By all means include your graduation date.

Not only is age discrimination illegal, age is too poor an indicator of ability to prejudice a thoughtful employer. Your accomplishments are likely to distinguish you from younger candidates, and you’re not right for an employer who wants someone just out of school. If the parameters are broader, your age, which will be apparent in an interview, suggests experience. Your challenge is to demonstrate the relevance of your experience in today’s environment. Make sure you’re up to date on the latest thinking in your field.

Leslie Hortum of Spencer Stuart, who’s placed dozens of association leaders, says, “We have to know the graduation date so we can verify the record. We always check. But age doesn’t matter nearly as much as energy and ability.”

That’s not just the case for top executives. Kathleen Yazbac-Chartier, head of search for Bridgestar, a nonprofit dedicated to matching talent with positions that report to the CEO, observes, “Leaving out graduation dates suggests the candidate is concerned about age – or is not confident. It’s best to let the record speak for how capable someone is likely to be.”

All jobs are not for all people. Smart employers (the ones you want to work for) will focus on the qualities needed to meet the challenges of the position. What’s important is who you are, not when you graduated.

Published in Associations Now, December 2005