Landing an interview for your dream role is a thrilling first step to securing a job in the social-impact sector. As you prepare, it’s natural to feel equal parts excited and nervous about sharing your interests, connecting with the interviewer, and learning more about the organization.
If you’re an older job seeker, you may also be concerned about navigating insensitive questions about your age and qualifications. If that’s the case, you’re not alone; about 40% of people aged 45-plus and 62% of those aged 55-plus report experiencing age discrimination during their job search, according to a survey from AARP.
While the ADEA federally prohibits age-based discrimination among employers with a staff of 20 or more, it’s not illegal for an interviewer to ask about your age. So how can you confidently navigate the application and interview process while overcoming the distraction of age bias?
Idealist and AARP have teamed up to help you detect and combat ageism throughout your social-impact job search. Check out our tips on finding age-inclusive organizations, navigating ageist questions, and more below.
How to find age-inclusive organizations
Before we explore how to address insensitive questions about your age, let’s consider which employers qualify as age-friendly. It’s critical to look into an organization’s background to get a sense of their values and culture well before you spend precious time on an application.
The good news is that there are plenty of nonprofits that understand the value of age, experience, and tenure that are also proudly cultivating age-inclusive cultures. To help you find them, here’s a helpful checklist to make sure an organization is actively recruiting, hiring, and retaining older professionals:
- Look into social media and branded materials. An organization’s website and social media channels can provide valuable insight into whether or not their staff is intergenerational. You can also keep an eye out for whether they share campaigns or statements that signal inclusive behavior.
- Review the organization’s values. Look to a nonprofit’s “About Us” page and “Values Statement” online to find intentional language around equity and inclusion. When reviewing a job listing, check to see if there is neutral language about the “ideal candidate” that doesn’t signal age bias. For example, terms like “recent grad” may be exclusionary to older applicants.
- Check the AARP Employer Pledge Signer program. The AARP Employer Pledge program lists employers that are committed to building age-inclusive workplaces. If a nonprofit you’d like to work for is listed, that means they actively recruit, hire, and retain older workers with age-inclusive policies and procedures. Pledge Signers are thoroughly vetted every three years to ensure there is no pattern and practice of age discrimination.
If you’ve already been invited to interview with an organization, pay attention to who is included in your interview panel. Is there age-diverse representation from a variety of departments? A multigenerational workforce is a promising sign that an organization is age-inclusive, and you should feel confident continuing your application process.
Navigating ageist questions
When you’re invited to interview with an organization, there’s a possibility you end up in an awkward position responding to an ageist or insensitive remark. Our advice? Don’t panic or react defensively.
Here are some suggestions to help you prepare how to respond if the situation arises:
- Tip #1: Remember, you do NOT have to share your age, even if an interviewer asks. Instead, consider redirecting the conversation to highlight how your experience qualifies you for the role, or sharing how you hope to grow in the organization.
- Tip #2: Address the underlying concern. If an interviewer asks about capabilities relating to your age, clarify if the question is relevant to the tasks you’ll perform. You may respond, “To clarify, are you asking about my ability to complete [insert task]?” Then, craft your answer to relay how you successfully solved a related problem.
- Tip #3: Respond to age-related assumptions with facts about your experience. If asked about working with a younger manager or team, you could say something like, “I’ve worked well with different generations, and I’ve always been pleasantly surprised about our ability to communicate and find common ground. I’ve found my assumptions to be really limiting, so I’m happy to talk more about my communication style or tools I use to manage my work.”
The social-impact sector needs you
Remember that organizations need you as much as you need them. Studies show that the presence of adults 50-plus in the workplace leads to increased productivity, profit margin, higher engagement, and reduced employee turnover.
In today’s age-diverse workforce, it’s common to find an employer whose workforce spans multiple generations. To find a position at a mission-driven organization, keep an eye out for employers that can best support your career, and be ready to communicate how you can contribute to a great workplace culture.
Planning on switching to the social-impact sector or returning to the workforce after a career gap? In our next blog post, Idealist and AARP will share tips on refreshing your professional materials to land your first social-impact role.
Idealist strives to help build a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives. Working with others, in a spirit of generosity and mutual respect, we seek to help current and aspiring social-impact professionals to imagine, connect, and act on the issues closest to their hearts.
AARP is the nation's largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people to choose how they live as they age, advocating for improved health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment for Americans 50-plus.