Using age to your advantage

In IT, even 35-year olds can be seen as too elderly - but attitude trumps age

One minute you’re worried about being too young and inexperienced to land the role you want. And then what seems like the next day you’re parking your zimmer frame and wondering if your advancing years mean you should avoid even mentioning your age on your CV.

There are lot of "isms" for job seekers (and those seeking internal promotion) to worry about and ageism seems to be one a lot of people in IT have faced.

According to it’s surprising how young the prejudice sets in – it reports people as young as 35 who are affected. believes the problem comes from head hunters and agencies rather than company HR departments. It also believes the reasons older people are discriminated against include the belief they are “inflexible, expect more money, are not up-to-date on technologies and won't work as hard”.

So how do you respond to ageism? Well, the article points out that one 40-year-old reader suddenly started having success when he simply removed his age from his CV.

"On Monday this week I decided to remove my date of birth from my CV, and to cut a long story short, had a job offer by Wednesday,” he is quoted as saying.

The article quotes another reader who reckoned ageism was “a symptom of how we view IT”.

"If we thought of IT professionals as people who understand the principles of providing systems solutions... rather than experts in a particular technology, then we would have a basis for valuing experience that is not related to a particular technology."

On the positive side of the ledger, also got some positive feedback. This included some tips from a 74-year-old reader such as avoiding HR consultants and big corporations; getting business know-how; networking “like crazy outside your company once you hit 35” and learning how to write CVs and do job interviews.

The Internet Career Connection website has a different take on it, claiming that “the biggest problem with age discrimination you may encounter is internal”. It reckons employers pick up on “defeat, self-doubt and negativity”.

Its advice? When applying for jobs show things like your commitment to a long-term career and make sure your resume isn’t in an old-style format. It also advises not to include your entire working history on your resume.

“Regardless of your age, employers want to know what you can do for the job, not your entire history. Consider going back a maximum of 15 years.”

It advises including dates on the CV because otherwise, employers will wonder what you’re hiding. “An employer may be able to determine your age in an interview, but by then you will have earned the opportunity to sell yourself face-to-face on skills, not age.”

The article also advises looking at your professional image (to make sure it’s not outdated) and avoid mentioning things that draw attention to a generation gap. And don’t be defensive about your age.

“A positive, self-assured attitude that your age will not make a difference is the strongest weapon you possess.”

Writing on Veredus Executive Recruiting, Hamish Davidson says age discrimination does exist but offers a wide range of advice to combat it. This includes suggesting “a trade”.

“Say that you’ve seen the ad, got the pack [if there was one], might be interested, if I tell you more about myself, background and experience, can you tell me if you think I might be appropriate, and any hints/tips etc; is now convenient?”

He says you should consider what concerns the employer might have and address them assertively.

“That doesn’t mean you have to apologise about your age…… but it does mean showing, by your focus, care and attention a passion, energy and character that is, quite literally beguiling.”

Davidson says you should be able to talk about all the highlights of your career in 10-20 minutes.

Is there age discrimination in the New Zealand IT sector? Let me know your thoughts.

Mills is a Dunedin-based writer. She can be contacted at

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