Try to turn the tables when asked your age

Can They Do That?

Your Money

February 22, 2004|By Carrie Mason-Draffen

I am an unemployed 40-something and age-sensitive. I was especially miffed after a recruiter asked me when I graduated from college. Was the question legal?

Potential employers have a lot of leeway with the age question, but the fact that they asked it at all might come back to haunt them if they're ever sued for age discrimination.

The age question is perfectly acceptable if it makes sense in context, said Elizabeth Grossman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For example, a business hiring a bartender must make sure a candidate is over 21. But in many other situations, "employers need to think twice before asking the question," Grossman said.

How should you handle such an inquiry the next time?

Mary Ann Lee, a career-transition consultant at Ernst & Young in New York, thinks you should answer it and then immediately lob your concern back at the interviewer.

"Ask 'Is that going to be a problem?'" she said. "They are going to feel very uncomfortable when they have to explain why." Then shift the conversation to your skills.

Carrie Mason-Draffen is a columnist for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. E-mail her at yourmoney@trib- une.com.

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