Question: Do I need to date myself?

Karl Lohrmann prefers not to answer questions about his age. But it’s hard to avoid revealing it, sometimes indirectly.

“I’m filling out a lot of applications online. I don’t know anyone who fills out an application on paper anymore,” said Lohrmann, 62, of Chicago. “Most of these forms ask for my college-graduation date. You can’t leave the question blank; you can’t submit an incomplete form. How can I fill out this form without dating myself?

Answer: There are ways to get around the question, but almost all of them draw attention to the issue, said Janine Yancey, president of emTRAiN of Sacramento, Calif., an employment law training company that educates managers on do’s and don’ts of workplace. “By not answering, you are calling attention to the matter,” she said. “You can put in vague date ranges; for example, you can write, ‘Graduated in the 1980s.’ ”

If the inquiry comes up during an interview, “the best thing you can do is reframe the question,” Yancey advised. “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.”

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