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As many of you already know, the research shows that your résumé has about 10-12 seconds on average to impress a recruiter or employer or not (scary, eh?). I can assure you that one of the things they look for in that short time, is to see whether your education matches the requirement for a particular job. Of course, it is hard not to notice your year of graduation that many people list next to the degree. As a former recruiter, I can also tell you, that human nature being what it is, it is a natural response for many recruiters to estimate your age based on this date.
So, the question is, is there a problem with that? Well, legally an employer (or a job application form) only has the right to ask you if you are a least 18. There is no requirement that you specify your exact age – on an application form or on a résumé. No employer would ever ask you how old you are. And let’s think about this, especially for anyone getting a little older (and there are many of us out there!) ….would you state on a résumé: “I am 30 years old? Or 45? Or 52?
And yes, to be blunt, I am talking about possible age discrimination. When I mention this to my clients, some say, “Well, if an employer is going to discriminate against my age, then I do not want to work for them.” While that may be true, any age basis on their part may not be intentional. It is just that you have given away personal information on the résumé that influences the screening process. Recruiters look at TONS of résumés, and the sad but true fact is that the initial stages of the hiring process are a process of elimination.
The most important thing you need to do at this point is to feel confident that recruiters are focusing on the critical issues of the résumé – your skills, your experience, your accomplishments, and what you can do for them, so that they call you for an interview. You want to be sure that they are not distracted by other issues. If you go on the interview and then find there is truly an issue– age or otherwise, well, at that point, you may decide you do not want to work for them.
Experts in the résumé industry recommend that once you hold a couple of full-time professional positions and/or have finished formal education for 10 years, you can simply “delete” your date of graduation. Now you might ask, “Can’t they estimate my age from the dates of the first job listed?” Yes they can. And there are ways to deal with this, too – but that will have to wait for a future article!