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How to read between the lines for signs of age discrimination in job listings

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2021 | Harassment & discrimination

“High-energy.” “Recent college grads.” “Tech-savvy digital native.” “Cultural fit.”

On the surface, those words don’t appear to have a great deal in common. But reading them in employment ads has become a sort of code for companies to indirectly say that they are looking for “younger” candidates to hire for the advertised positions. Of course, saying so outright would be illegal, which is why these employers couch their job requirements with vague allusions to the qualities most young people have to spare.

Age discrimination is alive and well in the United States

Back in 2019, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) researched job listings on three of the top employment sites —, LinkedIn and Below were some of their findings. had 513 job listings that used the phrase “recent college graduate.” came in second with 1,124 references. LinkedIn was the biggest offender, with no fewer than 4,749 uses during the sample period.

These coded signals have a chilling effect on older workers seeking employment. Someone who graduated from college with honors back in 1986 would understandably be hesitant to apply for a position where it is so clearly stated that the company is seeking a newly minted graduate. Did they specify the age? Of course not. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to extrapolate what these companies are actually saying.

The EEOC warns of possible violations

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issues guidelines to employers warning them that they could potentially violate federal and state anti-discrimination statutes on the basis of age.

But what happens when that guidance is overlooked or ignored? In many cases — nothing. The older workers don’t even apply for those positions even when they may be eminently qualified for the jobs. Or they apply but don’t get an interview and simply move on.

Older workers can fight for justice

The laws regarding age discrimination bias are in flux right now with some recent changes. These cases are notoriously challenging to prove, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stand up for yourself if you face such bias. Speak to a California age discrimination attorney to clarify your course of action.