How to Answer How Old Are You?

In many Asian cultures, asking how old you are is considered to be a perfectly acceptable conversation starter. In fact, it’s important to establish who is older so the younger person can speak more deferentially since respect for elders is so highly revered.

It’s a little different in American culture.

One of the few times it's OK to ask, "How Old Are You?"

Think of the ridiculous things we do to pretend we don’t age, from plastic surgery to plastic party cups that say, Happy 39th Again.  Age is so taboo that you’ll be sent to Social Siberia if you ask about it at a cocktail party.  And in the workplace, the ban on discussing age is even more official.  Because if you’re over 40, you’re in a protected class.  That’s right. According to the government, you’re Legally Old at 40.

So is it illegal for interviewers to ask your age?
Unless confirming that you are old enough to work or serve alcohol, prospective employers are not legally supposed to ask your age.  But that doesn’t stop them.  Sometimes they do it a little differently by asking what class you graduated in, or asking for a photo ID.  If you’re filling out an application and are asked for dates, you can usually work around this.  But what if you’re asked your age in a straightforward or roundabout way, in person?

How NOT to answer
The number one thing is not to go into automatic defensive mode. Avoid saying:

  1. That’s against the law to ask me that question.  No one wants to hire a litigious, cranky person.
  2. Nothing.  A long uncomfortable pause.
  3. A lie.
  4. A long rambling, answer.

How to answer the age question

  1. Reframe the question.   Janine Yancey, president of emTRAiN of Sacramento, CA, an employment law training company, advises to, “tell the interviewer how many years you’ve been in the workforce. As a candidate, you could say, ‘If you are asking me how many years I’ve spent in this particular industry, I’ve been working for X years.’ You’re talking about relevant years of experience: it’s smooth, seamless, not confrontational.”
  2. Give them the answer. Whether it’s your graduation year or actual age, consider just answering it so you can move on to the next topic.
  3. Humor. If they point blank ask your age and don’t even cloak it as, “when did you graduate?”, explain you are old enough to be around alcoholic beverages, if that is part of the job.

Sometimes there are good reasons to ask about your graduation date and age

  1. Don’t automatically assume they are fishing for your age. Sometimes interviewers follow up with a question about your graduation date because they, or someone they know, went to the same school and are just using it for conversation fodder.
  2. If a security clearance is part of the job, there’s no getting around the age question as they will need photo IDs and have to do extensive background checks.

Mojo Moves

  • Practice how to answer the question in both business and social situations
  • Never be defensive about your age
  • Remember being another year older is much better than the alternative

Photo Courtesy of

How do you handle the question, “How old are you?”  Share your stories in comments.


MuCash lets you make donations quicky in increments as small as a single penny. By leaving a small donation every time you find something of value on Mojo40, you can help me (Diane) keep creating content like this for you to enjoy.
Did you enjoy this post?
  • Wendy Hanlan

    I suppose because I write a blog about women over 40, I just don’t care if people know how old I am (42). Ageism is a problem though and it should be chased down with a big stick.

  • Susan Kim

    A big stick? Oh I think more like Seal Team 6 should go after ageism. I was just reading this post, Age-Old Question , and there is a huge swell of frustration on this topic.

  • Sharon O’Day

    …and then after a certain point, long after being anywhere near 40 (like at 63…), you take pride in how good you look for your years. You’re proud of how hard you worked for those wrinkles or that grey hair at your temples … ;-)

  • Susan

    I am proud to be 49 and have no problem stating my age. I keep myself fit and happy. When someone asks, I tell them with pride and usually get the “wow you look younger”. I believe that if you are happy and show/feel it, the age will not matter. It hasn’t for me.

    • just40something

      I never understand the “proud to be – fill in the age over 40.” Is it an accomplishment to have managed to wake up everyday for the past forty some years? Seems silly. I never hear 20 years olds running around saying “I’m proud to be 20!” They’re just 20. If I make it to 80, I’ll consider that to be an accomplishment as it’s over the life expectancy.

  • Pigbitin Mad

    I wouldn’t care so much about my age if everyone else didn’t…especially since if it is so easy for EVERYONE to just look it up on Intellius (Naveen Jain, the CEO of that racket has a special place in Hell reserved for him and I would personally like to send him there because he, more than anyone has ruined my life).

    There is no upside to getting old. You are invisible and kicked to the curb. There is not one soul on earth who will hire you because I am not qualified for those bank president jobs and have to settle for menial office jobs (which cannot be done by anyone over 35).

    I think we need a violent overthrow of corporate America. Who needs them and their stupid hiring practices?

What is this site about?

It’s about getting you up to speed with today’s digital networking tools, and sharing a roadmap to elevate your career that doesn’t assume you grew up with wi-fi in your bassinet. Ready to get your career mojo back?

Featured in Alltop


  • Age Concerns (10)
  • Attitude Adjustment (32)
  • Balancing Work and Life (10)
  • Best Videos (8)
  • Blogging Tips (8)
  • Creative Engine (10)
  • Facebook FAQ (3)
  • Funding (1)
  • Gigging (7)
  • How to Become an Entrepreneur (26)
  • How to Increase Sales (13)
  • How to Interview Well (13)
  • How to Network (22)
  • Job Search Strategies (13)
  • Learn Something New (33)
  • LinkedIn Tips (14)
  • Small Business Web Marketing (14)
  • Social Media Tips (13)
  • Tech Tips (21)
  • Time Management Strategies (17)
  • Twitter Tips (7)

Socialize with us at

  • Find us on LinkedIn
  • Find us on Twitter

Find Us On Facebook


Mojo40 Twitter Updates