Ageism is a major challenge in every industry and medicine is no exception. Now more than ever, it’s important that you do all you can to protect yourself. Today, having too much experience can be detrimental to your job prospects. According to a 2015 AARP Public Policy Institute study, a non-government organization for people aged 50 years and older, age discrimination has become the most prevalent discrimination in the workplace. Surveys on workplace age discrimination reveal that more than 60% of workers have experienced or at least witnessed age discrimination. “Most people won’t even interview you at my age,” says Joseph Heether, MD, a General Surgeon with over 28 years of experience. “I would talk to a hospital recruiter who says my CV and record look great, then never get a call from the hospital they were forwarded to. I never thought my age would be a problem in my profession”
Age-proofing your CV is a necessity.
In addition to age, older workers are also at a numbers disadvantage which further exacerbates the problem. There are 89 million millennials (born 1981 through 1996) and 49 million Generation Xers (born 1965 through 1980) compared to 75 million baby boomers (born 1946 through 1964. Yet labor participation rate for those aged 55 to 64 is only around 65% while the rate is over 81% for those aged 25 to 54. Add to that the cost analyses companies engage in when making hiring decisions. The greater experience and higher salary requirements of an older doctor makes them expensive to companies looking to retire older and hire younger. “(Companies) are hesitant to take a chance on you when you’re older,” notes Heether. “They’re afraid you may not want to work for the money they’re offering. They figure also you may only be able to give them at most 10 years.”
What Can You Do?
The first order of business as a job-seeker – get the interview. Your CV should not be more than 2 pages long and it is important you limit your experience to the past 10 years. Going back any further will date you. It’s also best if you exclude the years you graduated from college and medical school. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits age discrimination against people 40 and older, but it persists and is insidiously widespread.
Is It Your Age or Your Salary?
If you’ve made it through the initial screenings because you edited your CV you could end up sitting across from a hiring manager who is not much older than your child with a mandate to hire based on an unofficial profile. At this point, being transparent is advisable. Remember, it is illegal to discriminate against an applicant 40 or older, so it may be difficult to tell whether any objection is to your age or to your higher salary requirement. Use the opportunity to overcome their prepared list of objections. Talk about the value your experience will bring and be one step ahead. Make it clear to the interviewer that your qualifications fit the profile and that you have no disqualifying health issues. You can suggest being brought on at the higher end of the salary range. You want to drive home the point that you’re happy to come on board in a way that’s comfortable for them. Getting your foot in the door is what matters most; it’s much easier to discuss future opportunities for review and compensation when you’re already in and can demonstrate the value you bring to the job.
Be More Than a Commodity
Try to think like a hiring manager. Return on investment, cost savings, and how you can add value to the position should be the focus of how you sell yourself. It’s not enough anymore to have been in one place for 20 years. Thoroughly researching a company. Talk to people inside and outside the company and learn exactly what they are looking for to tailor your presentation. You may not be able to do anything about a few gray hairs, but there are other areas you can control and cut a job search from months down to weeks.
You’ll probably be interested to know that after several weeks, Dr. Heether landed a position at a new facility in Southern New Jersey.
Sources: MarketWatch.com, Ladders.com, EEOC.gov, AARP.org