, reader Dan Healy of Elk River, Minnesota, writes that job searches are daunting for those of a certain age. I agree that it is. I saw hundreds of people the same age as the author of the letter below last week at the MNRSA Job Summit.

My question though, is it simply age? Or something else? Read the letter and then we’ll discuss.

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A DAUNTING JOB MARKET by Dan Healy

“I have to wonder if unemployed people between the ages of 55 and 60 or so have had the same experiences as I have.

What are we going to do?

A little too young and not enough money to retire.

Did the same job since right out of high school, raised our children, and never had to ask for anybody's help.

Now if you get a job interview, the look on the face of the human-resources representative tells you that you have no chance -- you're over 50 -- but thanks for coming in.

I told my wife that at the next interview, if I ever get one, I'm going to walk in backwards, do the interview, get the job, then turn around to see HR's look.

Come on, you 20-some-year-olds. We work hard; we know what to do; how about giving us over-50 workers a chance?

Had an interview with Lowe's and was never asked one question about myself.

I say put away the HR textbook from headquarters and look the person in the eye.”

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First of all, I do feel for this writer. There are lots of good, well-intentioned, earnest, hard-working, experienced people sitting on the sidelines right now. They deserve to be able to support their families or earn some more towards a retirement that right now probably seems at least a long ways off, if not impossible entirely.

One of the first things that went through my mind when I was at that recent staffing event attended by 1,000 people was the average age of most of the attendees. While several generations were represented, the group did skew old.

If they are being discriminated against simply because they are “over 50,” like the letter writer, that is wrong. It is also illegal.

There could be something else going on here though, that while related to age, isn’t simply a function of how old they actually are.

The man sitting next to me at a staffing agency panel discussion had an old cotton Carhartt coat on, complete with stains. If he was looking for a job slinging sacks of grain down at the feed mill that might be an appropriate thing to wear. But it’s not when he is trying to meet people at a big city staffing agency who are considering presenting him to a client.

A couple seats down was a man wearing a coat and tie, but the tie was circa 1980 and looked terrible. It also featured remnants of a long ago dinner or drink that now reside permanently in the fabric.

Now I know times are tough, but c’mon, I also know of a couple of consignment shops where you can buy current, clean, designer neckties for $5.

I mean I just went last month to teach English to some poverty-stricken kids who live in a slum outside of Lima, Peru. Even though they live in an abandoned garbage dump in houses with dirt floors, their clothes were clean every day. If they can do it, then surely we can manage to come to interview situations wearing stain-free garments.

But if those two gentlemen don’t get a second look – or interview – from the likes of Lowe’s, and/or a local staffing agency, is it because of their chronological age?

Or is it these other factors, including their energy levels? By that, I mean a look that says, “I’m tired, I’m worn out, used up, my best years are behind me, and I’m a dinosaur.”

I saw that look a lot at the staffing expo, and wearing that look on your face does not get you hired, particularly in an environment where they are competing with those in their 20’s.

We’d like to know what you think. We don’t expect you to tell us you’re not hiring workers because they are of a certain age. But are there other factors related to their age perhaps that make them easy to take a pass on?

The problem of older workers finding their place in a rapidly changing society is certainly a pervasive one. It will likely be with us for a long time, maybe even forever.

Tags: Peru, Industry, Discrimination, Minneapolis, Age, Appearance, Star Tribune