Age Discrimination: Secret Conversations Revealed!

November 27, 2009 at 1:10 am 137 comments

As a 3rd-Party Recruiter, I’ve worked on hundreds of searches for job orders from all sorts of companies in a variety of industries – banking, insurance, healthcare, manufacturing, software, retail, etc. I’ve worked with executives and managers from Fortune 500’s all the way down to small start-ups and everything in between. I’ve searched for candidates that match the requirements set forth in the companies’ formal job descriptions … but I’ve also made an attempt to match the “soft qualities” defined by hiring managers that I’ve established relationships with. I’ve tried to determine the culture of the companies I worked for, and also the personality of those managers. Finding the right match goes way beyond simply reading a person’s résumé. It is more of an art form than a science – and frankly, it’s what recruiters get paid for.

We’ve all heard that it’s not kosher for a company representative to ask a candidate certain things that would reveal their age, religious affiliation, marital status, or other criteria that are protected by law. Companies are not supposed to ask a candidate on an application or in an interview for things like their date of birth, year of graduation from college, social security number, affiliations to religious organizations, political party memberships, etc. Such questions, while not actually illegal per se, could potentially open them up to serious charges of discrimination.¹

On the other hand, when a company engages with an outside (3rd-Party) recruiter, those lines often get blurred. A large part of my job involved having lengthy discussions with hiring managers about exactly what type of person they were looking for. I’ve learned to read between the lines of things that were said during those private conversations, and could usually tell when a manager wanted me to screen out candidates based on things that would be quite illegal and discriminatory. The nasty truth is this: age discrimination does, indeed, exist. It’s not something any sane company would publicly admit – but to deny that it happens is simply naïve! If a recruiter wants to make placements (i.e. make money!) then they pay attention to those factors, and follow the lead of those hiring managers. To do otherwise would be a waste of everyone’s time.

Here are some examples of off-the-record, thinly veiled things that were actually said to me by hiring managers from client companies I’ve worked with (who for obvious reasons shall remain nameless):

  • “We’re looking for someone with a lot of years ahead of them, with potential for career growth.”
  • “We want someone with a lot of ‘runway’ still in front of them.”
  • “Send us candidates who are on the upward swing of their career arc.”
  • “Most of our employees are full of youthful energy, and we want someone who will fit in.”
  • “We are wary of hiring a candidate who is too senior. We’ve found that they are often ‘stuck in their ways’ and have a hard time adjusting to a new way of doing things.”
  • “We are a very dynamic company. We need someone who can move quickly and roll with the changes. Senior level candidates don’t usually do well with that.”
  • “We do not want to see candidates who are already ‘on the back nine’ of their career.”
  • “We don’t want to invest in the training and ramp-up time for someone who is only going to be with us for a couple of years before retirement.”
  • “We are not looking for a ‘seasoned’ professional.’ Those candidates are generally too expensive.”

Pretty scary, eh?! So, the question is – what should a job-seeker do with this information? Unfortunately, the answer is not easy to swallow … but it must be said anyway: accept it, and move on. Does age discrimination exist? Of course it does!!! Do all companies practice it? NO! Are there companies that actually do value, seek out and hire “seasoned” professionals? YOU BET! The bottom line is this: older candidates will probably get screened out from consideration by many companies because of their age. You might suspect it is the reason you were passed over, but you’ll never know for sure. There’s simply nothing you can do about it. The trick is to not let it get you down or dwell on it. Just continue to plug away and seek out a company where your age and level of experience is considered an asset and not a liability. It’s definitely going to be a challenge … but it is certainly not impossible.

To paraphrase one of my favorite lines from Groucho Marx (later re-quoted by Woody Allen): “I don’t want to belong to any club that wouldn’t accept people like me as a member!”  If a company screens you out because of your age (or some other factor that you have no control over) then it’s probably not a place you’d feel comfortable anyway! I assume that most people want to work for a company that really wants them, and values their experience. It’s got to be a 2-way match. We all want to feel like we fit in, don’t we? Have faith … those companies are out there.

**************************************************************************************
¹Addendum:
Several of the numerous comments generated by this blog have brought up the issue of whether or not it is actually against the law for a company to ask questions designed to reveal an applicant’s age. In the interest of accuracy I’ve done some further research on this issue. I learned that although they’re often called “illegal interview questions” on the web, such questions may not actually be illegal to ask per se. However, if an interviewer asks a question that has discriminatory implications and then intentionally denies you employment based on your answer to the question, he or she may have broken the law. So to avoid any risk of exposure to future litigation, it is almost always the policy of HR professionals to avoid asking such questions. It just goes to show … you can learn something new every day! [For more on this topic, read "Age Discrimination: Exposing Inconvenient Truths."]

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137 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Margaret  |  November 27, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Thanks Michael! I enjoyed reading this article. It’s nice to see the truth spelled out in print!

    Reply
  • 2. Alex Csiszar  |  November 27, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Michael,
    Great article – I enjoy your blogs! Keep sharing and let me know if there is anything I can do for you.
    Alex Csiszar – Director, Treasury – SIRVA, Inc.

    Reply
  • 3. Claudia Larraguibel  |  November 27, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Michael,
    I am a General Manager from a Chilean company, and here in my country this is not only 100% legal, it is absolutely accepted. When I am hiring somebody, I consider all your “off the record ” examples. I do not agree with your “scandalous” view of this issue. And I think it is very hypocritical of many interviewers if they say they do not discriminate!

    Reply
    • 4. Daniel Soum  |  November 27, 2009 at 2:19 pm

      Claudia,
      I don’t know your age, but I have some friends, ex-general managers, in the fifty’s years, who would like to be considered as experienced and value-adding staffs!…
      Perhaps you need to do this experience to understand the problem and… talk less hypocritical!!
      Good luck!
      Daniel

      Reply
    • 5. James Fisher  |  November 27, 2009 at 3:59 pm

      Claudia,

      There is only one thing we all have in common… we will all get older. It happens so fast that it amazes you. Before you know it, you’re the one being “screened out”. I giggle with glee picturing you, 55 & in no economic position to retire…

      James Fisher
      Recruiting Professional
      Sunnyvale, CA

      Reply
  • 6. Daniel Soum  |  November 27, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Hi Michael,
    As an ex-recruiter, as a senior, and as an ex-unemployed European, I only can totally agree with you!!!…
    European continent is named “the old continent”… is it the reason why European work markets don’t accept seniors?…
    I am now living in Asia, in Vietnam. A country where 75% of the population are less than 30 years old! Very young workers and managers who are studying a lot after work to get more and more knowledge and competences. Young companies which are searching and welcoming senior managers to get their experience and help…
    Result today: Asia will be the next economic heart of the world!… Poor old Europe!
    Daniel

    Reply
  • 7. Francesca  |  November 27, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    From time to time I’ve had to seek employment and I’ve come across the “unspoken age barrier.” In fact, I was even asked how I would feel about having to take direction from someone younger than me. Needless to say I was taken back.

    Now find that it is not only age discrimination but also diploma discrimination. Even as an administrative person they want you to have a college education. I took every secretarial course available during my years in high school, I’ve worked for CEO, Presidents, Chairmen and Directors of Fortune 500 companies but apparently I still need a college education.

    When will the companies realize that we aren’t dead. We have a lot to offer and yes you can still teach an old dog new tricks. I love to learn.

    Reply
  • 8. Dale Hukill  |  November 27, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    I think many of the seasoned workforce that is currently applying/interviewing for new positions are experiencing the age factor. You arrive for an interview and almost immediately you know it is over. They take one look at you and their expressions tell it all. Yes, we are in need of work, but you are correct that we are better off just moving on to the next opportunity.
    Thanks for the insider perspective.

    Reply
  • 9. Pierre Adida  |  November 27, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    How right!
    Go even further and dare talking about those client companies who are asking: “we would prefer a true American candidate, not …. you know what I mean …”
    As a Staffing Agency, it’s a terrible situation to be trapped in, as you want to do business and you know that you are going to lose the client if you tell them what you feel.

    Reply
  • 10. Bill Johnson  |  November 27, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Thanks for your commentary and insight. It just happened to me twice in the same week. As a senior manager with much corporate experience, I would have terminated those hr people.

    What is the recourse? Any comments about legal/EEOC actions available and probable outcomes?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • 11. Peter de Waal  |  November 27, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Dear Michael,
    You’re completely correct in your statement……..age discrimination exists, but what can you do about it…….nothing…just work on your own runway and take off……That’s the experience I have and I came out well and with satisfaction….
    Sometimes I pity companies who reject an experienced person because of age…..do they realize that the value of a trained and experienced professional usually exceeds 10 times the salary they work for ?

    Best regards,

    Peter de Waal

    Reply
  • 12. Debi W.  |  November 27, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    I love your articles, Michael….they are soulful realisms! You’re right – why would a seasoned professional want to work for a company who has no respect for experience or wisdom? On another note, I really want to match up my core values with an organization that truly resembles/matches those in their culture, mission and their own values and work ethic. Thoughts?

    Reply
  • 13. Pierre Adida  |  November 27, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    to Bill Johnson,

    Not much you can do as a Staffing Agency. Just try to educate and convince your client. Any legal action would obviously make you lose your account. If you can accept it, that’s a great response to such attitude, but you know also that there will be another Agency happy to take the order.

