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Although it may seem like it is rare for an interviewer to ask a direct question regarding the age of a candidate, since asking about someone’s age is not something appropriate to do during job interviews. However, age discrimination is still a significant issue for many adult and older job seekers. Asking the interviewee’s age directly is discriminatory, but how your respond to it can have a significant impact on the outcome of your interview.
You could run into age-related questions if the hiring manager is inexperienced and unaware that this question is inappropriate, or that they’re purely curious. But it’s more probable that the interviewer has ulterior motives regarding issues like your health condition, retirement, salary, or work performance. An unethical or untrained interviewer could propose a direct question about your age; and occasionally, a recruiter might fish around with questions that lead to insights about your age like asking which year you graduated, when you started your first job, or how long you’ve been at each of your past positions.

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Here are six example responses from Business Insider, on how you could respond to an age-related question without coming off as combative and hurting your chances of securing the job:

  1.  “I’ve been in the workforce for a number of years, but I also plan to work for many more — and hopefully that includes this company. I’ve been fortunate to work at companies where age diversity is viewed as a plus. It that also your approach here?”
  2.  “I received my degree many years ago. I returned to college and later finished my degree. Since that time, I’ve gained great experience, but I’m always excited about learning more and contributing in a team environment.”
  3.  “I certainly have a great deal of experience. Are you asking this for a particular reason that I should be aware of? I want to be in-tune with every job requirement.”
  4.  “May I ask, are you concerned about how my skill set or education will apply? I think you will find that I’m an asset for the projects you have mentioned/listed. My most recent accomplishment was [xyz], and it will benefit your company because [abc].”
  5.  “If you’re concerned about my level of experience, I have focused on this specialty area for several years and contributed [xyz] to my former employers. I’d like to expound on some of the projects that specifically relate to this job description — and the excellent results I achieved. Would that be helpful?”
  6.  “My age hasn’t been an issue in the past. But you should know that I do feel confident in that I can contribute a great deal to your firm with my level of experience and maturity. Perhaps you can tell me more about your concerns so I can understand them more clearly, and better explain how I can meet your needs.”

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When encountering an age-sensitive question during a job interview, explain that you believe your age would be an asset, you are eager to learn, and you can bring skill sets and experience to the table that no one else can. Also, describing your recent experiences, whether at work or in other situations, where age diversity has been an asset could help sooth the interviewer’s nerves over the age topic.
Age discrimination exist because there are a lot of common but erroneous presumptions hiring managers often make towards older candidates. For example, when interviewing older workers, some biased and often untrue assumption a interviewer often make is that older employees lack some critical qualities such as flexible approach to changing circumstances, ability to keep up with the latest industry trends, knowledge of modern technologies, ability to communicate and work with younger works, which they assume to have a negative impact on the worker’s job performance. Moreover, health conditions and retirement dates may also be some major concerns the hiring managers have towards older workers.
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Referencing examples of past work experience on critical projects, and quantitative measures of productivity can help counteract assumptions about lack of focus and energy. By emphasizing creative approaches to problem solving, you can demonstrate your flexibility and their ability to adjust to new challenges. Mentioning your enjoyable past experience in working with younger co-workers, working with (if not, learning about) the latest technologies in the industry will help reduce the concerns regarding your ability to work with modern technologies and millennial workers.
In summary, when answering age-related questions, you want to guide the line of questioning into a more professional direction by focusing on your skill set and ability to contribute to the company. Keep in mind that if you feel the interviewers have concerns regarding your age, the best approach is to use their question as an opportunity to showcase your qualifications, skills and experience, as well as to prove to the interviewer that you are not only qualified, but also have all the other assets the company is looking for in an ideal candidate.
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