Not retiring: the age and CV dilemma

Should you disguise your age on your CV or is that giving in to ageism?

Laptop with CV on it depicting job search


There seems to be a lot of confusing advice around about CVs. I’ve heard that lots of recruitment specialists are advising older workers not to put their age or anything that shows their age on their CV.  It’s certainly what a lot of older people do if our annual survey is anything to go by. Yet it can be hard to truly disguise your age as things like exam qualifications – O Levels, for instance – instantly date you. Older people are also told to edit their employment history to the most recent and/or most relevant things, but if you’ve had a long career break the most recent may be a while ago and might hint at your age.

On the other hand, I’ve also heard from experts telling people to be proud of their age, not to hide it, but to positively promote the experience age brings. After all, there is a lot more awareness of age bias nowadays, they say, and there are still labour shortages in many areas, although they might not be the areas that most fit your skills. They just don’t know how to reach out to older workers, says the experts.

Yet if this is the case why are we still hearing from many older workers who are facing ageist barriers to recruitment? Maybe some employers do get the need to address ageism, but definitely not all. I spoke to a former news cameraman recently and he has not been able to get any work in the UK since returning at the age of 53, despite having covered the Bosnian war, South Africa’s first democratic elections and Princess Diana’s death. He did on job on his return, taking images of an awards ceremony. Two young people with clipboards were sent to monitor him to ensure he could take a picture of the outside of a building. It was a humiliating experience, but it’s one we hear about only too often.

So what is the answer? I’d like it to be that we make a positive case for age and experience, but the reality seems to be otherwise with some employers. Yet if they are ageist in the recruitment process, the likelihood is that hiding your age on the CV is not going to get you the job because once they see you at interview the bias will kick in. And if you scrape through the interview, what’s to say that those attitudes might not permeate the organisation?

While age shouldn’t be the only thing you have going for you, it should be seen as an asset. As one expert said: “Age isn’t everything, but it’s not nothing either.”

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