your age doesn’t go in your cover letter (or your resume)

“Hello, my name is ___. I’m 23 and I’m applying for your ___ job.”

Generally speaking, you should probably stop introducing yourself with your age somewhere well before adulthood.

Is there anyone out there willing to admit to having done this in a cover letter who will explain to us why? I’m desperately curious.

Alison Green
age 38

{ 51 comments… read them below }

  1. Katy O*

    Wow, people really do this? I can’t wait to see the explanations from those that do.

  2. Anonymous*

    They’ll eventually see how old you are on your application and other necessary items when asked “Date of Birth.” But I have never heard of saying, “Hello. My name is Jane Doe, and I am 33 years old with a B.A. in Economics…”

    Age: Is just a number!

    1. Vicki*

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen “Date of Birth” on a job application. Actually, that might be iillegal…

  3. Julie*

    The only place I could see it remotely being useful is a job where looks are important — like modelling, dancing at a strip club, or waitressing at a place like Hooters . Though in those cases, I expect you’d need to send in a picture of yourself anyway. (No actual experience, just speculating.)

    1. mouse*

      Hooters and strip club not necessarily. You generally just go in; Hooters will have an app like any other restaurant and they’ll either file it or trash it when you hand it in. I didn’t do the dancing thing for long (that job is hard on the knees) but in the clubs that I worked there wasn’t even an application. You went in and auditioned by doing one rotation on the stage. Since many clubs charge strippers rent for their time at work ($30-50 per night) they’ll often hire anyone. Even if the chick only lasts a few nights before deciding it’s not for her, they’ve still made their money.

  4. Kimberlee*

    It’s also sort of an odd practice, because I can’t see how it could possibly be helpful to either side, and increases the chance that you’ll be a victim of age discrimination of one kind or another. Interestingly, Anonymous, most places will not ask you your date of birth until they’re filling out your I-9, ie after you’re hired, because age is a protected class and most places won’t risk asking in case of being sued (hence, the only applications I’ve ever seen that asked on are ones where you only answer if you are under 18, and they have to verify your age for legal purposes).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Agreed on all counts.

      I’ve never seen anyone do it if they’re over 25-ish, so my working theory is that it comes from not feeling like a full-fledged adult yet. (I mean, can you imagine a cover letter saying “I’m John and I’m 54”?)

  5. Nethwen*

    I speculate it comes from the practice of exchanging personal information upon introduction. In some places, refraining from telling a new acquaintance one’s name, home location, profession, names of family and friends, and recent history is considered rude and secretive and marks as untrustworthy the person who declines to reveal the details of this information.

    From early childhood onwards, age or grade level is an important part of categorizing people and understanding where one fits into the group. Even when I was in college, it was common for a new acquaintance to ask for my age. Failure to deliver this information is considered a personal insult. With this social conditioning, it doesn’t surprise me that some people don’t realize that including one’s age in a professional introduction is unnecessary. For some people, one’s age is an integral part of one’s identity.

    I, too, would like to hear from someone who has included his age in a cover letter.

  6. JamieH*

    I recently posted an ad for a part time nanny and most of the emails that I receive include the person’s age (these people are generally 20 – 25 ). I definitely agree that the age, when included, appears to be used as a way to show responsibility because the age is often listen in the same sentence as CPR certifications and years of experience.

    1. Jess*

      See, this I understand. I would never, ever, list my age in a cover letter for the Admin jobs and legal jobs I apply for, but when I intro myself for babysitting or “nanny” jobs, I always do. In my experience, those positions are very, very personal. The family hiring you wants to know whether you have experience and certifications, but is also VERY interested in your personality, energy level, interests, family, etc. I end up sharing a lot more personal information and going much more casual and friendly (yet proffessional) in those letters.

  7. Anonymous*

    It’s not unheard of in some European countries, although I’ve worked in Europe for years and never put my age nor birth date on my CV, and no one has mentioned it. I have no idea why anyone would do it in the States.

    1. Clobbered*

      European employers not only ask your name and gender, but can also ask you the ages of your children. There is no law against it, and frequently it affects compensation and other terms and conditions., which is why they ask.

      I agree it shouldn’t be relevant, but let’s face it, it’s not like it hard to deduce somebody’s age from a resume anyway.

      1. Trisha Pena*

        Actually it’s pretty easy to deduce age from a resume. Take the year they graduated high school/college and subtract “normal” graduation age and you have your range. Also, depending on the number of jobs a person has had, if they have 20+ years working experience they ain’t no spring chicken.

