No matter who you are, it can happen to you.

How To Defeat Job Search Discrimination Today
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One of the questions I get asked most is about overcoming ageism.

More specifically, older job seekers – 40 year-olds and up – send in resumes that never get responses or worse, they show up to interviews only to hear that they're supposedly overqualified.

miriam ahern ageism most tolerated prejudice tweet

With this happening every day, how are “super-experienced” job seekers supposed to cope?

And what about sufferers of other forms of illegal recruiting discrimination based on gender, race, religion, disability, ethnicity, sexual preference, political affiliation, etc.?

Have you ever felt age discrimination on the job search?

Free bonus: The Midlife Job Search Report is a handy guide I compiled for older job seekers. Download it now.

The hard reality

Qualifications are often NOT the deciding factor for employers.

Qualifications are often NOT the deciding factor for employersClick To Tweet

Think about that for a second.

Doesn't seem fair, does it?

Yet it must be true. Otherwise, being overqualified wouldn't be such a common rejection. Instead, companies would consider the best, most hireable candidates to be the ones with the best/most qualifications, i.e. the overqualified ones.

Why it is true

There's research to back this up.

Northwestern University Management and Organizations professor Lauren Rivera's study “Hiring as Cultural Matching: The Case of Elite Professional Service Firms” appeared in the December 2012 edition of the American Sociological Review.

A Huffington Post article about it had this conclusion:

“Rivera found many people are looking for a good “cultural fit.” In other words, they want to find people with similar profiles to themselves outside of work. In fact, more than half of the study's participants rated “fit” as the most important criteria in hiring — even more so than analytical thinking and communication.

While these tendencies don't mean that employers hire unqualified candidates, Rivera said the research suggests that once job candidates have met a certain threshold in terms of their job skills, their interpersonal connection and fit with the interviewer become the deciding factors in whether they make it to the next round.”

And I can back it up

This reminds me of a story from my last salary job in France, managing a team of web developers.

It was the fall of 2003, and after a few weeks of discussion and intense lobbying, I got the go-ahead to hire a badly-needed new team member.

I wrote up a job description, HR published (a version of) it on at least one major job board, and resumes started to stream in.

After a few weeks of interviewing and testing the top 5 candidates, I had the shortlist narrowed down to two.

Here's the thing- they were both equally qualified.

I was convinced that either one could have succeeded in the role, but as you can imagine, I was leaning towards one of them.

To seal the deal, I sat down for a chat with my boss, who had also interviewed the final candidates.

“What do you think?” I asked, not yet telling him my own choice.

“The last two both seem good, but I like Victor [not his real name] more. He just seems like a cooler guy [to work with].”

“Me too.”

With this in mind, here is:

3 ways to beat any form of job search discrimination

As the one who anticipates being discriminated against, and depending on the type of discrimination, you potentially have 3 ways of dealing with the problem:

1) Ignore it

vickie gillis ageism is practiced every day tweet

Remember Victor above? He's black.

A few months after he joined the team, we were talking and I asked him if he'd ever had any problems with job interviewers, blatant or otherwise.

He said that he may have, but he long ago decided to take to heart an uncle's advice that those thoughts were too easy to use as an excuse for not getting the result wanted.

Vic will just go on to the next hiring company without thinking twice.

2) Take it on

If you think you're outside a company's desired candidate pool, you need to convince them that you're actually inside it, by adopting the same job search tools and practices that the desired candidates are using and learning about on blogs like JobMob.

If you're an older job seeker, you need to job search like a younger job seeker.

If you're a foreigner, you need to job search like a local.

You get the idea.

3) Avoid it

Thinking of applying for work at a certain company?

Simple: take a few minutes or even an hour to search their current employees' LinkedIn profiles, with an eye to looking for a proven track record of them having already hired people like you.

If you're a visible minority, check the employee portraits.

If you're an older job seeker, look for people with 20+ years of experience who aren't founders.


You don't want to work with anyone who doesn't want to work with you. Accept that it can happen and move on, putting yourself in a position to succeed with the tips above.

What others are saying about ageism

Question of the article

Have you ever felt any discrimination on your job search? What made you feel that way? Tell us in the comments.

Free Bonus

The Midlife Job Search Report is a handy guide I compiled to help older job seekers.

This free download contains:
  • 5 Common Mistakes Older Job Seekers Make
  • How To Defeat Any Form of Job Search Discrimination
  • How Older Job Seekers Beat These Common Stereotypes
  • 9 Scary Reasons Overqualified Job Seekers are Rejected
  • 40 Tips for Older Job Seekers That Actually Get Results
Click the image below to get access to The Midlife Job Search Report: The Midlife Job Search Report

JobMob Insiders can get this free bonus and other exclusive content in the JobMob Insider Bonuses area. Join now, it's free!