    Reply
  • 14. Joanne  |  November 27, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    What about someone like me who had a career and diploma, had kids and then back to school and the career. Now that I am have graduated and look young for my age, I step into an interview and have to reveal the year of my past jobs, diplomas etc. What do I do in this situation? I look 20 years younger to be honest.

    Reply
  • 15. Donna Maria  |  November 27, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    I see so many boomers with more energy, more dedication and better work habits than GenYers, many of whom can’t write, spell and frankly the job’s there to give them a PC to keep up on Facebook and money for the nearest party or bar @ 5pm. Many have bank accounts and credit cards paid for by Mummy and Daddy.

    Hey, since the Feds are getting involved in everything regarding corporate regulation, perhaps it is time for ‘affirmative action’ for those over 50. Maybe quotas! Maybe real regulations with teeth in them!

    Oh, I forgot. The ‘hope and change’ president those GenYers all love wants to cut anyone over 50 from life-saving medical procedures in the name of healthcare reform: and name certain companies ‘winners and losers’ depending on how much they kowtow to him (while he bows to Saudi sheiks and the Emperor of Japan). Corporate fascism, anyone?

    Guess we won’t be leaving anything to the kids!

    Reply
    • 16. Jan Thomas  |  December 17, 2009 at 2:16 pm

      Donna, I simply have to ask ~ do your comments have any bearing at all on the blog itself? All I’m getting from your comment is a great deal of bitterness, and possibly the opportunity to vent politically ~ which seem rather inappropriate here in a discussion of a specific job-search/hiring situation.

      Please, if you don’t have anything productive to add to the conversation, simply move on without comment, and leave the rest of us to serious discussion.

      Reply
      • 17. CK  |  February 2, 2010 at 12:09 am

        I have to say that your response was not productive (either).
        To have a FRANK DISCUSSION of issues, you have to permit people to express their own experiences.

        Donna was doing that. I am feeling the awkward need to bite my tongue, but I speak with a lot of long time IT professionals who are fed up with the H1B issue even more than the age issue.

        Pierre Adida complains about companies that want “TRUE AMERICANs” and I’d like to say – please let me know who they are, because I most certainly am not finding those companies. Many of my colleagues are very senior people who have lost their jobs to overseas outsourcing and H1B’s. And another slap in their face is to be told that they have to train their successors (usually 2 or more to 1) In most cases it had less to do with age and more to do with the low-ball rates and the fact that orgs can take advantage of the desire to work in the US.

        I met with with a young recruiter at one client and their Supplier Diversity rep. The young man informed me that they like dealing with those companies because they are cheaper and better – I pointed out that while IT had taken a huge hit with the flooding # of h1b, did he not realize that his job was the next one going overseas? In his 20’s he might think he has 20 years to worry about age discimination for himself, but he darn well better understand that the push to outsource American jobs is going to hit him personally a lot sooner. The Diversity rep, who I’d guess to be in his 50’s had a huge grin on his face when the reality of what I said sunk in to the young man.

  • 18. Deborah  |  November 27, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    How sad. Don’t the people doing the hiring remember what it was like being young? Energy is great, don’t get me wrong. But I would 100% rather hire an older person who has some perspective on the appropriate way to handle a situation rather than just shooting from the hip based on limited experience. Every single person I know is a better employee now than when they were first out of school. No wonder this country is headed down the tubes – we squander our best resources.

    Reply
  • 19. Bruce  |  November 27, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    So out of curiosity, do you ever “remind” these employers that in the US, age discrimination against workers over 40 is an actionable offense and they are risking fines and sanctions in government contracting as well as liability in civil suits?

    Reply
    • 20. Steve  |  January 17, 2010 at 12:34 pm

      Bruce, I don’t think that would be a good idea. If I was the hiring manager, I definitely wouldn’t hire you, not because you were too old, but because you come across as a trouble maker.

      I think a better strategy would be to make the hiring manager understand what you bring to the table. For instance you could talk about the fact that these days, it is rare for someone straight out of college to stay for more than 5 years and that their first year is mostly spent learning the ropes. On the other hand, you could hit the ground running and even though (hypothetically) you only have 10 years to retirement, that is twice as long as the college person is likely to be there.

      Reply
  • 21. Shellie  |  November 27, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Michael I have read your article and now being one of the senior members looking for work do see discrimination day in and day out.
    Yes it does exist but to accept it as a way of life makes you and all those around you part of the problem. I can imagine that most of you, that have left comments on here are of the majority in your country (remember another don’t consider question for employment i.e. race) well I am of the minority and in my life time I have had to fight my way up through discrimination and now being told to accept another type of discrimination as the way of life is horrible.

    Yes, People tend to work better with people from similar backgrounds but in the USA that has been one of our major conflicts throughout time getting people to learn to accept difference. Now I can not speak for other countries where discrimination is different but here in the USA for person in charge of staffing and those who assists them to say, accept it as a way of life throws us back in time 50 years all for the sake of a dollar.

    Remember the long list of companies or agencies that did changed: Schools, restaurants, realtors, hospitals, police , fire and the list goes on. So Michael yes it does exist and no you probably can not affect change by yourself but please don’t write an article saying accept it as a way of life. If more staffers stood up and said that it is illegal and I can not do it maybe then the client will start using legal practices to better not only his company but this country. People with a lot of experience are no way a hindrance to anyone.

    Reply
  • 22. Alex  |  November 27, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    I agree. In most countries in Europe, and even the U.S., anyone over 40 is considered just an alter kaker.

    Reply
  • 23. Richard Whorf  |  November 27, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Michael! Oh Michael! How refreshing you are! I can appreciate the hard truth! Even if it hurts. Why are so many in denial? What good can that do anyone? I do not have to condone age or any kind of discrimination but I sure know it exists. You are correct; the best thing to do is MOVE ON! Like you said why would I want to work for a company that doesn’t appreciate me? Why waste time?

    I do have to say that it sure makes for a vibrant discussion!
    P.S.
    I just figured out what a blog is (BECAUSE I’M OLD DAMNIT!) and started my own, I could use some advice, you can find me on Linkedin if you are game.

    Reply
  • 24. Ealiza77  |  November 27, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    I love this article … thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • 25. Charles  |  November 28, 2009 at 12:11 am

    Don’t give up before we get started. If we can’t change the employers we need to change the law. We organize, we vote, we email. We change the law to make the employers prove they aren’t discriminating. Companies that issue mortgages have to report what nationality and gender are getting loans. We can make the employers do the same and add age to the report. We can’t lay down on this.

    Reply
  • 26. Charlie  |  November 28, 2009 at 12:45 am

    Your article is on target! Thanks for your candor. I would like to add… the subject has created a nice market for 3rd party recruiters.

    Reply
  • 27. Harry Beezhold  |  November 28, 2009 at 1:21 am

    I do not know what Woody Allen said, but Groucho said:
    I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER.

    Reply
  • 28. Steve Freedman  |  November 28, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Mike, I very much appreciate your candor and courage in putting the truth out there. I have forwarded your comments to other senior executives with whom I network. Like many of my seasoned associates I’ve found age discrimination is rampant and we’re in a relatively defenseless position to do anything about it. Giving us a peek behind the curtain helps to validate our assumptions and recognize that despite being able to perform excellently, this silent enemy is real and something we just have to accept. Being a 32 year professional HR guy I recognize that this is a tremendous waste of talent, but I also recognize that management gets what it wants, and sometimes what it deserves.

    Keep telling it straight.

    Steve

    Reply
  • 29. Christine  |  November 28, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Michael:

    In many EU countries, it is a requirement for applicants to not just list their birthdate, but also their marital status and the amount of children they have. Sure, applicants can move on. Where do you move to if there are less and less opportunities offered though? The bigger picture is that this practice leads to too many unnecessary burdens for EU societies which are far more subsidized than the US and offer less opportunities. Age discrimination is a very expensive freedom to have!

    Christine

    Reply
  • 30. nora  |  November 28, 2009 at 11:44 am

    We knew this was going on, but it’s nice to see it posted here. I’m eight years out from retirement, and I’ve hired people my age who are, in fact, “set in their ways” and not agile enough by disposition to flow with rapid changes. But I and many others of my age are young in spirit and heart, agile and adaptable, filled with progressive ideas. I work well with younger people, more so than with people my own age. I get the advice that you likely don’t want to work at a company with tunnel vision, but I’d like to ask this: how do you communicate by your resume – which may be the first and only pitch to an employer – that you bring that youthfulness as well as your years of experience? It’s not enough to say to “not let it get you down.” What’s the strategy? I’ve looked at websites featuring companies that embrace older workers. The job listings are thread-bare. so i have to ask again: what is the strategy when your resume is perhaps the first and only shot you’ll get?

    Reply
    • 31. Gail  |  December 4, 2009 at 5:30 pm

      Hey Nora… It was nice to read your comments and I would really like to know how many andwhich are the Companies that accept older workers. Michael is so correct when he writes that they prefer the young blood. So no matter how much you have given to a Company they still treat you like an old rag and dump you in the corner. I see it happening every day and not to deny its happened to me as well. I wonder when people will wake up and realize that its this same old rag that has done and is still doing a good job so th least they could do is treat them right and not discriminate

      Reply
  • 32. Scott  |  November 28, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    This is all very sad and funny at the same time. I think if your goal is merely to get a job, then, yes, just “move on”. But if you’re goal is to participate in the national conversation, then, yes, get involved!

