contributing so I started my own part time gardening business but can only work during 7 months of the year. I know I have a lot to offer if I was only given a chance…..”
“When my position and several our positions (mostly elderly employees) were eliminated, they had us sign a statement that we would not file for age discrimination or we would not receive our severance package.”
” I am 55 and am retired as a software engineer. My last full time job was approximately 10 years ago, at the National Park Service in Ft. Collins, and I remember when I was hired at that position even back then, I was told by at least one Human Resources person that they were expecting someone much younger. This was the only direct comment, but there are a host of intangible, subtle ways in which ageism manifests itself, and these were present throughout my two years there. I believe I did my actual work in exemplary fashion, including in comparison with my peers. Even prior to that I had I believe experienced age discrimination. Everything from offhand age based remarks (and I was only 35 at that time) to being put in directly competitive relations with someone much younger, and having the deck stacked against me. I have to say that this is often unfair to younger workers as well, and also to acknowledge that during that brief period where I myself was actually “young”, that I also received some of the preferential treatment that later affected me when I had passed the brief window of youth. I feel that this is a problem in the corporate culture and a problem primarily in management. Lastly, I want to say that during my time of retirement I began to take classes at the U. Colorado as a non-degree student, taking primarily senior or first year graduate student math classes. I took 6 such classes (after over 20 years of not doing much math), was graded the same as other students, did the homeworks, took the exams, etc. and got 3 A’s, 2 A-‘s, and a B+. I liked my fellow students and the professors immensely, but it was clear that I was very much an oddball (for example I had a lot of funny looks in the student study areas), and I am pretty sure if I had tried to attend a student job fair along with my peers I would have been laughed out of the room! The last interview I had, about 4-5 years ago, I was told that I had too many positions listed. Of course, I had been working longer, so that would be the case and would be related to age. I am fortunate in that I am able to be retired and as I have now taken up other interests I no longer intend to pursue employment, at least not as a software engineer.”
“I lost what I had hoped was the job I would keep until retirement not due to ageism but due to the facility at which I worked being sold and our department being contracted out as a cost savings measure. In the ensuing months, I have had 4 interviews, two of which resulted in short term contract positions. Both were phone interviews after submitting a resume without dates. Here are my two experiences that lead me to believe ageism is more prevalent then I previously thought:
I applied for a job that was a perfect fit for my diverse and varied experience. I had a great phone interview with the hiring manager at the end of which he asked me to submit two assignments, one a blog post for the company website and one a plan to market the product line we had discussed in the interview. It was with caution that I completed these assignments. It was difficult to do a thorough job and not feel as though he was asking me to work for free. I was proud of the work I submitted and was invited to a face to face interview. Near the end of the interview, the manager stated that the salary he had posted on Indeed.com was not what he could offer but, in fact was 28% less than the stated minimum salary. As I have throughout my career, I knew I had to get the offer before I could negotiate, and I was thinking to myself, well, maybe I could counteroffer to work four days, a 20% reduction in time making the new salary more equitable and the company is still coming out ahead. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to make my pitch because I never received the offer. In fact, he did not return the phone call nor the two emails I sent in the two weeks following the interview. This was not terribly surprising when he ended the interview with, “We were looking for someone long term.” My response was “So am I. I hope to work at least ten more years.” By the way, the company has since added two things to their website that I suggested in my marketing plan “assignment.”
I attended a Path Forward meeting in January. Path Forward is a nonprofit organization aimed at getting people who have left the workforce in order to be a caregiver, back into a meaningful career via Returnships. Path Forward partners with companies in several markets to offer Returnships that are 16 week internships meant to reduce the risk of taking a chance on an older worker who has been unemployed for a minimum of two years. If things go to plan, the employee is offered a permanent position. Sounds great, right? The meeting I attended consisted of a PowerPoint presentation with tips on re-entering the workplace and a discussion panel consisting of three Talent Acquisition Managers (TAM) from the three Denver area companies that partner with Path Forward. The panel was upfront that ageism exists and offered tips on beating the applitrack software. (remove dates, only reference the last ten years of employment, how to use volunteer positions to bolster one’s resume, etc.) One of the TAMs to whom I briefly spoke, told me I was perfect for one of the Returnships and gave me the job description. I employed my newly learned knowledge, applied, and snagged a phone interview with the same TAM. We really connected and I told her how appreciative I was that the TAM panel was so honest with regard to ageism as their tips really helped me modify my job hunting. She even asked if I would mind if she gave my resume to two different hiring managers. The only negative vibe was when the TAM made a comment that I had a lot more experience than she originally thought. A week went by before I sent a follow up email to inquire about the status of the face to face interviews. Here is the email string that followed:
TAM: Thank you for your interest in (Company) and for the time you’ve invested in applying for the Product Designer (Returnship) opening. I really enjoyed talking with you and learning more about your background, but the hiring manager didn’t think your background was an exact match.
Best of luck with your job search and getting back into the workforce. I know your perfect opportunity awaits and you’ll find it soon!
Me: I really enjoyed our conversation also and am very disappointed that I did not make it to the next round.
I would greatly appreciate any feedback you can give me on my resume or interviewing skills. For future reference, would you advise that I not apply to any position for which I am not an exact match? Given that it would be rare for anyone to be an exact match, that would severely limit my job search.
TAM: It is very difficult to ask for constructive criticism. I appreciate your courage in doing so.
You should apply to be a Project Manager.
Obviously, she realized writing “not an exact” match was foolish, but I thought she would at least give me some real feedback that she claimed to admire me for asking. I believe she told the hiring manager I have “a lot” of experience and boom! I was out of the running. As I think about the three TAMs on the Path Forward panel being all in their mid to late forties, I have to wonder if they even realize they could soon be on the receiving end ageism and wish they had done more to prevent it or help others overcome it.”