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How to Avoid Age Discriminaton in Job Interviews

by Adele Burney, studioD

The interview process is a challenging one for both the applicant and the interviewer. The applicant worries about being the best person for the job, and the interviewer wants to hire the most qualified person. The interviewer also must conduct the interview in a fair and balanced way while avoiding any discrimination. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects both workers and job applicants from age discrimination. Hiring managers must be careful in their speech and actions to avoid the appearance of age discrimination.

Job Advertisements

Before a someone shows up for an interview, they typically answer an online posting or newspaper notice advertising the position. A company, wishing to avoid any potential age discrimination land mines, needs to ensure that the job posting does not reflect any age bias. The way to accomplish this is by including pictures of all age groups in ads depicting workers, avoiding the use of certain phrases that implicate age such as recent college grad and young, and advertise in demographics that target all age groups, not just the local college paper. The only exception to this are jobs that have clear guidelines involving age such as law enforcement, air traffic controllers and fire rescue workers.

Avoiding Age Related Questions

It seems obvious that a person would avoid asking an applicant's age during an interview, however, many an interviewer has made this mistake the mistake.These questions can be: “When did you graduate college?”; “are you comfortable working with people younger than you are?” or “how long before you retire?” The questions may seem innocuous, however, they are all age related. A job applicant may view them as discriminatory even if they were not meant to be. If there is a fear that an applicant will not be around for a long time if hired, then a more appropriate question would be: “What are your long term career goals?” If there is a concern about a culture clash, “what is your ideal working environment?” might be an appropriate question. The goal is to hire the best candidate for the job. The interviewer’s questions should reflect that and not be a fishing expedition for unrelated information.

Keep Documentation

During the interview process, a manager or recruiter who keeps notes of all the applicants can potentially protect themselves from claims of discrimination. For example, if a recruiter’s notes reflect that a more qualified candidate was selected over an older candidate because of better education, more experience or other qualifying agent, a claim of discrimination would lack merit. Interviewing only qualified candidates you will likely hire also cuts down on the risk of age discrimination. Calling in every person who applies is not productive and opens a company up to potential lawsuits from the people who were not selected.

Educate Interviewers

Educating staff and managers on age discrimination or any discrimination, for that matter, goes a long way in avoiding lawsuits. Making people aware of questions that can be seen as ageism will help them when interviewing applicants. It is also important to educate workers on the rewards of having a diverse staff. Having people of all genders, races and ages in a workplace helps to enhance the flow of creativity. It also helps fortify a company against claims of age discrimination when the workforce reflects that the opposite is true.

About the Author

Adele Burney started her writing career in 2009 when she was a featured writer in "Membership Matters," the magazine for Junior League. She is a finance manager who brings more than 10 years of accounting and finance experience to her online articles. Burney has a degree in organizational communications and a Master of Business Administration from Rollins College.

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