    People do have the power to change things, but it can ONLY happen by getting together. As an individual, you have NO chance.

    For far too long we have allowed corporations to make decisions for us. This is undemocratic! It took us 30 years to dismantle all the gains we made toward workers rights, starting with Reagan busting up the airline unions.

    It will take us that long to rebuild, but who will do it?

    Reply
  • 33. Lucy  |  November 28, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Hi Michael

    Nice to see an insight on the issue of age in the work place. I been looking for work and I know my age play a role in getting a job, I’m in my late 50’s. Older workers are working longer years in the work force and not taking retirement. Our experiences and expertize are over look. I had the paid issue up front right away before they set up a interview, online applications they ask for each job what your pay was beginning to end of the job. Everybody comments on what is happening for older workers so true for each of our situation. There are many of us and we all can help each other to get through this and find a job. I enjoy working with any age and we can learn from each other. I have a part time seasonal job and looking for full time job with a hotel front desk. I worked for a major company 37 years and got laid off.

    Reply
  • 34. Jim R  |  November 28, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    If “year of graduation from college” cannot be asked on job applications, why do most employers that use Taleo (for instance, UnitedHealth) make it a required field, and no one has stopped them? No government agency has gone after them? It is blatantly illegal, highly visible, yet they persist.

    It’s simply because they can. I’m on the younger side – 50 – but experience this all the time. Having been out of work nearly a year, COBRA will soon run out, unemployment doesn’t pay the bills as it is, and I’ll have to start eating into retirement savings just to live. While giving 45% of what I take out to the government. Being penalized for being old and out of work.

    How am I supposed to tell my teens that we will lose the house? That they can’t afford to go to college? That we can’t afford to go to the doctor?

    There is nothing that can be done about this. Nothing, because the only ones who care are the ones with no power.

    Reply
  • 35. Roger Charlesworth  |  November 28, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    OK. Been an Electrical Engineering Manager for many years. Now, at 69, I am teaching English in China. Plenty of work out here. I am valued. Living is cheap.

    Reply
  • 36. ronny  |  November 28, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Hi Michael

    I can’t say that I disagree whit your article, being 52 I get a lot of (informal) feedback about my age, mostly (and in addition to your comment) the tone was, “he will not stay with us because as soon the market will get up he will leave us”, personally I find that pretty offensive because it frankly states that I (we) don’t have any feeling for commitment. Furthermore we do have a second handicap because (in these times) companies are looking for a junior with senior experience because they don’t have to pay him senior wages. I think this approach is really stupid because the day rate is set at the moment we apply for a project. In my opinion the trouble is that, these days, most firm recruiters are too young to do any recruiting at all. They lack the experience and the job evaluation knowledge to do any recruiting (except then for the reception people) and therefore they contact you because they are not up to the job, but they (as you stated) fill up the time of these recruiters with these endless discussions. There is a difference between the laws in the US and Europe, but bottom line they do came to the same point, your too expensive because of your age while there is no reason at all to assume that.
    Best regards
    Ronny

    Reply
    • 37. Bich Van Phan Nguyen  |  October 3, 2010 at 11:12 am

      Dear Ronny,

      I agree with you that the companies look for a junior with senior experience to avoid paying him senior wages. And sometimes, they hardly bargain with the junior like me that we don’t have enough years of experience. However, they don’t pay attention to how much of experience per year we tried to get in many aspects, via continuous courses to update knowledge and the part-time jobs together with the main jobs, in order to get as much experience as we can in short time.
      I realize that age discrimination to old or young people and many other things are only the reasons of the employers who want to take the most advantage from employees with the least expenses. Meanwhile, the employees also want to take the most advantages from employers. And this conflict exist all the time. If we have our own enterprise, we surely act the same like our current bosses, employers. So, in my opinion, our only solution is moving on and finding out our acceptable living way (be employed or employed by ourselves) and get the win-win balance in any bargaining for your jobs.

      Reply
  • 38. Arnold Talbott  |  November 28, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    This is why America is such mess. Instead of hiring experience they hire mediocrity and they wonder why their is such a poor retention or high failure rate. The other illegal activity they do is hire people to get info from your bank, utilities, residences, credit card companies, and other sources. It is illegal but they still do it and no one will stop them. Wonder if this is why so many companies fail.

    Reply
  • 39. Ron Erhardt  |  November 28, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    The only comment I’d add at this point is that being a White Male Over Fifty is a very serious detriment to a job search. A vast majority of companies in the High Tech sector simply are not interested. More than two years of searching with very few ‘bites’ – even using a significant personal network – has convinced me that I am being discriminated against in a big way.

    Reply
  • 40. Ron Erhardt  |  November 28, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    I’ll throw something else in here, as this discussion seems to be focusing on the inexperience and naivete of the company recruiters rather than the issue of age discrimination in today’s job market. I don’t think it has a lot to do with the recruiters. They’re doing what they are told to do. The real problem, in my opinion, is that the guidelines being used by HR are geared toward younger, less experienced candidates. They are cheaper, more impressionable, and less likely to rock the boat – even though that boat rocking is precisely what drives growth and ultimate success for the company. As Mr. Talbott mentioned in his post, this is a very serious problem for American interests. While there may be companies who do not follow this new ‘norm’, they are few and far between. And with ‘candidates’ outnumbering job openings something like six to one, it means that any real opportunity for many of us may be impossible to reach.

    Reply
  • 41. Timothy Aines  |  November 28, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Good info, great realistic quotes nicely captured, and coupled with good solid advice. (The original source of that quote though, contrary to urban legend, wasn’t originally Groucho, but Oscar Wilde.) A refreshingly truthful standout article in a sea of hum-drum stuff that is usually out there. There is another set of techniques (fodder for another blog?) for communicating some of these same quasi-legal messages involving body language and tone – things like a raised eyebrow, and a look, or a sarcastic inflection hinted at in certain words and phrases. Anyway, nicely done.

    Reply
  • 42. Charles  |  November 28, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    There is a grassroots movement that is beginning on LinkedIn. Michael has a link to his blog, here. If you are interested in pushing for changes in the law to stem this illegal practice of age discrimination, join LinkedIn and search for Michaels’ post.

    Reply
  • 43. Pierre Adida  |  November 28, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    It would be interesting to create a “Chart of ethical practices” for recruiters and have them commit to adhere to it. If such a chart becomes a nation wide recognized certification, then hiring companies may want (or need) to consider changing attitude.
    May be such a Chart exists already?

    Reply
  • 44. Wil Ferch  |  November 28, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    “We want less experience”….I can’t believe the continued absurdity of all this.

    The hiring org may just as well say…”we don’t want to create profits”…or.. “we don’t want to run our organization safely and efficiently”….

    Remember this the next time we go into a hospital for surgery….or step onto a commercial aircraft and look at who is at the controls.

    Reply
  • 45. odiuko  |  November 28, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Michael, thanks for your piece on the subject of Age Discrimination. It was timely and was very direct. We all wish such was not the case but unfortunately as you noted, it is a real issue out there. I also noted and will refer to your networking tips, great tips

    Elizabeth Ndubisi-Ukandu

    Reply
  • 46. Diana Miller  |  November 28, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    I agree this is an issue. That is why it is critical for the older worker to be prepared with a resume that doesn’t go back more than about 15 years, play up your most recent skills, keep it short, organized and to the point, back it up with numbers whenever possible. When you do get an interview always look your best and exhibit plenty of energy. It probably won’t happen overnight, but if you stay committed, have a strong strategy, it will happen. There are companies that are open and eager to hiring older workers. Check out the AARP list of best companies for workers over fifty. http://aarp.org/community/search.bt?query=best+companies+for+workers+over+fifty&x=29&y=12

    Reply
  • 47. Jim Mergens  |  November 28, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Excellent article. You nailed it with your point about how tough it would be to engage with a company with a “youth culture” mentality. There’s surely nothing wrong with vitality, and I have a fair share of it! In my last gig, it was a lot of fun working with younger people and their fresh perspectives, but there was a lack of the sort of confidence and maturity that keep companies on an even keel and keep folks mindful of the classic attributes of running a successful business. I worked for a large retailer that went bankrupt, all the while with my store (I was Sales Manager) being the territorial sales leader, ironic.
    Great thoughts about staying positive.

    Reply
  • 48. Charles  |  November 28, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    -Maybe we could push to be included in Affirmative Action?

    -I had a second thought. How about adding reporting to the government like HMDA reporting regarding older workers.

    -I think Leta has the idea. We need an internet presence. A common place to meet online. Then build support and take action. Email ALL the legislators, repeatedly. I have already emailed my reps here in Michigan and in Washington. When they are in town we express our concerns in person. Where do we get a free website?

    -Should we start with a LinkedIn group? I did a quick search of groups here and found they are geared to helping older workers find work. We are activists. That may bring together people with access to resources and knowledge to get this off the ground. What do you think?

