Mentioning your date of birth on your CV
It is not mandatory to include your date of birth with your personal details on your CV. In many CV templates available online, the date of birth is a standard field. While there’s nothing wrong with putting your date of birth and place on your CV, it's not expected by employers. The choice is up to you unless you’re applying for a job in a country where employers expect to see your date of birth on your CV. When do you need to include your date of birth and when is it best avoid mentioning it altogether?
In a number of countries, including your date of birth, marital status or nationality in your CV is not common practice, as it can encourage age discrimination. These countries include Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom. In France, it’s more common to mention your age rather than your date of birth.
In South Africa, opinions are divided regarding the inclusion of date of birth on your CV. However, if you do choose to include it, be sure to send your CV in a password-protected PDF file to protect yourself from identity thieves.
There is a misconception among some employers that older professionals are not up to date with the latest technology or that they’re set in their ways and not open to new ideas. It’s also likely that older professionals will demand a higher salary because of their years of experience whereas a younger candidate may have lower salary expectations.
On the other side of the coin, a younger candidate may be rejected for a managerial or senior position because they lack experience in years or because they don’t look old enough even if they do have the required skills and qualifications. Young people are also often considered as impulsive or work-shy.
Of course, these are just stereotypes. But it’s important to be aware of them and to tailor your CV accordingly.
For example, if you’re a 40-year old and you’re applying for an entry-level position, questions may be asked and you may find yourself eliminated from the application process on the basis of your work experience or education. To help your application, you’ll need to explain your reasons for applying for an entry-level role in your personal statement or profile (e.g. you’re looking to take your career in a new direction and to acquire new skills). In addition, it may be best to leave your date of birth off your CV to avoid revealing your age.
You’ll also need to gauge the culture of the company. For instance, start-ups tend to attract younger candidates. Therefore, if you’re an older candidate applying for a role in a start-up, you may want to draw attention away from your age and on projects you’ve led or your technical skills.
You can get a sense of the company culture and the average age of employees by conducting research on LinkedIn or other recruitment sites. Then you can make a decision as to whether or not including your date of birth on your CV would be appropriate.
It’s important to note that selecting a candidate on the grounds of personal characteristics (age, belief, gender, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, race, religion or sexual orientation) is illegal in many countries, including Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK:
Ireland: Equal Status Acts
New Zealand: Human Rights Act
South Africa: Employment Equity Act and Labour Relations Act
UK: Equality Act
Employers may encourage certain groups of workers to apply if they feel that those groups are under-represented in the workplace. This is known as ‘positive action’. For example, you may see job adverts encouraging older workers to apply.
In such cases, while you don’t need to mention your date of birth on your CV unless you want to, you can certainly emphasise your work experience and focus on the skills you acquired from working at one company for ten years, for example.
Jobs with age requirements
Some positions may require someone of a certain age. For example, modelling clothes for children or for adults. In such a case, an employer may make a distinction on the basis of age, but then the reason for this age requirement must be clearly stated in the job description. In such cases, your date of birth should not be missing from your CV..
Workers under the age of 18
Stricter rules apply to workers under the age of 18. Some work is so dangerous for workers to carry out that an employer will be within their rights to request your date of birth if they suspect that you may be too young.
For instance, young people under the age of 18 are not allowed to work with certain (chemical) substances or operate certain types of vehicles. In such cases, it would be legally permissible for an employer to discriminate on the grounds of age.
Age-proofing your CV
Most employers will be able to work out your age from your work experience and education. In particular, if you list school leaving qualifications on your CV, your age will be a giveaway. Furthermore, when you meet an employer in person or when you walk them through your career history, they may be able to roughly estimate your age.
If you are worried about age discrimination, it may be best to focus on your most recent work experience and highlight your skills. In that case, a functional or skills-based CV may be more suitable for your needs.
If you choose to use a traditional, reverse-chronological CV, you could try to ‘age-proof’ your CV by focusing on only the last ten to fifteen years of your work experience and remove dates from the education section.
Including your date of birth
Whether you mention your date of birth on your CV or not is ultimately up to you. However, if you suspect that your job application has been rejected on the grounds of age discrimination, follow up with the employer and ask for a reason - whether or not you’ve been invited for an interview.
If your suspicions are confirmed, you may be able to file a complaint with the respective authority in your country:
Ireland: Workplace Relations Commission
New Zealand: Human Rights Commission
South Africa: Human Rights Commission