The room is crowded

Q: How can you tell that an elephant is in the bathtub with you?

A: By the smell of peanuts on its breath.

In 2009, Microsoft opened the flood gates in IT by laying off 5,000 of its workers, something neither it, nor any of the other tech companies had done.  Others followed suit once it became clear Microsoft had brokered a “look the other way” agreement with the state regarding the reasons for the layoff notices.  Packing their bags were a disproportionate number of people over the age of 45.  Microsoft’s personnel profile was pulling a Benjamin Button and overnight, growing younger.

Obviously ageism is illegal, but if set up well in advance, can be worked around on a massive scale.  Everyone in the Seattle area knew of older people who were “pursuing new opportunities” as the euphemistic out of office emails were to read.

The newly displaced highly qualified IT personnel hit the mean streets of unemployment land to be to told time and time again, “We feel you’re not a good fit.”

Steve took a class the other day on C-level management and had a pachyderm sized epiphany:  at the end of an interview, when the hiring team asks whether the candidate has any questions, the issue of the elephant in the room should be addressed.

So it’s pretty obvious to you, although you can’t legally ask me, that I’m not in my late 20’s,” would be a good opener.  Use what follows to describe exactly what an over 45 year old can bring to the position which someone younger could not.


  • The culture in which I was raised valued employee loyalty.  If you look at my resume, you’ll see [insert your experience here].  You know from experience that someone younger who is looking to land on a really great title by the time they’re 35 will be out of this position, probably in less than a year.  You’re trying to hire brains, not be a stepping stone.
  • [Only use this if it applies to you – it does to my husband] Common misperception is that older people are out of touch with current technology.  Consider please that as university faculty, I probably taught most of your 20 and 30 somethings their “current” technology.  As an educator I am committed to lifelong learning and am probably more current than someone who got a degree 3 years ago and settled into their career title building.

Don’t let the hiring team go into their huddle after you’ve left, have them goosestep around the obvious elephant and then have HR send you the dismissal, “We just don’t feel like you’re a good fit.”  If nothing else, challenge them to man up and admit a possible reason for discounting you is they don’t want the old guy/gal.

Here’s hoping to your success, should you be in this situation.


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