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Here’s how to fight age bias against your job application!

Age Bias

Are you concerned about facing age bias in your job search?

As we progress in our careers, the possibility of encountering age discrimination becomes a reasonable concern. Especially when your peers begin noticing it happening to them, too.

We can all agree: age should not be a determining factor in one’s ability to perform a job effectively.

Unfortunately, a number of studies and anecdotal evidence confirm that age bias is prevalent, particularly during the earliest stages of recruitment, such as resume screening.

This article isn’t about spooking you. Instead, we want to empower you to fight back. But to do this, you need to understand what first-stage filterers (AKA applicant tracking systems or human resume screeners such as internal recruiters) look out for, and then deploy tactics to overcome these.

Because at the end of the day, it’s not your age that matters: it’s your ability to do the job, evidenced by your background and experience vs subjective biases and first impressions.

In this blog post, we explore 13 common signals that may inadvertently reveal your age to recruiters. We also share easily actionable tactics to mitigate the potential for age discrimination against your job application.

Understanding Age Bias in Hiring

But first things first. What exactly is ‘age bias’?

Age bias often stems from preconceived notions and stereotypes about different age groups, usually from those younger or older than that particular group. Some common age biases in recruitment include:

  • Assumptions about ‘older workers’: Hiring decision makers may wrongly assume that older candidates are less adaptable, resistant to technology, and lack energy. These biases overlook the valuable skills and experience seasoned candidates bring to the table
  • Perception of productivity in younger candidates: Some recruiters may believe that younger candidates are more productive and have greater long-term potential. This bias can disadvantage older applicants in securing roles with growth prospects
  • Youth-centric innovation: Societal emphasis on youth is often associated with innovation. Despite possessing knowledge, stability, and expertise, older candidates may seem less attractive to companies that prioritize a perceived connection between youth and groundbreaking ideas
  • Cost considerations: Managers may view older workers as more expensive due to higher salary expectations and benefits. This bias can lead to a preference for younger candidates who are seen as more cost-effective resources
  • Tech proficiency misconceptions: Swift technological changes may lead hiring managers to believe that older individuals will struggle with new tech, even when it’s not necessarily true
  • Team cohesion concerns: Recruiters might worry that older candidates will have difficulty fitting into younger teams, leading to a bias in favor of younger candidates for better team cohesion
  • (Un)conscious personal biases: Recruiters, like everyone else, harbor unconscious biases tied to age, which can contribute to discrimination during the hiring process

Fighting Back: 13 Powerful Strategies to Address Age Bias Triggers

Drawing on our nearly twenty years of coaching thousands of job seekers and engaging with hundreds of recruiters and headhunters, our career experts have compiled 13 age bias signals and counter tactics to reduce triggering subconscious discrimination against your job application.

#1 Shorten Your Resume Career History

Focus on recent roles, primarily the last 10-15 years of your career. With the greater emphasis these days on resumes tailored to specific role types vs your entire career history anyway, recruiters won’t be suspicious if you trim yours down. If you wish to mention previous relevant roles, then you can simply add a line to list any earlier job titles and company names if relevant.

#2 Manage Your Resume Length:

Keep your resume concise, ideally within two pages. Unless you’re a project professional or work in academia, avoid an excessively long resume (3 pages or more). Long resumes signal an abundance of experience, potentially triggering age bias.

#3 Exclude Graduation Years:

Putting the year you graduated from high school or university is one of the first things that give away how old you are. In most cases, when you graduated doesn’t even matter: it’s your actual practical experience that counts. So, omit graduation years from your resume to shift the focus to your skills and qualifications rather than your age. Highlight what you studied, showcasing the relevance of your education to the position.

#4 Limit Personal Details:

Remove unnecessary personal details such as your date of birth, or your birth year from your email address, to minimize age-related cues.

#5 Update Job Titles:

Modernize outdated job titles to align with the positions you’re applying for. For example, job titles including the word ‘clerk’ are no longer common. Use current industry-standard titles to ensure your career history is easy to understand and avoids perceptions of being dated.