    2. v*

      It is actually the norm in my country. While age doesn’t, or shouldn’t, have anything to do with the recruiting process, putting the age on one’s cv (not the cover letter though, unless you are under 18 when it can have an effect on your duties) is considered to be a piece of personal information, along with name, address and phone number, that is just always put on cv. While our discrimination laws are up to date, there’s never been a wide public discussion on discrimination until the recent years and I wouldn’t be surprised to see these customs done away with in the future.

  8. Donna mcNamara*

    Ive never heard of doing that. Odd practice, even at younger ages. Curious to see what explanation comes out.

  9. Anonymous*

    Raised in a different culture, probably.
    Here (Japan), age goes on just about everything – and job adverts even list target ages.
    You’ll see things like “Wanted: Administrative assistant, age 20-30” or “Manager, age 40+”.

    I don’t think age discrimination is a legal concept here, but I haven’t been in this country long enough to be sure.

  10. Candace*

    I actually did have my age on my very first versions of my resume in high school…my typing class assignment was completing a resume. We included ages, so for a couple of years I used that resume, and I assumed that was normal (until thankfully my mom pointed out it was not a good idea).

  11. mouse*

    I’ve never actually included my age on my applications (unless of course they asked for a birthdate) but in the town I went to high school, I could see this becoming a common practice. It’s a University town in California just outside of the state Capital and the hiring managers there for more entry level and customer service jobs are very heavily weighted towards hiring college students. Once I was over 25 finding retail/food service or minimum wage admin. jobs there was next to impossible. In that environment, I could understand the impulse.

  12. Sandrine*

    For some reason, I remember doing this a looooooooooooooooooooong time ago. Or rather, I think I did it.

    But it was right out of high school, and I’m French so not all similar standards apply… yet with everything I have seen on AAM’s blog, I think this would be really, really bizarre in the US.

  13. Long Time Admin*

    A lot of younger people don’t know the difference between professional communications and social communications. It’s not their fault – no one ever taught them any better.

    I’d guess most people raised in America who include their age on their resumes or cover letters are these younger people.

    Hiring managers, stop making such a big flippin’ deal over it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think anyone’s making a big deal over it — the only mention I’ve ever heard of it is actually this post, which I wrote because I find it interesting and weird, but not a gigantic deal.

  14. Liz in a library*

    I cannot imagine the benefit of doing this to the applicant. My experience (granted, completely limited to the field of higher ed) has been that if you are under 30, your credibility is seriously limited with colleagues who have a hard time separating you in their minds from their students.

  15. fposte*

    What would really worry me is if they went the full elementary-school route–“I am twenty-four and three-quarters and I am looking for a job in . . . “

  16. Anonymous*

    I could see it for a recent graduate- for example, if you graduated in 3 yrs, not 4. It’s quite possible that through high school credits and heavy course loads you can graduate at 20 y.o. (I know, because I’m doing it!). That should be looked at as an accomplishment, although I doubt I would list my age. I may mention that I graduated early and list the years I attended the university.

    1. Anonymous*

      Don’t list the years you attended college, just list when you graduated. While graduating “early” is an accomplishment, its not one that belongs in your resume or cover letter. As a hiring manager, I don’t care if it took you 3 years or 13 years to graduate, as long as you are a great fit for the position… Mentioning that you graduated early makes you look like a self-congratulatory overachiever.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think it’d be appropriate to include a short note on the resume that you graduated in 3 years — I’d take that as a sign of work ethic, if nothing else.

        1. Bohdan Rohbock*

          Meh, the way the high schools run it these days it doesn’t mean much any more. I’ve seen high schools where the college-bound students expected to have a Bachelor’s by the time they were 20.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It still says the person put a priority on being productive while they were there, as opposed to moving through their classwork at a leisurely pace to allow for heavy drinking, etc. (at least relative to others)!

            1. Uhura*

              Good point, but taking longer to complete your degree doesn’t necessarily mean you partied and slacked off all the time. You could have transferred schools or took time off for financial, family, or medical reasons. So judging by how long it took isn’t a solid idea either way.

          2. Lacey*

            Being a fairly recent high school graduate (2003), I would say people who “expect” to have a bachelor’s by age 20 are incredibly uncommon and it takes a strong work ethic to do it. I graduated college at age 21 (almost 22) and this was even really young (I just started school early, still took me four years for college). Give some credit for ambition and working hard.

            Also, having graduated at 21, I have to question why anyone would want to graduate so early – way more fun to be in college, stay for 4 years!

            1. Liz in a library*

              I have to disagree. I graduated high school at the same time you have, and early college graduation was an expected norm. Perhaps it depends on the college or area of the country or something?

