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Answering Age-Related Questions in a Job Interview

You may already have run into an age obstacle that limits your job hunt. In job interviews, there are effective ways to address age-related questions. Is age discrimination illegal? Yes. Does it still happen? Sometimes, depending on your perspective.

Here are some examples of questions that may mask common unspoken age-related concerns, followed by sample responses that show there are no expired shelf-life dates stamped on your forehead.

Age and job performance

Age bias often centers on doubts that you can do the work. Here are three masked put-offs and push-backs.

  • This is stressful and demanding work. How well do you work under pressure? (Translation: You may lack the stamina to do the job.)

    I work well in all situations and especially well when I’m under pressure. I like having deadlines. Early on, I learned to set internal deadlines for myself in all my projects, breaking the projects into segments so I always knew how I was doing. I consistently brought my projects in on time and on budget. Internal deadlines are my specialty.

  • What do you do to maintain good health? (Translation: You don’t look too healthy to me and you may not be around long enough to justify training costs.)

    Maintaining good health is a passion with me. My body mass index is similar to or better than that of most 30-year-olds. I exercise several times a week. And I watch what I eat.

  • What office software do you use? Do you have a cell phone? (Translation: You look like you do things the old-school way and we’re into new-school thinking.)

    I’m proficient with (current business software). I took a class for it on my own time last year at St. Louis Community College. My BlackBerry is with me 24/7. I make it a point to stay current with such major trends in our industry as (give one or two examples).

Age and money

In a world impacted by business budgets, companies may see prime-timers as too pricey for value received, as the following two examples illustrate:

  • What can you bring to this company? (Translation: You expect to earn more money to start than we want to pay; I can hire someone at half of what you want.)

    I bring a background that includes a related degree and successful years of experience in a similar position with another company. The contacts I have already made in my previous positions will help me be productive immediately, saving costs and earning revenues. My background is an open book, showing that by any measure I am a bargain!

  • What are your monetary expectations of this job? (Translation: You’re a seasoned worker accustomed to regular raises; our firm won’t be able to make that kind of commitment.)

    I’ve been rewarded for my contributions to the bottom line for previous employers. Sometimes the compensation was in the form of a raise and sometimes it was a performance bonus for meeting goals. If you decide that I’m the right person for this position, I believe the monetary details won’t present a problem, and I’ll work with you on making that the case.

Age and attitude

Prime-timers may be perceived as living in another dimension of values and viewpoints or as set in their ways, as the following two questions and responses indicate:

  • How would you go about doing this job? (Translation: You’re accustomed to doing things your way, which may not be our way.)

    Although I’ve been quite successful in previous positions, I don’t buy the idea of resting on one’s laurels. I’m always happy to learn new and better ways to do things. Before suggesting any innovations, I would first make certain that I understand company policies and ways of working. I am very excited about this work opportunity and look forward to starting to work with you as soon as possible.

  • You look as though you’ve led too accomplished a life to be returning to a career now. (Translation: You don’t fit in with our young culture.)

    I believe that my extensive experience in many productive settings will be of great benefit to your company because (give one or two examples). I can work effectively with people of all ages. In fact, I really like working with young people because I respect their energy and vitality and fresh look at challenges.

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