The Ugly Truth, Age Discrimination

Are you too old to work?

Long in the Tooth...

“So then the headhunter said something that took my breath away,” said my caller, Philip.

“He told me that his client looked at my resume and said it looked great, but then he found my LinkedIn profile and decided I’m a little long in the tooth for the job.”


“Long in the tooth?” I asked. “As in old?”


“Exactly,” said Philip. “The headhunter actually told me that the client said I was too old for the job. I asked him if that was illegal – I’m pretty sure it is – and he said that the client’s view is that if they don’t interview me, I’m not a candidate, so it’s not discrimination.”



-Philip talking to Liz Ryan

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What is Philip going to do – sue the employer he never met because a third-party recruiter told him that one hiring manager made an inappropriate comment? So-called Failure to Hire cases are notoriously hard to bring and even harder to prove. As long as the organization ends up hiring someone who is qualified for the job, how could Phil ever prove that he was rejected because of his age? It’s not as though the organization is going to publish the new hire’s age for all the other candidates to see.

Age discrimination is everywhere. I hear more examples of age discrimination than I hear about sex discrimination, racial discrimination and every other kind put together. I expect that’s because some employers believe that older workers aren’t as nimble or perhaps aren’t as easy to train. Some of them undoubtedly worry that an older person is necessarily overqualified, and thus likely to bolt the minute a better job comes along.


“We could hire Philip, who could do this job in his sleep,” the manager might say, “or Sarah, who’s going to grow into it but who could be here for years to come.”


-Liz Ryan