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

Are you getting sick and tired of hearing about ageism from your clients? We are, too. But the fact remains it is a form of discrimination that runs rampant in many companies — probably your client companies as well. And while there are so many studies and reports you see today about age discrimination, chances are your clients are focused on other things. This leaves you with the tough job of having a conversation with your older candidates.

In other words, you have to coach them. That is what you are, if you really think about it. And your paycheck depends on how well you prep the candidate, right? As the old adage goes, “It’s not the most knowledgeable candidate who gets the job; it’s the one who’s best prepared.”

Corporate HR and talent acquisition can be pretty scary to job candidates these days, especially if you are caught off guard and the candidate doesn’t have answers ready. Preparation is key; it’s the difference between your candidate sweating bullets or having confidence to tackle the uncomfortable questions and you making the placement.

So, let’s look at a few of the more fearful biases that candidates face and some best practice role-playing tips you can incorporate into your personal candidate prep:

Employer Bias #1: Hiring personnel fear older workers won’t stay in the job once they have it.

Even though younger workers today are just as likely to leave before the five-year work anniversary, hiring managers still have that “fear” about older workers who will be more apt to get sick or want to retire. Now that you understand this, prepare your candidate in advance by having them say answers like:

“I’ve been loyal during my work tenures and I planned on staying at my previous company but a company layoff (insert your situation here) prevented that for me and many other people that were laid off.”


“I’ve worked many years at my previous employer I was known for not using all of my allotted vacation days – because I really enjoyed working on many projects. It’s a shame my company had layoffs (insert your situation here).

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Key Tip: Remember that famous question “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Well, have your candidate be ready for it and offer up front instead of waiting for the question, by literally saying something like “you know, I see myself in 5 years being right here working in some very cool and cutting-edge role helping our business with the technical and organizational challenges when they come.”

Employer Bias #2: Employers fear older workers are technophobes and won’t be comfortable with recent technological advances. 

While statement may have been far more relevant 20 years ago when the internet boom was happening, it doesn’t hold water today — unfortunately, the bias still lingers. The good news is you can prep your candidate to be ready and have them point it out exactly as stated above and even laugh when they hear it! Role play with then with something like:

“As you know (Miss HR manager or hiring manager), technical disruption you and I have been experienced now for most of our lives are quite frankly just a part of life and I embrace it. In fact, I recently was studying a series of articles on IOT/Internet of Things that was on LinkedIn (or insert any technology session or course here).

Key Tip: One to 24 hours in advance of the interview: Have your candidate study a YouTube video about a credible and modern learning tool. All Gen Z and Millennials do it. If they have time, even better is to tell them to enroll in a super cheap or even free technology MOOC course now and get the digital certificate or badge starting today that they can add to their LinkedIn profile. They will thank you for this advice!

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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