How to Prepare Older Candidates for Biases in Today’s Ageist Culture – Part 2

If you’ve been following my posts here on the Staffing Stream, you have read some pretty shocking truths. For example, ageism is no longer about your candidates with grey hair or retirees; in fact, it affects people in the 40s and even those heading into their late 30s. I’m guessing that is a lot of people in your candidate pool. The facts are out and it’s clear we have a growing discrimination issue. But there are ways to prepare your candidate to not only overcome the ageism issue but also turn it to their advantage. As you’ve read my last post, I coached you through discussing how to prep your candidate about the longevity and/or retirement issue as well as the bias about experienced folks being technophobes.

That’s just a few of the biases they may encounter. As I continue this “Train the Recruiter” series,” here are a couple more of the surprising questions they may encounter:

Employer Bias #3: “What is Your Age?” Age discrimination is against US Federal Law but some HR folks don’t know that!

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, how can they ask that? Well, there are folks out there who simply don’t know some of the key basics when it comes to HR and employment law. Here’s the thing: Today, that question is just not cool, in fact, it’s beyond “old.” (Yes, I did that on purpose.) But as a knowledgeable recruiting professional, you can use that to your advantage. Prepare your candidates to something to say something like this and note how relaxed, genuine and non-scripted it comes across:

“Ah, is that a trick question! Ha, I know it is because age discrimination is against the law. Good one!”

Now, some people (like me) would happily do that and watch the HR manager’s face turn red, but that response is bolder and it’s not for everyone. Not to worry, I train my recruiters with various scenarios and personalities today so if your candidate is not comfortable with that have her try this instead: “I have heard many things about age and interviewing and I don’t really think age is important. I subscribe to the adage you’re only as old as you feel and I know what makes me a great fit for this role is the fact that I do have solid experience for the requirements you’re asking, which do demand seasoned experience and that makes me a great fit.”

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Employer Bias #4: “I’m not sure if this position will be challenging enough for you – or – you seem overqualified.”

You’ve already read some of my other advice, so prepare the candidate by letting them know to be really positive about it and turn the question around and say that they’ve enjoyed everything they have been asked to do in their career so going above and beyond to do the best job possible is a natural thing for them.

Now, as a consultative recruiter, my advice is to also prep your candidate to pay close attention to the question and only answer the question; tell them not to expand and say more than what is being asked. The more they say, the more chances they will present themselves as overqualified! I’ve found this to be a critical component to listening and peeling the layers of how perception is playing a role in the actual interview process. This does take practice, make sure to tell them to role play with a family member or friend.

Vinay Singh

Vinay Singh
Vinay Singh is a workforce development and talent acquisition strategy consultant. Singh is the author of Your Future in Pieces, which discusses how ageism affects your career. Connect with him onLinkedIn.

Vinay Singh

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