Dear Sam: I have had four interview requests within the past six weeks. While this is encouraging, the application process may be disqualifying me as a candidate. The application reveals my age by asking for my birthdate. I handle the age issue by reminding the interviewer that I do not intend on retiring for many years. But, when the application asks for my past employment history, I am listing salaries that are higher than the jobs I am interviewing for. I feel that this is a disqualifier but I do not want to lie. Do I leave my salary history blank? – L.J.
Dear L.J.: Salary questions are so touchy. The school of thought is that whomever brings up salary first loses. If you do not have to include salary history data, I would definitely avoid providing that information. Unfortunately however many applications require those fields and, if completing the application online, sometimes the application will not proceed to the next question without certain answers being completed. When this is the case, if there is a space for comments—or if you have direct access to the employer via an introductory email or in-person interview—I would make it clear that while your salary history reflects a certain level, you are not seeking compensation in that range for your next role. Being honest and forthright can only help your chances in this case given you feel you are being disqualified based on this information alone.
Now, another thing you may be able to do is not to provide information on every job you have held since the infancy of your career. Be sure to read the application language carefully. If it is calling for you to enter every job ever held then you must do so, but perhaps it is only asking for 10 years or maybe the last 5 jobs. Just be sure you are not giving away more information that is actually required based on careful review of the application language. I do understand however that when an application asks for your birthdate, there is little you can do to not convey your age. Sometimes I find that candidates expect to have to present “everything” on an application when the language actually doesn’t demand such detail. Try to emulate the more strategic picture you have created on your resume when at all possible to ensure the application does not serve as a potential disqualifier. Best of luck.
Dear Sam: I am over 60 years old, college educated, but unable to find employment. Three years ago I lost my job for a reason that is currently in dispute as I sued my former employer on being terminated. Sometimes I get an interview and all seems to go well, but then I hear nothing. I realized that lawsuit data is readily available online, so I am concerned that potential employers are finding this information and it is causing an adverse reaction. I am the victim in the lawsuit but I feel like this may be keeping people from hiring me. How should I address this issue? What can people do when they want to stand up for their rights, but not hurt themselves for future jobs? – Anonymous
Dear Anonymous: I trust until the event(s) that led to your termination that you contributed strong performance. If that is the case I would garner all the “evidence” you can as to your performance, whether that comes in the form of past performance reviews, letters of recommendation, or more informal recommendations from peers via LinkedIn. When I work with clients who are in similar situations—while there is little you can do to prove or prevent discrimination based on the results of formal or informal background checks—I arm my clients with the power to proactively mitigate their risks. If you believe a background check will be completed, after your interview I would recommend providing the interviewer with an explanation of the situation, being sure to stay positive throughout your description. Take about what this experience taught you in terms of what you are looking for in your next employer, and provide ample professional and character references. Employers understand that there are often situations beyond your control and not all employers discriminate based on that information alone. I would be certain your resume and interviewing skills are not hindering the process as it is easy to pin the blame on things we can’t see, often causing us to overlook solutions to help mitigate our concerns. I wish you the most success as you navigate this challenge.