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Career Advice

From Marc Cenedella
Marc Cenedella

See the name, title, compensation, work history and educational background of each person applying to jobs TheLadders.

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Interviewing

Dodging the Job Interview Question of Age Again and Again

Brian Haley keeps trying to dodge irrelevant questions about his age as HR managers invent new ways to ask.

By Patty Orsini
Interviewing

Brian Haley finds it frustrating to face the same questions again and again as he interviews for jobs. Questions that he knows have no bearing on his ability to do the job but have everything to do with his age.

Haley, who is currently working as a consultant in facilities management and looking for fulltime employment in the field, is 59 years old and has been employed for more than three decades. But he contends that only his past 10 years of employment have a direct connection to his current job search, and he limits his resume and job applications to that period.

At a job interview in early summer, he said, the first question he was asked by the interviewer was why he didn't fill out all of his previous employment.

"I explained to her that my experience before was not relevant to the job I was applying for," he said. "I said we should work with current, relevant information." She was persistent in asking for it, he recalled. So much so that when she asked for the date of his first job, he relented and told her. "It was a very brief interview after that."

"It raised my eyebrows," he said. "My (resume) had been packaged by a recruiting firm that had previous dealings with the employer, and my experience fit the position requirements like a shoe. But I never heard back. And, when I tried to contact the recruiter after the interview, I never received a call back." Haley felt he was qualified for the job, and the reason he wasn't contacted for a second interview is that he was too old.

Since then, Haley tries to avoid answering job-interview questions that attempt to identify his age. It came up in a recent interview when he was asked to present "a driver's license, which has a birth date on it," he said. "I don't think this is something you need to hand over at an interview, but can you say no? " (See main story for the answer to this question.)

"I do my best to be diplomatic," he said. "If they ask about college graduation dates, I tell them I graduated, and with what type of degree. If they ask, ‘Are you looking to retire soon?' I answer with, ‘I assume you have a good retirement plan. Do you use it?' I have put off questions about how long I have lived at my current address. I am trying to send a message to the interviewer that we shouldn't go down this road. But these sorts of questions have been rampant."

His efforts to avoid confrontation have met mixed results. He said in the more than three dozen interviews he has had in the past two years (some for contract work and others for full-time employment), some human-resources managers will not follow up on questions he declines to answer, while others will continue to push until they get a response.

No matter why they ask the questions, Haley thinks employers don't know what they are missing. "To discount all this experience during the hiring process is such a shame," he said. "They are summarizing the candidate by a first impression and discounting everything else over his or her age. We all have a lot to contribute."

Patty Orsini is a general assignment reporter for TheLadders.

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