Bonus 2: Age Discrimination: How to Overcome it in a Job Interview

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Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Yehoshua Paul

    Good advice. I’m curious about what advice you’d offer to pregnant women or new mothers who don’t have a job in Israel. That type of discrimination is not that easy to spot on Linkedin or by examining a company profile.

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  3. Jacob Share

    Yehoshua- good question.

    In Pregnant Job Hunting: When You Should and When You Shouldn’t, I explained how to anticipate and handle any pregnancy-related job interview questions:

    1. Search LinkedIn for an ex-employee of the company and ask them to tell you about maternity leaves there or to refer you to someone who can.

    2. Ask friends, family and contacts for their stories of being able to manage the maternity leave transitions to their employers’ satisfaction.

    3. If you’ve already been a pregnant employee who successfully returned to work in the past, tell the story of how you and your past employer dealt with the situation. If not, tell one of the success stories you heard in Step 2. In both cases, adapt the lessons to the information you learned about the company in Step 1.

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    1. Moshe

      I have learned from experience that your cv should not include any irrelevant questions that may cause discrimination: no need to include your birthdate, year you were born, age, address, city you live in, sex, marital status.
      Some will be easy for a recruiter to figure out, if they really want to (dates on your education, amount of experience just for a few examples)
      Any phone call from a recruiter or hr co. that starts out: how old are you? Where do you live? Should be answered with “I fail to see the relevance, lets please stick with my professional knowledge and expertise”
      Another thing I have found to be true is that a recruiter who lives and works in the same city and wouldnt think of commuting out of town will find it hard to believe that someone would agree to do this. I had one recruiter tell me that the job is in Tel-Aviv, you live in Jerusalem? I said “Hey, its only 60 km, its no big deal”.

  5. alisa

    good article but I disagree on one thing: if I am older I do not have to look for a job like a younger candidate: I have to find a way to sell the experience accumulated in those years the younger person does not have and sell it to the recruiting team.
    I think I have to sell the fact that I have a lot to offer, that a young candidate does not have.
    that is if the job is not for Juniors of course….and if it is, I am not sure an older person should take that.

    1. Jacob Share

      Good comment. To clarify, I’m not saying you should dumb down your resume or look for entry level jobs, and I certainly don’t want anyone selling themselves short because that is why many employees are miserable.

      Rather, older job seekers should recognize that what worked for them 10-20-30 years ago probably won’t work today, and should start using the latest job search techniques that younger job seekers are using, such as social media. And even then, I’m generalizing.

  6. Moshe Egel-Tal

    If the hiring company is stupid enough to tell you the reason, and it is discrimination, you can sue for 50k sh without needing to prove any damages.
    The labor courts are strict with this.

    1. Jacob Share

      That’s good to know, here in Israel. I hope the courts as as strict elsewhere.

  7. Mitesh Sanghvi

    We should have stories ready that speak to your maturity as a value. For example, we might tell how you have been able to use your life experience to calm volatile workplace relationships among co-workers. You can point to your history of loyalty to employers to suggest that you aim for a long-term, productive relationship rather than seeing the job as a means to “the thing after that” to which you really aspire.

    1. Jacob Share

      Good suggestion, Mitesh, about personal marketing for older job seekers. Thanks

  8. Ruben

    The commenter who said that older workers should not look for jobs like young people do is 100% correct. In truth, younger people shouldn’t be doing it either. The hiring process is off kilter and needs to be professionalized, not turned its a race to the latest blogging, texting, twittering campaign of the week. There is already too much abuse and exploitation of personal data given for purposes of employment. You can not depend on young people to understand or appreciate the depth of the long term dangers of over exposure.

    They will have a better idea, however, when they reach 50 and have a 30 year old accumulation of personal data.

  9. Victor

    In the past 3 years, I’ve been getting this line of automated emails:
    “While we appreciate your interest in XYZ Company, we have other applicants who have a background and experiences that more closely fit our needs for this particular position.”

    The requirements for these positions are EXACTLY what I have done in the past 10 years. Yet I am starting to face two choices: be homeless or commit suicide.

    For this decision I have to make, I want to thank all the wonderful people who pretend to be so kind and polite. The ones who go about their business moving their facial muscles and showing their veneers, calling it a “smile”. They are the models of this fake, plastic society, who discriminate.

    People I worked with in the past claimed they have attention to detail. They are thorough, yet every one of them asked me “how did I do that”. I have been commented (positively) on my work ethic, and yet, at the end it comes down to those two simple choices: homelessness or suicide.

    Thank you kindly, fake, pretentious America, land of the “free”, land of the ignorant! And to those who pushed aside my resume, I wish you the same experience you have given… maybe one day…

    1. Jacob Share

      Hi Victor,
      Thanks for sharing your story. It’s good to rant!

      Have you seen this:

      There are employers out there who would love to have you, they just don’t know it yet and they might not even know how to find you, so you need to help them.

      But first, a little research that could go a long way: online and offline, look for employed people with similar qualifications and ask them to share their insights on how they found their job. People love to share stories where they look good, so give them that chance.

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