    Reply
  • 49. Renie  |  November 28, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Dear Michael:

    One thing you forgot to mention is the Health Insurance coverage that comes into factor. That’s one of the main reasons why there are companies that reject older people. The cost of health insurance rises as people get older.

    Now for the most part, I’ve seen where companies often make the same mistakes over and over again and hire young people only to see them go out the door in less than 2 months up to a year. I was at such a place where I was there for at least 3 years before they decided to outsource their department somewhere out of state.

    Age is not the only thing they discriminate against, it’s also those who get health conditions throughout the course of their lives and as I discovered, you don’t have to be older necessarily to get a health condition.

    That’s another thing to never assume about the middle age group either. Never assume that one is too young to have a heart attack. I witnessed someone have one at the age of 38 at work. I also witnessed someone have it at the age of 12.

    I already knew about this but I mostly have faced discrimination with being female in my line of profession. Right now, I’m the most advanced in hardware technical support out of all the volunteers at this one place. Some guys and the younger ones are struggling right now to keep up but I base that on lack of experience coming from them.

    Surprisingly though, they have shown much respect for someone older like myself because I’ve been able to prove that I can keep up with the younger ones.

    Reply
  • 50. don  |  November 28, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    This is a great topic, thanks for bringing it to us. I couldn’t agree more – there are so many problems brought about because of misconceptions about our ages. It is so cool that we can’t get insurance or jobs, just because we made the mistake of living too long. Sorry, our fault.

    Maybe a life of crime would work; but am I too old to be an enforcer? What a drag.

    So, yes, I have to admit, I am tired of having to excuse myself for having experience. I took a second look at the reasons they have to not hire us:

    #1 We’re looking for someone with a lot of years ahead of them, with potential for career growth.
    Ok, sure. I am 54, I have at the very least 13 years, probably closer to 16, left to work. What is your average employee retention? 5 years, 10?

    #2 We want someone with a lot of ‘runway’ still in front of them.
    So, you want people who can not already fly. Interesting.

    #3 Send us candidates who are on the upward swing of their career arc.
    What makes you think that by my looking for a job I am NOT on the upswing? I have been to a lot of places and done a lot of things, and I came to you for a reason.

    #4 Most of our employees are full of youthful energy, and we want someone who will fit in.
    Yep, keep them thoughtful, plodding old people out – oh, wait, gotta run, have to prep for the 10K next week.

    #5 We are wary of hiring a candidate who is too senior. We’ve found that they are often ‘stuck in their ways’ and have a hard time adjusting to a new way of doing things.
    I have spent the last 12 years helping develop the “new things” (like social media, the internet, and mobile employment) you “discovered”. In 30 years, my job functions and management have changed on average every year and a half. Anyway, text me, we can meet for coffee.

    #6 We are a very dynamic company. We need someone who can move quickly and roll with the changes. Senior level candidates don’t usually do well with that.
    See #5 – I have seen and adapted to more changes in my life than you have, and I learned to thrive in change, because there was no other choice. You have no idea how quickly I can turn. In fact, your view of “dynamic” may be very different than mine. I may have applied to your “dynamic” company because I am looking for the slower pace it offers compared to my last job (herding cats to the goat rodeo).

    #7 We do not want to see candidates who are already ‘on the back nine’ of their career.
    I am playing 36 holes. Try to keep up, sonny.

    #8 We don’t want to invest in the training and ramp-up time for someone who is only going to be with us for a couple of years before retirement.
    See #1, #3 & #5. What makes you think that I am looking for retirement? People live longer, and are far more active later in life. Maybe I am looking for a nice coda – 10 to 15 years of really making a difference, not 3 years of make do till Social Security sets in so I can hit my rocking chair. And, again, I was alpha testing the things you think your generation invented while you were playing soccer and worrying about your acne. You may have less to train me on than you think. In fact, if you are not too dense, I may have a lot that I can teach you.

    #9 We are not looking for a ‘seasoned’ professional.’ Those candidates are generally too expensive.
    Yes, because your post-grads with $150K of student loans, new families, and the desire for all things flashy, hell, THEY don’t want money. Me, with my cars paid for, the kids out of college, the mortgage on the low end, and an existing retirement package that I am carrying with me, I am too expensive. I have no idea of getting paid for what you do, I just know I want more.

    OK, it IS a rant, but a valid one. We are not the grandparents you are envisioning, we are probably more vital than you think.

    Reply
  • 51. Gavin  |  November 28, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Actually, I am 52, recently made redundant, starting my own business, flat broke, and never had more fun in my life.

    Reply
  • 52. Marcia Adams  |  November 28, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    There are some programs available through the local workforce centers for people over 55 – but don’t expect too much. For the ones who are over 40 but under 55 there are programs, but only if you do not have a formal education.

    Reply
  • 53. Thomas Keplar  |  November 28, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Self-employment, contract, small business start up, partnering with other 50-year-olds. A lot of good talent is passed over just so companies can get cheaper labor. thing is what goes around comes around, if a company does this to others, they will do it to you….so look in the mirror. Those co-workers, your boss, the CEO … face it, your a number and that is about it. For the 30 somethings, look closely because this is how you will be treated regardless of your skills and what you offer. I advice as someone approaches their mid 40’s they are out on their own in some form of consultancy or something where they have influence over their career. Human beings are the greatest excuse makers on the planet. You best have your financial situation in order by 50 or it can get tough as things go south in the employment market. Try things, little experiments in truth, micro business principles. Network with people on the net who are in the same situation as you are. Look in the mirror, be honest, if necessary be brutal then get going. Look near, look far, keep in mind that the USA has a unemployment and underemployment rate that is more like 20-30% and that the government statistics are to be questioned very carefully. liars figure, figures lie. Self-employment, consultancy, small business start ups are all reasonable choices. just be sure your getting your facts straight. a lot of people of lost a lot of money based on their ego instead of the facts. Love him or hate him , he sure hits the nail on the head with this! Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

    Rule 1 : Life is not fair – get used to it!
    Rule 2 : The world doesn’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
    Rule 3 : You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.
    Rule 4 : If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss
    Rule 5 : Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.
    Rule 6 : If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault , so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
    Rule 7 : Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
    Rule 8 : Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
    Rule 9 : Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.
    Rule 10 : Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
    Rule 11 : Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

    Bottom line … businesses are in businesses to take in more money than they put out. They are run by human beings who in many cases have very short memories. No matter how much you have done for them few will care in the end. life lessons in general apply so observe carefully. How someone or in this case something, a business, a government treats others is how you will eventually be treated so watch closely. Non-profits, churches, charities……same rules apply, remember they are human beings with all the strengths and weaknesses. Character, integrity and values show up when things get hard.

    Reply
  • 54. Sheila  |  November 28, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Michael:

    Great article and very true in my experience as a recruiter. Those comments have never prevented me from presenting a senior person that was qualified (although I have been warned not to by other recruiters). Maybe I have lost some income because of it but for me it is a matter of doing what is right and presenting the candidate that is best qualified for the position.

    Discriminating against someone older would be like discriminating against myself. I am over 50. I am happy to say that in some cases, I have placed senior candidates with companies in spite of their original perspective and they have been very satisfied with them.

    I am facing the same challenge myself as I look for new opportunities. I can’t change things, so I just have to deal with things as they are. Those that screen me out are missing the opportunity to have a great, successful employee. It is their loss.

    Reply
  • 55. Suzan  |  November 28, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    Don – I liked your answers to all of Michael’s examples.

    The thing that always gets me is the one where we’re expected to retire soon. And how long are the younger people staying? I am sure that after this recession is over, they will go back to changing jobs every one to three years – and, like Don says – I would be staying 10 to 15 years or more!!

    One thing that I have been hearing, having been out of work for over 2 years, is that companies only want to hire people who are working. So, let me see – there is a recession – many people are out of work, but recruiters are only allowed to find candidates that already have a job. Amazing!!

    Suzan

    Reply
    • 56. Daniel Soum  |  November 29, 2009 at 12:46 am

      I agree with you and some others about “how long…”! What companies have to understand is that the risk to invest in experienced seniors is probably smaller than to invest in young people, starting and managing their career! So, the companies have to keep a balance in their teams (young/senior) to manage this risk. And that’s what recruitment agencies could explain to their clients, if they really want to be efficient advisers instead of only fast money makers!
      Daniel

      Reply
  • 57. Surya Vangara  |  November 28, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    I am three short of fifty, but I feel dreaded at the thought of reaching it. As Tim said, most of the recruiters / interviewers are very young women who probably are even at a loss to understand their boy friend’s job and now trying to match between a spec that they never worked for and an experience that they never will get. To amplify with an example, I have relocated to UK 2 months ago and have sounded key guys in my network that I am looking out for work. One of them (quite a senior guy) referred me to his company HR and my function. Two women called me from India and started asking me questions. Almost after every three sentences they interrupted me saying they know it from my resume and asked another question. This went on for about 10 or 15 minutes. It only sounded like they were interviewing me for fulfilling a formality in preparation of a rejection. At the end, one of the ladies asked me if I am willing to relocate to a XYZ city in UK. While I am not a great pundit of geography, I never heard of the XYZ city. So I asked her where the XYZ city is. I was shocked with her irritated response. She said “I don’t know but it is a big, nice place and many people are happily living there. If you don’t want to relocate, we will let ABC (my reference) know your choice (of not relocating and hence refusing a job after asking for one)” Actually, in her tone she was suppressing her opinion ‘all you oldies with experience are very difficult and choosy while we are offering you sustenance which you don’t have’. Of course, no marks for guessing, I did not get the job since I am not in a position to relocate within UK a second time in as many months. Now they will search for a guy half my age, willing to locate at the given place and miss the objectives of the job since the guy would not have experience of the job. The point I am trying to make is that the age discrimination (whether it is company’s unwritten policy or it is in the heads of the individuals) is detrimental to the business interest of the company in the long run. Where experience matters, it really matters. It should not matter is plain wishful thinking.