#6 Choose an ATS-Friendly Template:

Opt for a modern Applicant Tracking System (ATS)-friendly template to improve compatibility with automated screening processes. That means avoiding text boxes, graphics, icons, columns or images, as ATS can’t ‘read’ these properly.

#7 Select Modern Fonts:

Fonts are not only a sign of generational trends (remember the Comic Sans craze of the 1990s?); they can also heavily influence the recipient’s impression of you. Choose contemporary fonts like Calibri or Arial to give your resume a fresh and current appearance. Traditional options like Times New Roman not only look fuddy-duddy, but they can be visually unappealing to modern audiences.

#8 Remove Outdated Skills or Interests

Eliminate outdated skills that may signal an older skill set, such as shorthand, filing, WordPerfect, or Y2K-related expertise. Emphasize proficiency in current technologies and tools relevant to your industry, such as cloud-based software.

#9 Avoid Double Spacing

Use single spacing between sentences to avoid signaling an outdated typing style associated with older workers (i.e. those who learned to type on a typewriter).

#10 Remove References

While some younger job seekers may also include a references section (or the ubiquitous ‘References Upon Request’) upon the advice of older family members, it’s more common knowledge with this crowd that a reference section is no longer expected by contemporary employers.

#11 Objective Statement

While we’re on the subject of contemporary, here’s something to be aware of: objective statements at the top of your resume are so last century. The objective of your application is addressed in your cover letter. Instead, use this space for a short paragraph that summarises who you are professionally – your career level, experience, and key industries/areas of expertise. This will get the attention of recruiters much more than a generic and bland statement.

#12 Hobbies & Interests

Unless you have some unique hobbies and interests, it’s generally recommended to leave these out of your resume altogether these days (otherwise, every resume would state travel, reading, and food as pastimes!). This is especially true for anything that may hint at being of a more experienced generation, such as CD collecting (nothing against CDs, of course!). If it’s unexciting (to the reader) or dates you, then leave it off.

#13 Copies of Certificates

Another clue that you could be an older applicant is that you include copies of your certifications and qualifications at the end of your resume. This used to be common practice until about 15 or 20 years ago. It’s no longer required unless HR asks for these later in the hiring process. Otherwise, they’re not necessary - or even wanted. Mention these if relevant in your resume instead.


It’s important to note that honesty and transparency are vital. So never actually deceive or lie about your age to potential employers.

You can’t control how applicant tracking systems, recruiters, or hiring managers perceive your application. However, there’s lots you can do to get past biases and stereotypes without resorting to dishonesty.

By using these 13 tactics, you’ll have greater success in bypassing initial filters and ensuring your experience and skills take center stage. If a company engages in age discrimination despite your efforts, consider it a red flag about their values and culture.

In summary: embrace your experience and expertise. Never forget that they’re valuable assets, no matter how early or far along your career path you are.

Key takeaways

  1. Age bias in hiring is fueled by stereotypes and preconceptions about different age groups
  2. Shorten your career history: focus on recent roles within the last 10-15 years to highlight relevant expertise vs length of experience
  3. Keep your resume concise (ideally within 2 pages) to avoid signaling an abundance of experience
  4. Omit graduation years to shift focus to skills and qualifications rather than age
  5. Minimize age-related cues by removing unnecessary personal details such as your birth year in your email address
  6. Modernize earlier job titles (if necessary) to align with current industry trends
  7. Opt for a modern resume style compatible with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
  8. Choose fonts like Calibri or Arial for a contemporary appearance
  9. Emphasize proficiency in current technologies and tools; eliminate outdated resume skills
  10. Use single spacing to avoid signaling an outdated typewriter era style
  11. Skip including a references section as it’s no longer expected by contemporary employers
  12. Replace outdated objective statements with a short paragraph summarizing your professional identity
  13. Avoid including generic hobbies, especially those that may hint at a more experienced generation
  14. There’s no need to include copies of your certifications or other qualifications with your resume. When HR wants them, they’ll ask. Until then, they’re just extra paper that the recruiter probably won’t read anyway
  15. Remember, the goal is not to deceive, but to present your qualifications in a way that focuses on your capabilities rather than age-related assumptions.

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