You can do a lot to pump up your resume and make yourself more attractive to potential employers -- go back to school, take an internship or even engage in hobbies that show your leadership and drive.
But you can't reverse the clock and make yourself any younger.
While age is just a number, to many potential employers, it's a huge red flag. Once you're past your fortieth birthday, employers worry that you won't have the same energy as a younger worker. Maybe age-related health issues will even cause you to miss out on work (and drive up the company's insurance costs). Employers often wonder if you're technologically up to some jobs or if your ideas and skills are rooted in the past.
While you can remove your age and graduation dates from your social media profiles and resume and color over gray hairs, there's nothing stopping an employer from asking your age -- and judging you for it.
How do you recognize age discrimination when you see it during the job application process? Look for the following signs:
1. The employer only recruits through specific social media geared to younger people. Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter tend to attract younger users, for example, than Facebook or LinkedIn. All of them are likely to leave older job seekers relying on traditional job-search methods out in the cold. This creates a disparate impact for applicants "of a certain age."
2. The employer recruits in another way that excludes older workers. A company that systematically recruits new employees only from colleges, without making the jobs available on its website or through other mechanisms.
3. The job posting lists strict requirements that you meet -- like having a specific degree -- yet the much-younger person that was ultimately hired doesn't have those requirements. While that may not always be age discrimination, it's certainly suspect.
4. You're told by the recruiter that you have too many years of experience. The phrases "too much experience" or "over-qualified" are often code words for "too old" for a company that's seeking younger employees.
It's important to realize that even though it's sometimes difficult to prove age discrimination in hiring decisions, these things do happen -- and they do come to light. Successful age discrimination lawsuits are pursued all the time by people who have the courage to stand up against workplace wrongs.