Overqualified and Underemployed

How to avoid age discrimination

Business Coach Column by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) from the Manila Bulletin

There was an overwhelming response to my earlier article on age discrimination on those 40 years old and above. Even now I am receiving questions regarding the topic and so it seems time for an update on the matter.

One text message forwarded to me by my editor says, (unedited text) “Mr Anlacan, gd am! Why do ads always says that the top limit for age for applicant is 35? Why this? TY godbless hope u answer. Ofelia Maranan”

A probable reason for the cut off at 35 years of age is that this age is seen as a starting point for a middle age mindset. They probably believe that middle-aged people will be harder to train.

Nowadays, it is hard to land a job, particularly for older jobseekers. There are fewer job vacancies, what with the advent of outsourcing, contractualization, and automation.

Your stay in the company will not guarantee job stability. Whenever a company has to downsize, the older employees tend to get axed first. When a business has to cut expenses, the mature workers are the ones identified as being redundant. No one can argue with this, as it is the company’s prerogative to choose its employees for its own interests.

However, the reality is that recruitment officers tend to avoid hiring employees who are close to retirement. This is quite a bad thing for older workers, because most of them cannot afford to retire yet. Some are still sending their children through college, or perhaps are still paying their house mortgages.

But what is the real status of mature jobseekers versus their younger counterparts? Let us face it: older job-seekers are usually the victims of discrimination during the hiring process. However, this should not be solely blamed on the hiring officers. There are some older applicants who prove them right! The images they project to the hiring officers earn them the label “pricey”, “difficult to manage”, “demanding”, etc. I know this is more of a stereotype rather than the truth, but stereotypes often stick for a reason.

Here are some reasons why hiring officers do not want to hire older employees. Let’s identify them here so that you can work them to your advantage:

Older employees are sickly, and will probably be absent often.

Prove this wrong. Be properly dressed during the interview. Walk tall, and never slouch when seated. Show your energy and enthusiasm. Be confident, without being arrogant. Be funny and show you can still be the life of the party.

Older workers are more expensive.

Take the offensive. Explain that your work experience and achievements will be an advantage to the company. Make them realize that you can give them an immediate return on investment (ROI) because you already have a proven track record. Sell them the idea that your work familiarity and skills will bring fruitful results if you are given the chance to be a part of their company.

Older employees are slow or sluggish at work.

Do not be late for the interview. Be there ahead of time, and make sure they know that you came early. Bring all the necessary documents, so you can have the advantage of looking and being more prepared than younger, less experienced (and often scatterbrained) young applicants. Never give them a reason to dismiss you early because of lack of preparation. Do not forget your common sense.

Older employees cannot learn new skills.

You may be old, but you are not dumb. My wife taught a 60-year-old friend how to use the internet. At first, they were both dubious as to whether this would be possible. But lo and behold, the sexagenarian is now blogging! So see, this is not impossible. Try to learn the basics of word processing and spreadsheets. Make sure you also know how to use the internet. You will be surprised how you can learn so many things from the web. Be net savvy, and show them that you are not history.

Older employees may be overqualified.

Some recruitment officers would not hire you, not because they do not believe in your caliber, but because they are afraid they cannot offer you a better position. Some are even intimidated, and sense that being a seasoned worker that you are, you will just resist their ideas. The best way to handle this is to tell them that you can adapt to changes and are willing to implement company policies as directed. Explain that you believe that there is more to learn, and you are flexible. Besides, what works with your previous company may not work in other situations.

There are many other stereotypes, but I suggest not focusing your energy on companies or industries that do not hire matured employees no matter what. There are some industries that hire mature workers, and that’s where you should apply. These are the call centers, banks, schools and other training institutions.

Keep your hopes high. As the saying goes, “you may be older, but you are also wiser.” And as for the hiring officers, I only have one thing to say: Older jobseekers are more knowledgeable, more reliable, more polite, and most of all, more enthusiastic at work. Let’s give them a chance.

(All rights reserved. Copyright by Manila Bulletin and Ruben P. Anlacan, Jr. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)


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