The Purpose Of Asking Questions About Age
Age discrimination represents a common issue many job seekers encounter while looking for employment. Some employers regard older applicants as out of touch with current workplace practices or too close to retirement to hire, while younger candidates sometimes deal with preconceived notions about their maturity, familiarity with professional norms, and ability to negotiate a fair salary. To help eliminate bias in the hiring process, federal law generally makes asking about age illegal on the grounds of potential discrimination by employers against an applicant based on age. Consequently, knowledgeable interviewers tend to avoid asking job seekers for a specific age, birthdate, or graduation year, as the information cannot legally influence a hiring decision. However, during the interview process, employers can legally ask if the candidate fulfills the minimum age requirement for the job.
How To Respond
To establish the eligibility of an applicant, the interviewer may ask, “Are you over the age of 18?” or whatever age minimum the hiring company imposes on employees. Answer the question truthfully, as employers can easily find out the age of a new hire and will generally retract the job offer of any associate who lied during the interview. While age-related interview questions often come across as inappropriate or unethical, demonstrating compliance with the minimum age requirements of the employer serves as an essential step in the hiring process. Therefore, respond to the question openly and with the assumption that the interviewer simply wants to ensure the hiring of candidates old enough to work.
When in Doubt, Refocus the Conversation
If the interviewer continues to inquire about age, remain calm and pleasant while steering the conversation back to the topic of the job opportunity. For example, focusing on the number of years of industry experience serves as an effective way to demonstrate eligibility for employment without revealing a specific age. Other strategies for responding to age-related questions include redirecting the discussion to emphasize relevant skills and attributes, recent accomplishments, and specific examples of professional success from previous jobs. In other words, clearly showing possession of the experiences and skills sought by the employer will help refocus the interview and, ideally, eliminate any concerns the hiring manager might have about the age of the applicant.