With millions of job openings currently left unfilled, there should be plenty of opportunities for older adults to get hired or switch careers now. But for many experienced workers, age discrimination continues to be an obstacle.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 11.3 million jobs waiting to be filled at the end of January 2022 (the month recent month for which data is available). Yet even with so much demand to hire more workers, 36.1 percent of workers age 55 and older were long-term unemployed, meaning they had not been able to land a job in 27 weeks or more. For people between the ages of 16 and 54, the long-term unemployment rate was much lower, at 23.7 percent.
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Age discrimination alone doesn’t explain that employment rate gap, but it certainly is one of the hurdles older adults encounter when looking for jobs. In a recent AARP survey, 78 percent of people between the ages of 40 and 65 said they had seen age discrimination in the workplace. That’s an all-time high since AARP started conducting the survey nearly 20 years ago.
While your job search should be focused on the opportunities that fulfill your career goals and the skills you can offer employers, it’s important to be aware that you might encounter age bias as you look for work. Career coaching experts say the following five tips can help older workers compete successfully in the job market.
1. Age-Proof Your Résumé
You probably already know that you should remove your graduation dates from your résumé because employers might use them to guess your age. But there are other ways your résumé could be exposing you to age bias. For instance, if your résumé still includes your street address or an older email account (such as AOL or Yahoo), those details can signal to hiring managers that you are an older applicant.
“Older workers sometimes are seen as lacking technical savvy,” says Amanda Augustine, a career expert and professional résumé writer for TopResume, which partners with AARP on the Resume Advisor service. “Don’t give employers a reason to believe you might fit this stereotype.”
Augustine also says that you might consider limiting your job experience to what you have done in the past 15 years. Employers often consider skills and experience from before then to be less relevant to the work they want you to do now.
2. Showcase Your Job Skills
One thing to keep in mind is that, in many cases, your résumé will be screened by computer software before it can make its way to an actual hiring manager. To get past that filtering-out process, make sure your résumé and cover letter include the important keywords that often are more about your current job skills rather than your previous experience or accomplishments.
“If a word or phrase repeatedly shows up in the job listings you’re interested in, incorporate those terms into your résumé,” Augustine says.
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