    Reply
  • 58. Stephen Evanoff  |  November 28, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Thanks for the prudent and wise advice regarding age discrimination. I’m getting to the point in my career where this may become a factor and it’s helpful to get common sense guidance like yours.

    Reply
  • 59. Richard Whorf  |  November 28, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    I do not accept discrimination of any kind. Discrimination is prejudice and prejudice is ignorant. Some might feel that your comment suggests that one should merely ignore such ignorance. Quite the contrary! I refuse to give audience to ignorance as I refuse to pay attention to my 5 year old’s tantrums when he does not get his way. I prefer to step up, shame the discriminators and look down upon them before I move on. (Lead by example)

    Regardless of how ugly a fact it is discrimination exists today in many forms. Keeping in mind that the topic is: “Age Discrimination: Secret Conversations Revealed!” I see emphasis on the word SECRET. It is easily interchangeable with cowardly.

    My comment is from a JOB SEEKERS point of view and time is of the essence. I would hope that people “MOVE ON” when encountering ANY discrimination in the hopes that someday the ignorant will feel left out and join those of us that appreciate difference, not to mention all that good food!

    Reply
  • 60. Jacob  |  November 28, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    Mr. Spiro’s message here is very disheartening.

    No, I do not want to accept it and move on!

    When Captain Sullenberger landed his plane in the Hudson river, rescuing his passengers, many people lauded his long experience, commenting that a less experienced pilot could not have pulled off such a rescue. The lesson has been lost on most companies I have dealt with. Judging my the comments and the firestorm this blog has raised, it has been lost on corporate America.

    We as individuals are suffering for it, of course, but within a few years, the whole country will be on the disadvantage technologically, because the corporations have disregarded the most experienced, most seasoned members of the workforce. We are on that slope already, sliding ever faster. Who remembers the PC as manufactured by IBM? Who owns that division now?

    BTW, managers who looked quite decayed themselves have not been above this misbehavior. They should be more sensitive to it; they may find themselves on the business side of the interview desk.

    Reply
  • 61. Daniel Soum  |  November 29, 2009 at 1:20 am

    I agree with Charles and his idea to let this action be concrete… yes, we are activists! And internet gives us the opportunity to be active and efficient citizens!! Why do politicians and other opinion leaders have blogs??… We have to do the same, and come back to real democracy!!… The present economic crisis demonstrates enough how much we are manipulated and only “used” to serve some gigantic financial interests… do we want to continue to accept that?… We must back to human! And a human life doesn’t stop with 40 or 50!!
    Daniel

    Reply
  • 62. Carlos Teixeira  |  November 29, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Michael,
    As we know if there are companies avoiding women only because they can become pregnant why not experienced executives?
    Hugs and success for everybody!!
    Carlos Teixeira

    Reply
  • 63. davidgwick  |  November 29, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Great examples of thinly veiled age related reasons to disqualify you. Better to focus all your energy on getting a position with a company that welcomes all the experience and wisdom you age can bring to them.

    David G. Wick
    Blog: http://davidgwick.wordpress.com

    Reply
  • 64. Charles  |  November 29, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Here is a link to a site that has the websites and email address of your legislators. Send them an email and let them know how you feel and what you want done about it.

    http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/

    Reply
  • 65. Mario  |  November 30, 2009 at 6:57 am

    Michael,

    Great to hear those words from a former job recruiter.

    There is another dark side of the same coin, but I believe you know this already. A department’s manager will NEVER hire someone who shows the cracks and could potentially take his/her job.

    Reply
  • 66. Ron  |  November 30, 2009 at 8:27 am

    My favorite instance: When I was 50, I interviewed with a tech and his boss. He asked, “There’s a lot of walking in this job, would you be okay with that?”

    Well, I was never going to get that job — they couldn’t afford to have me around with his boss knowing he’d asked that.

    I just made a point to always, always catch him from behind on campus and say “Good Morning, Tom, looks like you’re not so rushed today.”

    Reply
  • 67. Mikkel Moller  |  November 30, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    I was a late 50’s individual in the midst of the late 90’s Dot.Com Era in San Francisco and when it ended, getting a job was almost impossible because the marketplace was flooded with 20 somethings with little experience but would work for nothing. I too worked for nothing, at one point 7 days and 6 nights at 5 different jobs to keep the bills paid. Just this October as a 68 year old I got my first full time “responsible” position since 2001. Since joining my new company I have progressed rapidly as they saw what I could accomplish and that I had a “work ethic.”

    Reply
    • 68. Cheri Abbott  |  December 4, 2009 at 8:24 pm

      Congratulations, Michael! Your success is an excellent example of the short-sightedness of the other hiring managers. I’m sure you are a blessing to your new employer in many, many ways. Bravo to them for their integrity and open-mindedness!

      Reply
  • 69. Charles  |  November 30, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Mikkel,
    I am happy that you have acquired full time work and have proved your worth. I am sorry that it took so long to find it. Employers don’t always value “work ethic” when it comes time to do the hiring or firing. They are looking at a balance sheet. Before I was laid off I set the pace for the office. First to arrive and last to leave and not afraid to get my hands dirty on jobs that weren’t normally mine. When you take up too much space on the balance sheet those things become less important. If older workers were part of Affirmative Action or something like it we might not be on the “A” list for lay offs and we might make the “A” list for recruitment.

    Reply
  • 70. Jay Finnigan  |  November 30, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    If someone working for me hired a younger person because they are “cheaper” I’d find another hiring manager. That is a formula for failure. You should hire the person who has the proper qualifications AND best experience to do the job. Calculate your ROI on hiring the person, if having 10 years more in experience is going to pay back faster/higher returns, it’s worth 10 to 20% more on your investment. The side benefit normally forgotten is a seasoned veteran’s experience will quickly elevate those around him/her. What’s the cost savings in training/experience for all others affected?

    Reply
  • 71. Ross Dodwell  |  November 30, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Michael,

    I recently refused to give my social security number and birth date to a company that wanted it before they were going to allow me to interview for a job!! The job I was applying for did not require security clearances.

    It’s crazy out there!!

    Thank

    Reply
  • 72. Charles  |  November 30, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Companies now ask for your information to do background checks, at the time of application. They are asking for information that they cannot ask for in an interview. A neat way to find out how old you are, There should be a way to submit your info directly to the company providing the checks. Irrelevant info, such as age should be concealed from the hiring firm.

    Reply
  • 73. Jeff  |  November 30, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Actually, I believe it was Woody Allen that said: “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept people like me as a member!”

    Woody Allen, “Without Feathers.”

    Reply
  • 74. Natalia  |  November 30, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Thank you for the Truth.
    I was raised in a different culture and I know what age discrimination means. I noticed this tendency here in USA long time ago, and was waiting for “natural” American to raise this issue. I see a lot of changes in society and they are very evident in job search market.
    And regarding the quote:” “I don’t want to belong to any club that wouldn’t accept people like me as a member!” I like it and of course will follow it.. do I have any other choice?:)

    Reply
  • 75. Chris  |  December 1, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Though it’s illegal, I was lucky. When I was job hunting about 14 years ago, I had two different interviewers say things to me along the lines of, “I’m sure you’re worth what you’ve been making, but we can get somebody half your age for half the price.” Without a witness, I’d have no case for age discrimination.

    But I say I was lucky because it let me know where I stood. The agencies I’d been working for didn’t value my experience, they thought I’d be too expensive because of it.

    So I started my own company and, until the dot-com bust, made more money than I’d ever made in my life. What I found was that the companies I worked for valued that experience the agencies didn’t want to pay for. And the companies would.

    To tell the truth, it’s been tougher since then. But I still hope to find companies that value more than 25 years of marketing and communications experience. Because I’m not ready to quit!

    Reply
  • 76. Neal Best  |  December 1, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Michael – Thanks for sharing the quotes you’ve encountered along the way. For the over 50 crowd, our job search, like most things, is a numbers game. We have to keep moving forward, despite the obstacles, and eventually we will achieve our goal. Thanks again for bringing it to the surface.

    Reply
  • 77. Colleen Bruemmer  |  December 1, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks for this post, Michael. It was really interesting to read what companies have actually said to you about candidates. I’ve been warned about using the term “seasoned professional” or “experienced” in my resumes and cover letters, but other comments you mentioned shed some new light on this issue.

    I also shared your post with my followers on Twitter as well. (@cbruemmer).

    Reply
  • 78. James Fisher  |  December 1, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    The below is from a job posting on DICE, today 12/01/09.

    “Staffing Agency Recruiter”
    “Our team is young, light-hearted and hard working. We express a healthy work / life balance and emphasize communication and teamwork to complete our functions… this is not a job for 3 months! We are looking for people that have passion, drive and enthusiasm and want stability and a long term future with a young company.”

