Age Discrimination 101: Interview Tips

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Most of us are well aware that age discrimination is illegal. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) made this law, prohibiting employment discrimination for anyone over age 40. However, despite employers being aware that age discrimination is illegal, it still happens, sometimes inadvertently.


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Let’s take a look at some tips for employers to avoid age discrimination during the interview process.

Interview Tips for Avoiding Age Discrimination

Here are a few interview tips on avoiding age discrimination:

Don’t ask different questions of older applicants. For example, the question “Will you be comfortable working with a younger team?” may seem simple enough. But if you’re only asking older applicants, it may appear as though you’re discouraging them to continue with the process.

The question “When did you graduate?” is another example of a seemingly harmless question that could have negative repercussions. It may appear you are trying to ascertain a person’s age. What really matters is whether the person is qualified for the job.

If the applicant has the qualifications, it shouldn’t matter when the person completed his or her education. Any other question that could be construed as searching for an applicant’s age could have the same effect.

Don’t assume negative things based on age alone. For example, don’t assume:

  • Someone older won’t know how to use your technology or may be slower to learn things. Remember that seasoned professionals have likely been learning new processes and technologies their entire working lives. Even if they don’t have experience in the latest software you’re using, it doesn’t mean they won’t be able to use it. Training may be required, but this is true for anyone who hasn’t used that exact technology.
  • They may have health issues. Remember that anyone could have health issues; it’s not fair to assume someone will be less available simply based on age.
  • They may be unhappy with the role because it’s below their experience level. If they applied, why assume they don’t want it? If you’ve properly outlined the job, they’re there because they’re interested. To assume otherwise is almost the definition of discrimination.

Train all employees who will be interacting with an applicant on age discrimination and how to avoid it. For example:

  • Train on underlying unintentional biases; this could help people recognize their own assumptions.
  • Train people not to make assumptions about others. It’s no fairer to assume that a seasoned professional will not want an entry-level job than it is to assume that a young woman will not want a job with travel because she might want to start a family. Don’t assume anything about others’ intentions.
  • Train people on being aware of their body language and facial expressions. Interviewees often say they could tell someone was disappointed in them—possibly due to their age—simply by the look on the person’s face when they entered the room.

What else does your organization do to eliminate the possibility of age discrimination during the interview process?

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.

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