What can you do about ageism in hiring?

It is quite often that a mid- to late-career client asks me how far back in their work experience should they go in writing their resume.  The person will say they have heard to put only the most recent 10 years, some say 15.  My most common answer to clients’ questions regarding resumes, interviews, etc. is “It depends.”  ED001406

I don’t believe there is one right number.  I think those who advise a set number of years, such as 10 or 15, do so because it is simpler to recommend a one-size-fits-all than to advise on an individual basis.  There are many guidelines that are common to nearly all job seekers, but everyone has something that calls for special attention.  In addition to these particulars, other variables include how much experience is deemed appropriate for a specific industry, company, function, or job level.

Unfortunately, age discrimination does exist, primarily against older workers, but often it is against younger employees.  If it is age discrimination, which we all know is illegal, it is usually nearly impossible to prove.  For older workers, I have found that in most cases, the issue is not tied to an age number.  It may be the expectation that a more senior candidate will require a higher compensation than someone earlier in their career.  Or, there is a concern that an older candidate may be approaching retirement, and so will only stay employed for a few years.  However, the average job tenure among employees of all ages is less than five years (last recorded in 2012 by the US Department of Labor), and just over three years for those younger than forty.

I think the primary reason may be that the employer assumes that someone who is older has tired, stale ideas and ways of performing the job and has less energy and enthusiasm. These are factors that you can and should eliminate with your actual behavior, body language and voice during an interview, even when it is on the phone.

But, you must first get the interview which means that you do not want to give them any reason for discarding your resume on first glance.

For those who have been out of college at the undergraduate level for 12-20 years or more, I would omit graduation dates.  In general, 12-18 years of experience is the time span I recommend, depending on the variables mentioned above (industry, company, function, job level) as well as how pertinent the particular experience is to the position you seek.  My advice is to include only achievements that are relevant to your targeted role, even in your more recent experience.


Mauri SchwartzHi my name is Mauri, and I am the President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. I have been invited to speak at NCHRA’S Annual HR West Conference. I consult with career centers at universities including UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Tulane University, Mills College, and others, and contribute regularly to publications such as TheLadders RecruitBlog. I am what some might consider a professional “people person.”


How you recruit is a reflection of your brand

InterviewMost of my posts are directed at arming job seekers with the ammunition needed to conduct a successful search. This time, I set aim at the other side of the table. I hear the same complaints repeatedly from clients about how they were treated during the recruitment process.  So, to those in charge of recruiting for your organizations, here are some recommendations.


According to Dr. B Lynn Ware, President/CEO at Integral Talent Systems, organizations should do more to develop and hone their employment brands and then ensure that every touch point with targeted candidates consistently reflects that brand. Much attention is focused on the marketing of programs and services while employment branding and its execution are an afterthought. As a result, candidates may have misperceptions about what it is like to work there.


Read the entire resume.  You asked for it, so read it carefully.  With so many resumes to review, most recruiters are looking for a way to make that pile smaller and use the average 6-second scan to find a reason to reject. You could be eliminating some of the best candidates. The extra time up front is much shorter and less expensive than making a mistake.

In screening a resume, recruiters should focus on identifying the candidate’s achievements, whether for work or a side project, and should learn to read between the lines, watching for these factors.

Overselling:  In reading through her job descriptions, the candidate may look like she’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.  However, practically speaking, could all of the stated achievements been made in the specified timeframe?

Ambiguity:  Because only so much information can fit onto a resume, oftentimes responsibilities are described very generally. Recruiters should make sure they can ascertain the activities executed by this candidate specifically. It’s rare that an organization will be hiring the entire team at once.

Depth of Experience:  How long has the applicant been engaged in the pertinent experience?  How much a part of her role was it?  She may be able to truthfully say she has the knowledge, but is it strong enough?  Look for length and level of her participation.

Having said this, candidates need to be able to convey their achievements on “paper” articulately, based on educating themselves as to how their resume will be reviewed.

Annoying recruiting procedures

Lengthy application forms have got to go. Some go on for pages, and each must be completed before continuing to the next. There is no way to look ahead to see what more will be required. Who wants to fill them out? No one. Who wants to read them? No one. Fortunately, some smaller organizations are opting for a much simpler route with a simple upload of a resume or social media profile. Why insist on entering every job’s details when they’re already on the resume? There’s no reason to ask for all the candidate’s personal information unless and until she’s seriously being considered.

Make your entire process comfortable for candidates and as streamlined as possible. Treat them like guests in your home when they come in to interview, and provide clear feedback and status quickly. Lack of clear and timely communication is probably the #1 complaint of candidates.
Hi I’m Mauri, President/CEO of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels.  Recently Career Insiders has increased its Talent Acquisition line of business and has successfully placed a VP Marketing at a rapidly growing company, and have another one on the way. Our recruiting focus is on executives in sales/marketing, finance, corporate legal, and HR.