              1. Freida*

                I also graduated from high school around that time, and went to a selective private college, and 4 years (8 semesters) is the norm in the United States for graduating with a bachelor’s degree. What do you mean by gradating early? Because the poster above said “by age 20,” which would be 2 years early, which is incredibly rare and I’d be surprised that you could even find a school that would let you take all 4 years worth of credits in 2 years time.

                Also, not to get too technical, but if graduating “early” were the “expected norm,” then it wouldn’t actually be called graduating “early,” it would be graduating on time. Just like how everyone in a group can’t be “above average.”

              2. Liz in a library*

                In re to Freida: I am not trying to minimize the accomplishment, and I do think it shows dedication on the part of the person. I am only saying that it is much more common now than it was in the past, to the point where it is expected in many student groups. I don’t think that it is incredibly rare.

                I can only speak to my experience and what I’ve seen with my peers. I finished my undergraduate in 2 1/2 years (at 20), and had finished 2 Master’s degrees by the time I was 23. I was certainly not the only early graduate in my program; I know a number coworkers and personal friends who took similar tracks. I have a sibling who did an undergraduate degree in 2 years, and several of her friends were on the same track. I am now seeing many of my own students who follow this same pattern. Most of us were also working at least part-time while in school.

                I think in areas where high schools offer significant opportunities for AP courses, CLEP, or dual-enrollment with local community colleges, this is a bigger trend. Or, for those students (and I was one), who needed to shorten the time they were in school to lessen the debt load.

      2. Laura Y.*

        I finally went to college at the age of 30 and went from zero to BA in 5 semesters (plus 2 summers). I worked full time as well. Oh, yeah, and I graduated summa cum laude. Self-congratulatory overachiever? You bet your a** I am. I am also, as all of the previous information indicates: a very hard worker, able to handle multiple responsibilities, etc., which is what my resume indicates. All that said, I have never put my age on a resume or cover letter — that just seems odd. Then again, I take calls all day from people who tell me what city and state they’re located in but the questions they’re asking me to answer are in no way related to their location, so I think maybe some people just overshare.

  17. Joanna Reichert*

    Maybe these people are confusing job applications with dating sites.

    “Hi, my name’s Betty, I’m 24 and applying to be your girlfriend.”

    Or, like some of the other horrific employment advice out there, this is a “curveball guaranteed to gain notice!”

  18. Kat*

    We have age restricted positions at my work, and the only thing we say on our app is are you over 18? (y/n) 21? (y/n) Not really ‘discrimination’ but we legally can’t hire anyone under 18 for 90% of the positions, as we don’t allow minors in after 8pm, and those under 21 can’t be serving alcohol.

  19. Anonymous*

    As someone withOUT a Facebook account, I can’t bank on this, but isn’t your age one of the things listed about yourself that others can see? This might be why or where they get the idea of confusing social communication with personal communication.

    1. mouse*

      Only if your privacy settings are set to show your age. But I think you might still be right about the basic idea for some people at least.

  20. Kelly*

    I have – on a nannying cover letter to a family. They wanted someone “over 23” and I stated that I was 25. I’ve never done it elsewhere. It’s unprofessional.

  21. NG*

    I’ve considered mentioning it at interviews, but only because I look 10 years younger than I am and had a very negative experience at my first job where I was informed on the first day that my immediate supervisor felt that I was “too young for the job”.

    I am looking for middle management positions now and I’m a little worried that my apparent age is providing a potentially negative first impression.

    I doubt if I will ever mention my age, even at an interview (it just seems too desperate) but it is a serious concern for me given my previous experience. I can see how someone without a lot of experience might feel that their age is an asset in applying for the job.

  22. Anonymous*

    Well Ive done it and I was 16. I was looking for a job on my own because I want to be an “adult”. I ended up getting the job and my manager told me I didnt have to put my age down, but it was good way to break the ice.

  23. LB*

    Isn’t asking your graduation date basically the same (80% of the time) as asking for your age–especially if you ask for HS even if if I have higher education?

    I can see where this is confusing as I am surprised at how many online application processes want yr of degree. Why not just put it in my cover letter if it’s going to disclude me and that way you save the time!

  24. Anonymous*

    Re: Liz in the Library,
    I graduated from an Ivy League school and was also from a part of the country with great high schools and many AP classes. I don’t think I met more than one or two people who graduated in less than 4 years. Many of the best schools only accept a few AP classes as substitutes for college classes and the course-load is just too rigorous for any sort of technical major to graduate early. I’m not sure what part of the country and schools you are talking about, but that is very much not the norm for Ivy League schools.

  25. Anonymous*

    Ive added in my age a couple of times to my CV. When i apply for a job like an apprenticeship i want them to know that i am young. im 18 so i think it helps when applying for jobs where there looking for younger people.. Whether it does or not idk but hey i still got accepted to a job with including my age :-)

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