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Recognizing Ageism in Your Job Search

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The fashion industry job market can be challenging for individuals over the age of 45, with seasoned in this age bracket being particularly impacted by long-term unemployment. While ageism has always been a concern in interviews and hiring processes, the retail apocalypse/COVID lockdowns/inventory shortages/dock issues/inventory oversupply issues have exacerbated the situation. As the job market recovers, it is crucial for mature job seekers to be aware of potential age-related biases they might encounter. In this article, we will explore the subtle signs of ageism in interviews and provide actionable strategies to address them effectively.

Recognizing Subtle Ageism in Interviews

Cultural emphasis on certain elements:
While companies seek candidates who align with their culture, excessive emphasis on “culture fit” can be a disguised form of ageism. If interviewers overly stress the importance of fitting in, especially when the company predominantly consists of younger employees, they may unfairly judge older applicants. Additionally, if the interview hints at a social culture that involves after-work activities, it could indicate age-related discrimination.

Doubt regarding qualifications:
Ageism affects not only older workers but also younger individuals who may experience reverse ageism. If your qualifications are met with skepticism or your experience is doubted, it could indicate bias. Dismissive language, such as colloquial terms or questioning your abilities, suggests a lack of serious consideration.

Excessive formality in the interview:
If the interview feels excessively rigid and formal, especially when the interviewers are considerably younger, it might be an indication of age-related bias. When the formality diminishes the relevance and significance of the questions asked, it could reflect an underlying ageist reaction.

Questions about college graduation year:
Inquiring about your graduation year can be an indirect attempt to estimate your age since explicitly asking for it is illegal in many states. Instead of directly answering, you can redirect the conversation to focus on your education and highlight relevant achievements and experiences.

Reference to assumptions rather than asking open-ended questions:
During an interview, the employer should approach you with open-ended inquiries to determine if the role aligns with your needs. If interviewers make assumptions about your preferences, work-life balance, or willingness to adapt, it suggests age-related biases. These assumptions might revolve around accepting lower compensation or deferring to younger colleagues, implying that your age could be perceived as a problem.

Excessive focus on technology familiarity:
While it’s reasonable to expect some questions about technical proficiency, an interview that disproportionately emphasizes technology can be a sign of ageism. Answering such questions confidently, emphasizing your abilities, and combining honesty about your tech skills and learning mindset can help navigate this situation.

Absence of questions about future career goals:
When interviewers fail to inquire about your future career aspirations, it could indicate age-related bias. This commonly asked question provides insights into an applicant’s long-term commitment. If this question is omitted, assumptions might be made about your potential longevity with the company based on age-related stereotypes.

Strategies to Address Ageism in Interviews

Steer the conversation:
If you encounter questions that seem connected to ageist assumptions, redirect the conversation towards areas where you have control. Emphasize your skills, experiences, and adaptability throughout your career. By showcasing your ability to continuously learn and apply knowledge, you can counteract age-related stereotypes.

Highlight multi-generational teamwork:
Proactively demonstrate your success in working with colleagues of all ages, particularly younger team members. Highlight instances where you collaborated effectively, showcasing your ability to adapt and thrive in a multi-generational environment. This helps dispel any concerns about your compatibility with younger coworkers.

Explore legal options:
If you experience significant ageism during interviews, it might be worth considering legal action. While falling back on your experience and commitment to learning is crucial, explicit age-based discrimination can be protected under laws such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 in the United States. Consult with legal professionals to evaluate the viability of pursuing legal remedies.

Ageism in job interviews can present subtle challenges for mature job seekers. By recognizing the signs of age-related biases and employing effective strategies, individuals can navigate these hurdles and strive for fair and unbiased treatment. Remember, age should never be a deterrent to pursuing fulfilling career opportunities.

Chris Kidd is the owner of,,, and

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