And Kerry Hannon, who authored "Great Jobs for Everyone 50-plus," said managers may be leery of a lengthy resume from someone they can't afford, salary-wise.
"They'll look at your background and just figure you'll be insulted," she said.
About 4 in 10 who have been on the job market said they felt they lacked the right skills or felt too old for the available jobs. Many reported trying to improve their skillset (20 percent) or present themselves with a fresher resume or interview approach (15 percent) to make themselves more marketable.
Bret Lane, 53, of San Diego, was out of work for 22 months until finding a job over the summer through Platform to Employment, a training program. He lost count of how many jobs he had applied for â¿¿ it was easily in the hundreds. Once, after seeing applications would be taken for a janitorial job paying $14 hourly, he got up at 3 a.m. to get an early start. There were already 400 others in line.
"I wasn't getting any interviews. I wasn't getting in front of any decision makers," he said. "People in our age group are very discriminated against."
One in five respondents in the AP-NORC Center poll said they personally experienced prejudice or discrimination in the job market or at work because of their age. That doubles to 40 percent among those who have sought a job in the last five years.
Faye Smith, 69, of Dallas, Ga., said she needed to find work after losing much of her savings in the downturn but felt the hesitance of employers when they saw the dates on her resume.
"You could tell when they found out the age," she said. "There's a change in the face and the demeanor of the person."
The AP-NORC Center survey was conducted Aug. 8 through Sept. 10 by NORC at the University of Chicago, with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. It involved landline and cellphone interviews in English and Spanish with 1,024 people aged 50 and older nationwide. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.