    The name of the company is:

    Project Consulting Specialists
    425 N. Whisman Rd. # 600
    Mountain View, CA 94043
    Phone: (650) 265-2400

    Reply
  • 79. Charles  |  December 1, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks James, I went to the website and forwarded those comments to my representatives in Washington.

    Reply
  • 80. Gene  |  December 2, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    It would be interesting to compare elder attrition and unemployment rates for the over-50 crowd in the US with stats from the EU, Canada and other countries with universal healthcare. My hypothesis is that age discrimination is directly proportional to the extent to which companies and individuals bear most responsibility for managing health care (absent government support and mandates). Where there is universal healthcare (I’m guessing), there is less propensity for age discrimination. What’s most frustrating to me is that while it’s well known that age discrimination is pervasive in the US, the practice continues and seems to worsen. Any thought as to how to bring down the veil, expose this most inhumane of human resource practices, to correct the injustices and move on to more enlightened and inclusive employment?

    Reply
  • 81. Charles  |  December 2, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Gene,
    There is a way to effect change. The baby boomers are still a large population and we can organize and mobilize. Contact your legislators at all levels and propose change. There is a bill in congress now (Bicameral bill) that merely reverses a supreme court decision this year that made it almost impossible to sue for age discrimination. We need more than that. There are a few of us on LinkedIn that are working on the beginings of an activist movement. Look for Michaels’ discussion on age discrimination.

    Reply
  • 82. Marcia Adams  |  December 2, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    We also need to insure that the 2010 census is accurate. Many communities are sufficently concerned about accuracy that they are organizing citizen groups to make sure EVERYONE is counted.

    Historically there have been groups that have been dificult to count or that failed to respond – we need to make sure this does not happen.

    Get involved in your community – even work for the Census.

    Reply
  • 83. James Zito  |  December 4, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    It is amazing that you think that everybody else is getting older but you, until it actually happens to you.
    I was wondering why it was that I was not getting any feedback, now I know. Nothing more annoying that no acknowledgment is sent either or.
    Thank you

    Reply
  • 84. Gail  |  December 4, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    It was nice to read your comments and I would really like to know how many andwhich are the Companies that accept older workers. Michael is so correct when he writes that they prefer the young blood. So no matter how much you have given to a Company they still treat you like an old rag and dump you in the corner. I see it happening every day and not to deny its happened to me as well. I wonder when people will wake up and realize that its this same old rag that has done and is still doing a good job so th least they could do is treat them right and not discriminate

    Reply
  • 85. Richard Whorf  |  December 4, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    When I was young and full of pee and vinegar, trying to sponge up all the experience and responsibility the Chef would allow me, I always remembered, (even though the consequences of any mistake I could make would be intimidating, painful and humiliating) the “Old Man” could and would ALWAYS be able to pull me out of the weeds.

    My mentors were the guys who had been through everything a million times and maintained their cool through the most horrifying and impossible situations and afterwards kicked my ass for my mistakes.

    In my culinary adolescence, I felt I may have been a better cook than some of them, that I had better menu ideas and ways to implement them, sometimes I was right. I still had the attitude that I NEEDED the “Old Man.”

    As I worked through my culinary adulthood I could recognize that even though I was an outstanding cook and could operate kitchens with much success, I still NEEDED the “Old Man.”

    Now I have reached the decrepit age of maturity, 48, have opened, owned and operated several of my own restaurants, trained countless cooks and servers and dish washers, many who have gone on to better their careers in the industry with the knowledge I had instilled in them, I’ve passed through business plans and p&l statements and all sorts of other crap…and yes I still NEED the “Old Man.” (Maybe now more than ever.)

    There are plenty of ego driven, flashy, “show” chefs out there, finger pointers, without so much as a spot of marinara sauce on their starchy whites. I sometimes wonder who their “Old Man?” is. Who pulls them out of the weeds by something so simple as telling them to get off their ass or pull their head out of it? Will they have the stamina to go the distance that will teach them what only time can, what the Old Man knows? No matter how hard it is to ask him and catch a bunch of crap for it, THE OLD MAN KNOWS…he always does!

    The Old Man is the LEADER, not always the strongest or most creative or the best at everything, the Old Man is the shoulder that our worlds rest on, the security we can always count on, the one who got us this far.

    Every operation is defined by its leader.

    I wonder if our culture is now to take credit for a foundation that was built by those tough, crusty old SOB’s that got us where we are today. Will we forget to carry on in their tradition, will we get caught up in an ego war with those young whipper snapper “I’ve got the world by the tail, fresh out of school, get out of my way, I know what I’m doing” snot wipers? We owe it to the “hot shots,” to teach them (even if we make them get a little dirty or cry a little) so they will bring up the future generations the right way, so that our craft remains a craft and doesn’t end up becoming just some fancy title.

    How could the Old Man be discriminated against? Who else do they have to ask?

    And hey don’t ever forget: old age and treachery will always overcome youth and stamina! ; )

    Reply
  • 86. Perry Dror  |  December 5, 2009 at 12:07 am

    I am 55, with a resume that includes successful performance of senior positions. It seems like the age and senior positions are a double whammy. I’ve been looking for work for the past year and can’t seem to get interviews even when the positions are perfect fits.

    BTW, the actual Groucho Marx quote was, “I would never belong to any club that would have me as a member.” (not “wouldn’t have”, as appeared in the article).

    Reply
  • 87. Jim  |  December 5, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Here’s something to consider: Look around the room at employment related / job search workshops and seminars (free and for a cost, at unemployment offices and at private facilities). Notice the consistent and disproportionately high percentage (2/3 to 3/4) of white males over the age of 45. Listen to what they’ve accomplished in their careers so far and try to force yourself to accept that they don’t bring enough value to today’s employers. It’s nearly impossible. The Gen-Y punks have a bizarre sense of entitlement and the Gen-X managers hire them anyway. There is one advantage to hiring insufficiently experienced workers — it often takes them longer to realize when they’re being fed a bunch of lies.

    Reply
  • 88. Cheri Abbott  |  December 5, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Here’s a website from the management side of age discrimination — she’ll learn soon enough that the clock ticks for her as well . . .

    http://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/articles/20807/1/Can-Notes-on-a-Napkin-Leave-an-Age-Discrimination-Paper-Trail/Page1.html

    Reply
  • 89. Charles  |  December 5, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    There is now a group on LinkedIn called “50+ Workers for Equal Opportunity”. It is an activist group. We are looking for those that want to get involved and those that want to learn about age discrimination. You don’t have to be 50+ to join. I have hopes of sub-groups for other continents. Come one, come all.

    Reply
  • 90. Stephen  |  December 5, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    Another euphemism for “too old” is “over qualified. And “high energy” means they’re looking for someone young. I’ve met supervisors who admit the younger employees may catch on faster, but the older employees are the better workers. As an older employee I can work circles around the younger ones because I’m there to work. Older employees are also more dependable when it comes to showing up for work. Younger ones may or may not come to work, come in hung over or sleep deprived, having stayed up half the night playing video games or who knows what. Also the younger ones seem to move from job to job more, while the older ones are in it for the long haul, which may mean 10 years or more.

    Reply
  • 91. Malcolm  |  December 6, 2009 at 1:48 am

    I liked the section on Age discrimination. It is true and I live with it daily.
    Someone might want to let the companies know that the average length of service for an employee in this market is about five to ten years. After that, a younger person with a long career ahead of them will be looking for greener pastures to support his new house, two cars and 2.5 children. On the other hand, an older more established worker is more likely to stay longer since he knows that finding a position when close to retirement is next to impossible.

    Reply
  • 92. Henry Segalini  |  December 6, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    It is NOT illegal for a company to ask a candidate’s age. It is illegal to discriminate based on age. Asking someone’s age is not discrimination.

    If you disagree, please send me the specific law and specific section which makes asking the question illegal.

    What probably has happened is that some smart HR department instructed their managers not to ask age because the question may imply the company is in fact discriminating on age. Then people mistakenly assumed the question itself is illegal.

    Reply
  • 93. Colleen Bruemmer  |  December 6, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    It is specifically illegal to ask a candidate about age as well as several other categories. See the About.com article at http://bit.ly/65RV6c

    Reply
  • 94. James Fisher  |  December 6, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    A friend of mine who is a currently unemployed quite Senior-level Sales Manager in the San Diego area tells me that ALL of the well known, very large telecommunications/Communications company’s headquartered in that area require an on-line applicant to give the year & month of their College graduation on the application. The on-line application will not allow you to “proceed” without this info. Why are these company’s being allowed to get away with this?

    Reply
  • 95. James Fisher  |  December 6, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Henry, you are ABSOLUTELY WRONG & I’m not going to waste my time educating you!

    Reply
  • 96. Doug Smith  |  December 6, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Outstanding piece. A few comments. I was one of those Director level managers that worked with recruiters to find the right people. Knowing what happened to my own father at age 55 I always asked for the “best qualified applicant.” During my tenure I hired lots of folks 45 and up – every place I worked. At age 49 I was laid off with all of the older folks at my company. Younger folks with the same title, especially women who had just had children, or persons with families were kept on. It wasn’t experienced based. All the white males over 49 went first.

