Legally, no one is too old to go to work, and all major corporations are aware of ageism in their hiring process. Yet the fact of the matter is that a 55-year-old will rarely be hired by a 25-year-old. The reason for this is twofold. Often the 55-year-old has trouble taking direction from the 25-year-old and it causes conflicts and because the older worker may behave as though (or may know better) than their younger colleagues.

On the other hand, the younger employee may encounter some discomfort directing someone who is the same age as their father or mother. It’s a function of human nature. And yes, it is a form of ageism; I’m not going to kid anyone about that, but it’s difficult for the older workers to prove themselves to younger ones in an interview.

What you can do in the course of the interview is demonstrate that you’ve worked for less experienced people before and that you complemented or supported

their skills, rather than backstabbed or criticized them. You can say that you can function as a good lieutenant for them if you understand what I mean.

Indicate that you can be supportive, to whisper advice in their ear and offer them suggestions and input, without becoming one of those water cooler gossips who are always complaining and criticizing behind someone’s back. Show how you’ve helped individuals within an organization and supported people’s growth who may have been far less experienced than you.

It’s a tough situation on both sides. It requires some reflection on your part. Ask yourself, can you work for this person, or are you just desperate for a job?

It’s sad but true that age discrimination (like race, religion, gender discrimination, and homophobia) happens in the workplace. I wish it were different. The best you can do is position yourself as somebody who has a lot of experience to offer, but that you’re not someone who is going to wag your finger at people because they don’t do it the way you would.

In the end, ageism is difficult to prove. Each of you will be deciding as to whether or not this is a marriage that can work, and age factors into that. It is often the case that just like those May/December marriages often end in divorce, May/December manager/subordinate relationships rarely work well, and firms know it.

Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2008, 2014, 2020 



Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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