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How to discuss age in cover letter?

by Anonymous

I have been applying for an entry level position as a programmer (after going back to school) for 8 months now. I have had several interviews but no job offers.

Although age may have nothing to do with this... it also might. If age is a stumbling block for the employer, I want to know up front, before the interview. Frankly I would rather not get an interview than give up a day's work (read pay), rent a car and travel a couple of hours only to have an interviewer look surprised at my age, ask 3 questions and shake my hand, never to be heard from again.

I know it's illegal to discriminate against age, but let's face it... discrimination does happen, they just don't admit it. So... as a new tactic, I want to break the rules and discuss age in my cover letter and need to know how to do this gracefully. Something nicer than:
  • I am applying for the job of programmer
  • I am older than the average new grad
  • Here are the advantages to hiring a mature worker over a younger worker
  • Here is how I have overcome the disadvantages

I don't want to be told not to discuss age... that has already been discussed to death on the internet.

Thanks for any help in phrasing this as palatably as possible.


ANSWER: Wanda, first off I just want to remind you that the job market is terrible just now. There tend to be 100s of applicants for nearly every position, particularly entry level positions, because not only are you competing with new grads, but you're also up against all the career changers or people who've lost better jobs and are willing to take whatever they can get, even if it means a big step down from where they were before.

So, as you say, your age could have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you haven't gotten the jobs you've interviewed for.

But you're also right that some recruiters DO discriminate (unlawfully) against older applicants. I have a couple of thoughts...

First off, I should think your resume is the best way to communicate your age, as it should be showing several years, at least 10, of experience. Even if the experience isn't relevant to the positions you're trying to get now, you still should be showing it, as it IS your work background.

Second, if you're including your entire educational history, which does generally include dates that degrees were obtained, that should be another clue to a recruiter of your approximate age.

But in your cover letter, it's always a good idea to sell yourself. You must already be doing a fairly good job of doing that if you're getting interviews; only a small percentage of applicants get interviewed these days.

Although you seem to have discounted the points you list above, I actually like a couple of them. I think you could say something like, "My years of diverse work experience have given me a strong foundation in mastering new skills and overcoming challenges..." and "I have developed strong communication/teamwork/goal-setting skills as a result of my years of corporate experience."

Those are just examples. It communicates the point that you have some maturity, without beating them over the head with it.

Lastly, if you're not progressing past the interview, I DO think you also need to think about your performance at the interview. It might not have anything at all to do with your age...

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