    When looking for work I quickly found my age to be a barrier. No one spoke about it but if you actually got an interview you could see and hear the disappointment in the interviewer. In addition to age, my race (Caucasian), my religious belief, not being part of a protected minority class, never having been in the military, and probably my personal opinions from blogging, and especially using on-line employment application resources and on-line company application websites. It is very easy for computerized sites to immediately disqualify someone based on the date the applicant provides without ever having interviewed the applicant. That is just criminal. At one job I had I hired a math major and we taught him programming for dial-up repair of customer sites. He later became one of the finest project managers in that company.

    Even now, at age 56, at entry-level jobs employers think older people looking for work are all dishonest derelicts Many small business owners have never had big company interview experience, and frankly lack the knowledge or skill to determine who could fit the job best. I lucked out recently and not only found an honest decent man running a local business but a manager’s job at an entry level wage . I could pay my bills and help him build his business.

    Now comes the last big discrimination problem. My current employer is a saint. He has kept me on 8 hours per week on shifts I can work while I fight a new health problem. One that could effect people of all ages not just us older types. Companies look at older employees and see bigger health insurance premiums because their average age goes up. My new employer is too small to offer health insurance.

    It isn’t just age discrimination that keeps the older worker under or unemployed. Telling us just to keep trying harder stopped being a valid or helpful tactic a long time ago. My Father died in his 80’s after looking for another well paying job for some 10 years after his layoff. I’m now clerking in a small market.

    This is the American Business System. This is how it works and how it will remain until companies develop a conscience and the greedy bean counters at the top stop looking at quarterly results more than they do at training their people and producing a truly competitive product. Competition no longer has anything to do with a product. Competition is all about finding ways to trim budgets through cutting people and finding dirty under-handed ways to put your competitors out of business in order to command market share. Once you have market share you end new development and sell what you have and change the packaging once in a while to make it look new again.

    We have a corporate culture, an American culture, that is no longer truly competitive, honest, or focused on people and results. It is all a war game conducted by the rich few in the board rooms. Everyone else is expendable.

    I always treasured the older more experienced worker because they turned the young and inexperienced workers into people that could fill their shoes when retirement came along naturally. That’s not how it is done anymore.

    Reply
  • 97. James Fisher  |  December 6, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Henry, as a paid Process Consultant, it stuns me that you are unfamiliar with the illegality of asking a candidate their age… & that you actually advise companies that this is OK! You NEED to contact Missouri’s Employment Development Department AND the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for the information your Clients NEED you to possess.
    Let me just ask you this… are your Clients willing to PROVE that employees over the age of 50 are the LARGEST segment of their employees. Baby Boomers (those over 50) are the largest segment of the US population. If they aren’t the largest segment of the employees of the Company, then it might be assumed that your client is discriminating against them. If they aren’t the largest segment of the Job Applicants, then it can be assumed that the Company is not doing the required “outreach” to this Group.

    Reply
  • 98. Marcia  |  December 6, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    The above article is not accurate.

    It is not illegal to ask, it is illegal to make decisions based on protected classes. It is also extremely ill advised to put things on a resume that provide information regarding being a member of a protected class.

    Having been on both sides of the desk, I would still hire the most qualified individual that is a reasonable fit.

    http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/upload/qanda.pdf

    http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/adahandbook.html#dodonts

    Reply
  • 99. James Fisher  |  December 6, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Where in the hell are you people getting your information? It is just as illegal as asking a person what their religion is! “over 40″ & “Religion” are BOTH protected groups & it is ILLEGAL to ask a candidate to self-identify either in a job interview. That information has NOTHING to do with ability to perform the job & therefore, both are illegal questions. Call the Federal EEOC! If you are an HR professional, it is your responsibility to know the law on this issue. Your job & your companies financial well-being depend on your knowing that Law… again, unless you want your company to have to prove, in court, that the majority of their employees (or job applicants) are part of this protected group (over 40), it can be assumed that you are using that info to discriminate… because “over 40″ are, by far, the largest age group in the U.S.

    Reply
  • 100. James Fisher  |  December 6, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Marcia, the 2 links you provide are on the Americans with Disabilities Act! Are you silly enough to think that the EEOC considers “over 40″ & age to be a “DISABILITY”??? Are you claiming we are disabled? Disabled, “over 40″, Race, Religion, National Origin are all individually protected groups & unless you can prove that any one of these is a hindrance to the performance of the job, it is ILLEGAL to ask a candidate about ANY of them!!!!!

    Reply
    • 101. Colleen Bruemmer  |  December 6, 2009 at 6:18 pm

      James, you are absolutely correct. When I have hired people in the past, I have been apprised of the questions that one could not ask a candidate and age is definitely on the list.

      Reply
  • 102. Marcia  |  December 6, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Only one of the links is an ADA like the other is a more general EEOC link. If you go to the EEOC site you will discover that it is not illegal for them to ask – just to make decisions based on the information. This is a common misconception because many sites list them as “illegal questions” rather than “STUPID QUESTIONS”

    “Pre-Employment Inquiries”

    “The ADEA does not specifically prohibit an employer from asking an applicant’s age or date of birth. However, because such inquiries may deter older workers from applying for employment or may otherwise indicate possible intent to discriminate based on age, requests for age information will be closely scrutinized to make sure that the inquiry was made for a lawful purpose, rather than for a purpose prohibited by the ADEA.”

    http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/age.html

    My specialty is finding common ground for “reasonable accommodations” between individuals & organizations.

    Reply
  • 103. James Fisher  |  December 6, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    You better damned well be able to prove that the question (& the candidates age) had something to do with the ability to function in the job. This cannot include “he/she wouldn’t fit-in with our young energetic, Recruiting group” or our “young Engineering group”. There is no way that one could prove that being, lets say, 55 years old would interfere with ability to perform the job of a “Recruiter” without ANY kind of “accomodation”… therefore, in the context of an HR or Recruiting job, this is an illegal question to ask! If you were hiring Police Officers, it could be shown that being over 40 is a hindrance to a new Police Recruit because of the constant, highly physical nature of the job… just as, for instance a U.S. Government Contractor who is looking for a “Project Manager” to work in Iraq & whose main responsibilities would be in Managing & “Influencing” Iraqi citizens, would be allowed to ask a candidate if they would be willing to not wear the Star of David they are prominently currently displaying on their neck & not openly display their Jewish faith on-the-job in Iraq.

    Reply
  • 104. Cheri Abbott  |  December 6, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Marcia, Marcia, Marcia . . . If an individual applicant filed a claim of discrimination against the recruiter or hiring company, the burden of proof would be upon them to show that the question of age was not discriminatory. Employers are required to keep records for a somewhat lengthy period of time that includes resumes, applications, questionnaires, etc. If the actual person hired was less qualified than the complaining applicant, you should be able to prove to a government agency that the hired individual was more qualified and experienced for the position. Any mention of terms that allude to age (“energetic”, etc.) should be avoided at all costs — unless you don’t mind leaving your company up to a backbreaking number of lawsuits.

    Reply
  • 105. Cheri Abbott  |  December 6, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Following is an AARP link regarding the burden of proof issue. Senator Tom Harkin of Illinois is actively working to change the age discrimination laws. I’m in Texas, but those of you who are his constituents might want to write him and refer him to this blog — he has already discovered and acknowledged how employers are using a recent Supreme Court decision to absolve themselves of age discrimination:

    http://www.aarp.org/aarp/broadcast/bias_inside_estreet/

    Reply
    • 106. Cheri Abbott  |  December 7, 2009 at 8:33 am

      Correction: Senator Tom Harkin is from Iowa, not Illinois.

      Reply
  • 108. Brooke Rickettson  |  December 6, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    While I’m sure that discrimination works on the older set, it’s not only a one way street! I’m a part of the younger job set that supposively “all the employers are hiring left and right”, and I can not tell you how many times I have been excluded from a position for lack of experience! So remember, before you gripe, remember that age discrimination works on both ends of the spectrum!!

    Reply
  • 109. Charles  |  December 6, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Brooke,
    Are you saying you had the experience and were eliminated because you were “too young” or are you saying, because you are young you did not have the required experience. Experience is a legitamate criteria for discrimination. So if it is the latter; “Grasshopper, when you can take the pebble from my hand, then you may leave” and I retain my right to gripe.

    Reply
  • 110. James Fisher  |  December 6, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    There are jobs that require experience. These go to people in their 30’s in a “downturn”. If the job description says “5-plus years of experience required”, how dare you waste the time of the HR department by sending in your resume… & then be pissed-off because you get no response. Wait until you’re 50-plus. If you haven’t decided to move into management… or, if you haven’t opened your own company… & you happen to be in any Technical field or a Sales/Marketing field… you ain’t going to find work in any kind of ‘downturn” economy.
    It’s not “griping” when you have no time left to recoup what you’ve lost before you are actually not physically able to work full-time any more.
    You sound like a selfish GenY’er who is one of those who never had to prove anything & always got told how wonderful you are & never had to truly compete & now finds themselves in a World that demands performance BEFORE reward.

