Is this fair? Is it even legal? And most importantly, should you give in to such nonsense? Let’s put it this way: If you are over 40, you need to read on.
No one wants to hire someone who's stuck in the old-fashioned way of thinking that being qualified, working hard and being loyal to a company is enough. Your Princeton degree and enviable references won't get you far if you're that naïve.
So back to the age thing.
While many workers have learned that good looks and a polished appearance go a long way toward success in the workplace, too many of them fail to realize that cultivating the perception of youth and a hip attitude is an equally important part of the equation. It's no secret that we live in an age-obsessed society. Like it or not, "interviewing younger" is the new catchphrase.
"Interviewing younger" and being perceived as more youthful at the office is a vocabulary, a body language and a look. And here's a secret: These rules apply even more when your boss is your age or even older. It's not like you are following these rules to impress a young person. Whatever the age of your boss or interviewer, you need to create a youthful perception about yourself. Otherwise, there's someone else waiting in the wings with quicker computer skills and contemporary pop-culture knowledge that will be all too happy to fill your shoes.
So how do you do it? Here are some great things you can do without involving plastic surgery:
Rule #1: Crest Whitestrips. Yup, this is a shallow, cosmetic-based tip. But I get so many letters from people who just don't understand that having coffee-stained teeth doesn't do you any favors in the interview department. Stop rolling your eyes; go buy the strips (use the store brand for all I care – I'm not picky); and whiten those teeth. Then smile. Smiling makes you look and feel younger – not bitter, old and unemployed. I don't care if you really are bitter, old and unemployed. It's about perception, remember?
Rule #2: If you are over 40, make sure you have an appropriate LinkedIn profile and Facebook page today. If you don't know how to join, let your kids show you, or even better, have a young person at work "reverse mentor" you on how it works. Let that same person help you choose your profile picture.
Rule #3: Know about and frequently use Google and Wikipedia. Bookmark them on your computer, and set one as your homepage.
Rule #4: Peruse your local Apple store. At least learn the difference between an iPod, an iPhone and an iPad. It's all about perception.
Rule #5: Do not disclose your SAT scores. If for some reason you still remember your SAT scores, keep them to yourself. Not only does no one care, but the scoring isn't even the same anymore, and you'll just wind up aging yourself.
Rule #6: Don't talk about how you're so addicted to Starbucks. Or Coffee Bean, or whatever your coffee place of choice is. It seems like this would make you appear younger, but it won't. Starbucks screams "unemployed loser." Besides, you should never walk into an interview with a coffee cup, especially since you just whitened those teeth.
Rule #7: Learn how to text.
Rule #8: Lose the paper. Young people get their news online - they don't read newspapers. So don't carry one into an interview with you or be seen reading it at the office like someone's mom or dad.
Rule #9: Brush up on sports. This is easy; you can still get away with talking about Michael Phelps and get credit for this one. Bonus points for knowing anything about the Cowboys, Stars and Rangers.
Rule #10: Make eye contact. Eye contact is so critical to being perceived as young; don't be afraid to use it.
Rule #11: Rarely refer to your children – and especially your grandchildren. Never refer to your grandchildren and never ever your great-grandchildren. When asked if you have children say “yes” or “no” and do not go into their ages and how many grandchildren each has bless you.
Rule #12: Go to the gym. Or at least be able to honestly say you work out at home.
Rule #13: Never talk about the ’80s or ’90s. Never use words "in your day." Nothing at work is groovy, dye-no-mite, or tubular. Ever!
Rule #14: Practice "sounding young" on the phone. Take a small survey of how old you sound on the phone, and then practice with a friend sounding younger. (A tip: Talk higher and peppier.) This is critical. In the same vein, make sure your outgoing voicemail message isn't too long or boring. Short and sweet with a positive attitude is all you need.
Rule #15: Dress is very important: always dress age-appropriate.
Rule #16: Give your hairstyle a long, hard look. No wonder there are so many makeover shows! My advice is to ask an outsider his or her opinion. Someone who loves you won't want to hurt your feelings or may love your look for sentimental or romantic reasons – but sadly, that won't help you find a job. A bad coloring job spells disaster for both men and women, and let's face it, hair weaves for men rarely work.
Rule #17: Men, keep your nose and ear hair trimmed at all times and please keep those bushes over your eye-lids trimmed. Ladies, please pluck or bleach your facial hair.
Rule #18: Skip the cologne and excessive perfume. And while we're on the subject, wear deodorant. You may laugh, but many people just don't do it.
Rule #19: Do you wear glasses? OK, maybe you cannot or choose not to wear contacts, but who said your glasses purchased at Walmart 10 years ago make you look your best? Take a look around you, look at the impact someone like Sarah Palin made in the look and style of her glasses. What impact would she have made if she had appeared to America in some large egg-shaped, thick-rimmed glasses?
Rule #20: Tie with suit for men and dress suits for women are always appropriate outfits for an interview. Men, please make sure your dress shirt looks crisp and fits your neck. Men, please make sure your tie is no wider than 3 inches and that it comes down to cover half of your belt. Men, not to pick on you, but please make sure your shoes and belt match in color and that your shoes are nicely polished and not worn looking.
Bonus Rule #21: Never eat or drink coffee right before an interview. The last thing you need going against you is to have coffee breath or a fresh stain on your outfit in the interview. Either of these infractions is liken to a grammatical error on your resume. Like your resume, you must come across polished, likeable and a problem solver – not a person that has problems.
Okay... Feel any younger, or just berated?
We just took 10 to 15 years off the way you come across in person. It's all about perception ... and perception is the new reality.