A recent Craigslist ad looking for writers for an online publication called the Seattle Star included this language: "we need young, enthusiastic, flexible writers..." It gave pause to a lot of people -- most of whom were on the far side of 30 and who flinched when they came to the word "young."
Isn't this blatant age discrimination? people asked. In Jim Romenesko's media column about the ad (headlined "'Old' Journalists Shouldn't Bother Applying For Seattle Star Job Openings,") Star publisher Omar Willey seemed unfazed. He said in a Facebook comment: "So sue me. Sheesh." He also said that he wouldn't take down the ad. Willey did not respond to a message left by the Huffington Post.
But as Deborah Gallant, a business coach and consultant to many mid-lifers and second-careerists, says, much of the time, age discrimination is subtle. Here are five tips she shared about how to recognize if it might be happening to you in your job hunt.
1) The employer will only communicate with you on Twitter.
Mid-lifers are comfortable with Facebook and many use Twitter. But everyone knows: Twitter skews younger. Gallant had a client who wanted to follow up after he had had an in-person interview. While her client has and uses Twitter, it is far from his go-to choice for the best platform to use when communicating with a perspective employer. Yet it was the only place he could get a response. After email failed to elicit an answer, he looked up the CEO's Twitter account and tried there. He reached the CEO but still didn't get the job.
2) The interviewer uses cultural references that he knows you won’t get.
Every post-60 knows better than to start a sentence with "When I was at Woodstock," right? But sometimes a young interviewer might mention a line from last night's HBO's "Girls." Not quite in your wheelhouse, and yeah, says Gallant, it's a safe bet that they knew that.
3) You come in a suit and they’re dressed casually and they say something about it.
Knowing the corporate culture of where you are applying is important. And certainly many startups have loosened the old dress code rules. But what makes the above scenario such an subtle discrimination slap is that your interviewer mentions it to you. When he says "nice suit," he's likely thinking of the one his father wears. Or worse, the one he wore to his Bar Mitzvah ceremony 10 years ago.
4) Mentioning that they googled you and deciding if you look surprised.
They will google you. Be more concerned about what they will find, says Gallant, not the fact that they went beyond what you told them on your resume. Everyone googles everyone. Failing to google the people who will be interviewing you would be an even greater mistake than looking surprised.
5) They note that you have more than one phone number on your resume.
They may ask "which number should we use to reach you?" but what they are thinking is "Wow! He has two phone numbers." This would be, of course, something that dates you. Land lines are history; fax lines belong to dinosaurs. You have one number and it's your cell. (And if you still have a land line number, keep it to yourself and the robo-callers.)