The advent of the computerized hiring process has made age discrimination easier and more prevalent. While technically illegal, age discrimination is practiced much more openly than other types of job discrimination. Here are some signs of it.
1. Immediately asking the Graduation Date – In the U.S. you can’t ask a job applicant “how old are you?” However, on most computerized job submissions, the first question asks for your graduation date. Companies will say this is so that they can check to make sure you have the degree. This is nonsense. Degree verification is never done in the first round of the selection process. It would be too time-consuming and too costly for companies to verity the degrees of every online applicant
The online applications ask the graduation date as the first question so that the company can eliminate from contention applicants above a certain age. They never even get called in for an interview. You are naive if you think that is not happening.
2. Putting an upper limit on experience desired – It is common to see a job posting that says something like “10-15 years of experience required”. Why is there an upper limit? Why not just say “10 years minimum experience required”? It is because consciously or not the people doing the hiring do not want someone with 20 years experience, because they think that person is too old.
3. Stressing the “Young Management Team” as a benefit of the company. This phrase is used on many job postings. What that posting is really saying is, “we are a young company and we want young employees.”
4. Using words like “aggressive”, “motivated” or “driven” as substitutes for “young”. Again, these are phrases used all the time in job postings. African-American and Hispanic-Americans have long been aware of how destructive code words can be used by companies to hide prejudices. In fact, the term “older workers” itself is a type of slur. Older than what? What is the ideal work age after which you are suddenly considered “older”?
5. Assuming that older applicants are not tech-savvy. The fact that a particular technology did not exist when someone graduated, does not mean an individual never learned it in their career. Many older workers are more tech-savvy than their younger counterparts simply because they have been exposed to more systems.
6. Assuming that an older worker will resent working for a younger boss. This idea still exists, despite many studies to the contrary.
The biggest problem with these discriminatory practices is that they are hidden and self-perpetuating. Hiring managers are often not even aware that they are sub-consciously eliminating from consideration all applicants above a certain age. They are self-perpetuating since the older workers don’t even get a chance to be interviewed. Their backgrounds never make it through the computerized selection process, so a human never actually sees the “older” candidate.
The more experienced job candidates (notice how I did not say “older”) just want the same chance as the other candidates. They want hiring managers to get their eyes off the graduation date and start looking at the experience, training and qualifications these candidates have for the job.