By Christopher S. Rugaber -- AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Like many unemployed older workers, 64-year old Allan Kellum fears his age has made it harder to find a new job. At a recent job fair, Kellum expressed interest in a supervisory role coordinating an international health assistance program. A recruiter set him straight: "The people applying for that are young."
So now Kellum, who lives in McLean, Va., takes no chances. He's deleted his college graduation date from his resume and reduced the number of years it covers. He's hoping that will help move his resume past any screeners who would be put off by his age.
Kellum, who's been out of work since January, may be right to be concerned. Despite their years of experience, out-of-work older people are finding it harder than other adults to find new jobs. And attempts to appear younger on resumes and in person — some are even taking Botox injections — may be no match for the squeeze this recession is putting on employers.
Older workers have always found it harder than others to land a new job after a layoff. In part, that's because many employers assume they're more expensive or won't stay long in jobs that pay less than they've earned previously.
But this job market has been especially frustrating for them. The Labor Department said Thursday that as of June, unemployed workers 55 or older were jobless an average of nearly 30 weeks, compared with about 21 weeks for those under 55. That gap has widened during the recession: In 2006, it averaged only six weeks.
And the jobless rate for those 55 and older rose to 7 percent in June, the highest for that age group on records dating to 1948.
"This recession seems to be a little bit different" because of the "unusually large increase" in unemployment among older workers, said Richard Johnson, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and expert on retirement issues.
Now, many older workers are taking steps similar to Kellum's, to try to minimize any role their age might play in hiring decisions. Resume-tinkering is among the most common strategies.
But some go much further.
Dozens of people showed up at a spa in Arlington, Va., in June after it promised free Botox for up to 50 unemployed people. Customers had to display a termination letter or unemployment check to receive treatment.
Mari Negron, 49, a struggling real estate agent in Arlington, Va., looking for new work, said she thinks the treatment will help her job search.
"I look refreshed," she said, now that a worry line between her eyebrows is gone.
To avoid appearing out of touch, others are using their time between jobs to become familiar with the latest technologies and social networking sites. Sharon Armstrong, a career consultant in Washington, D.C., urged one client fearful of seeming too old to discuss her use of Twitter and Facebook during job interviews.
And she endorses the idea of keeping certain dates off resumes.
"I don't think anyone needs to know when you graduated from college," she said. "Don't give people reasons to discriminate against you."
Once at the interview stage, Armstrong urges clients to prepare for questions like, "Aren't you overqualified?" Older job seekers say they hear that frequently. Armstrong suggests they show enthusiasm for the job and make sure not to seem to be applying out of desperation. AARP also urges older job hunters to stress their skills and achievements — not their years of experience.