    Reply
  • 111. James Fisher  |  December 6, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Brooke, you might want to start by presenting yourself in a grown-up, professional manner on LinkedIn. It’s spelled “diploma”… not “deploma”. Your LinkedIn profile is a document that you want potential employers to see. It is not a “blog”, or twitter, or a text message, or email to a friend where you can be sloppy.

    Reply
  • 112. Matt Plevrakis  |  December 7, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    I sincerely agree with your comments and most of the responses you get. About age discrimination. Recently I fell victim to my company’s youth movement. I was one of 21,000 salary employees severed during the past 12 months. I have struggled with this for a very long time since as a manager I followed company direction for several years but openly disagreed with the practice of forcing the older worker out replacing with youth. I have seen the economic data my company used to justify their actions and argued that in the long term it would cost more to turnover headcount. however in this competitive world it is the now factor the wins out. In a struggling company fighting to stay alive, No-one is willing to look at the hidden pitfalls of processes that are going to suffer such as production, quality, labor relations, risk management, history of undocumented events, verbal agreements, and years of knowledge and training in company specific culture. The decision is made based on current economic factors such as top pay, high medical expense, high vacation allotment, pensions, and other benefits. The sad thing that I discovered is that my high wage is now a liability and makes my non competitive searching for a new job.
    Most of my initial conversations with potential employers start with salary. Everyone is price shopping, and that includes some of the more well known companies.

    Reply
  • 113. Mary Nagy  |  December 7, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I’ve been a victim of age discrimination – twice at the same corporation. The first time my job was ‘eliminated’, I was given a document describing how the choice was made between a co-worker and myself. I clearly and hugely surpassed the criteria they gave me, yet I was the one to go. She was younger, much less experienced, much less years with the company, and her reviews had not been good at her own admission, while mine were always rock-solid with lots of praise. I opted to take 34 weeks severance and try to get back in, instead of suing. Not having a paycheck was something I could not do. I did manage to get back in for a year, when my position was again eliminated due to acquisition by another corporation. I find I have been ‘blocked’ from even getting interviews in the positions that are absolutely a good fit for me. I just ran out of severance again, and am of course looking at any opportunities. Nothing so far. So distressing when you are not old enough to retire, but too old to get another position. Retirement savings is supposed to be used for retirement years, not used up for the years just trying to get to retirement. Trying to be optimistic.

    Reply
  • 114. Tom Drake  |  December 7, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    I attended a local “workshop” called ‘Using age to your advantage’. I wouldn’t have when I first heard of it, – then an adviser told me if you are in your mid 40s or up, you should.
    What a splash of cold water for me at 46!

    Reply
  • 115. Nora  |  December 8, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Mr. Fisher:

    I just went on an interview, and was handed a packet of papers to be completed prior to my interview. The packet included the standard employment application, which asked for my social security number on the first page. I didn’t fill it in.

    The most disturbing paper in the packet, however, was a form to be filled out for a background check. It asked for my birthdate, my social security number, my maiden name, and past addresses. I was very uncomfortable in completing the form, especially since I hadn’t even met with the interviewer yet – but filled it out anyway, because I didn’t want to appear “negative” by refusing to do so.

    I am 54 years old, and had tried to not make that apparent in my resume, but that interviewer had my age as soon as I handed him that packet. So it seems that some companies are using the “background check” as a back door way of getting info. that they can’t legally ask you any other way.

    In the future, do you have any recommendations on how to handle the situation if I am asked to fill out a background check prior to being interviewed? (By the way, I didn’t get the job).

    Reply
  • 116. Laura Gotelli-Faust  |  December 8, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Michael,
    Being almost 55 years old myself and will be searching for a new position very soon your article confirmed my worst fears. I’m in advertising now but spent the first 20 years of my career in HR so I am familiar with these tactics. Thanks again for sharing it. Laura

    Reply
  • 117. Charles  |  December 8, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Nora,
    Other than refusing to fill in the background check form you really are in a bind. The fact is the “check” won’t be run unless you are close to being selected for the position. I think the application and background check could be considered part of the interview process and therefore the birth date could be considered an illegal question. It is certain the company is not going to run a background check on every candidate that applies. A solution to this would be to institute a process that would only reveal that information to the company that is doing the backgound check and then “check” sent to the hiring company. None of this is going to happen until there is some teeth put into the anti discrimination laws.

    Reply
  • 118. Ross Dodwell  |  December 8, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Nora,

    My recommendation would be to just leave it blank. If pressed by the recruiter or hiring manager, simply say that you have been a victim of identity theft, and you do not give that information before an offer is made. Make it clear that you will be glad to submit the information as a prerequisite to being hired.

    Anyone who recognizes how widespread idenity theft is would not be concerned…and if they are, then they don’t realize how significant the issue is, and therefore I wouldn’t want them to have the information anyway!!

    Best of luck!
    Ross

    Reply
  • 119. James Fisher  |  December 8, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Personally, I would just say “I am uncomfortable with the possibility that, with my signature at this juncture, a background investigation could be accidentally run prior to your decision to make me an Offer. At the point when you are ready to make me an Offer contingent upon my passing a BI, I will gladly fill out this form at that juncture”. If they try to twist this refusal around & ask why you have misgivings about a BI being run, just respond “I have no misgivings other than misgivings about multiple BI’s being run by multiple company’s at the same time & multiple BI company’s calling my personal/business References at the same time… because you are not the only company that has presented me with this document at the beginning of the process… & so far, none of the others has had a problem with my desire to fill this out later in the process”

    Reply
  • 120. James Fisher  |  December 11, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    There is a discussion going on in a LinkedIn Group “spawned” by Recruiter Musings about the efficacy/legality of company’s requiring candidates to fill-out Background Investigation authorization forms before they bring the candidate in for an Interview. Because I think it’s important to open this particular discussion to a broader network, Im posting my response to that conversation below:
    “This shouldn’t be allowed before the actual Offer process. If a Company feels they need to get this form completed up-front or else they might have a problem getting the candidate to fill it out in a timely fashion when they are actually at the Offer Stage… well then… the Hiring Company needs to provide a means for the Candidate to communicate directly with the BI contractor & bypassing the Hiring Company. The problem with this approach is that the BI Contractors aren’t set-up to provide that kind of service. Many of them are set-up for candidates to send info directly to them (bypassing the Hiring Company) but once they have the info, they move directly into doing the Background Investigation… & nobody wants their background investigated unless a Job Offer is in process… & no Hiring Company wants to pay for Background Investigations to be done on all Applicants.
    Until the Hiring Company has adequately addressed this problem, it shouldn’t be legal for them to demand that info up-front in the interviewing process.”

    Reply
  • 121. James Fisher  |  December 11, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Oh… I guess I should have mentioned that the issue is that these BI authorization forms require the Candidate to enter full birthdate.

    Reply
  • 122. Stuart Rosenberg  |  December 13, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Great article Michael and how TRUE. But this country has always had a discriminatory nature against older workers – from the mandatory retirement age of 65 in my grandfather and fathers time right through to these rough economic times when the older Baby Boomers are forced to continue to work passed the old mandatory age limit. It is refreshing to see Doug’s attitude about hiring the best person for the job irregardless of age but alas he is in the minority.

    Reply
  • 123. Charles  |  December 13, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Stuart I would disagree that America has always discriminated against older workers. There was a time when age was a disirable trait. Otto von Bismark introduced the idea of retiring at 65, in Germany, at the end of the 1800’s. America institued that concept in 1935, The life expectancy of Americans at that time was under 62 years of age. Some how we messed everything up by living longer. The view of older ameicans needs to shift with the growing life expectency. The fastest growing age group in this country is the 100 year olds. What will we do with them, put them out on ice flows to die. Americans of all ages need to reject the idea that “older workers” are too dumb, too set in their ways, too slow or too expensive. Remember, if you live long enough, you will be one too.

    Reply
  • 124. Jan Thomas  |  December 17, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    I found the link to this blog through one of my LinkedIn grops and have now spent some good, quality time reading both the original post and all the comments. It is satisfying to see so much interest in the topic ~ but what I am not finding are *solutions*.

    I was laid off from a good job at a national nonprofit organization *19 months* ago, and turned 60 about six weeks ago. My unemployment has run out, I had to give up my COBRA long ago, and I have been living off what was left of my 401k after the stock market imploded.

    It’s certainly true that, if the company doesn’t want you, then you probably don’t want to work there ~ but there are limited opportunities and a vast number of applicants for every position, making it a strong buyer’s market. Even in networking, there are so many people in the same situation that the networking environment is getting burned out. So what does one do?

    Of course, one just “keeps on truckin'” ~ but it becomes more and more difficult to maintain the necessary enthusiasm. My most nagging questions, voiced internally in my darkest moments, are ~

    Is this really the end of what has until now been a successful 30-year career?
    Will I be able to make a comeback from this?
    Having been out of work for so long (allayed by some consulting and pro bono work), am I becoming unemployable?
    How will I be able to rebuild my retirement savings at this stage?

    I’ve signed up for the 50+ Workers group a LinkedIn and hope to continue this dialog. Really, folks ~ what is the SOLUTION?

    Reply
  • 125. James Fisher  |  December 17, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    I know this doesn’t help … but, I’m in much the same boat… & so are many, many of our colleagues. Just take care of YOURSELF (in a self-protective, emotional sense). I’m not really very good at taking that advice myself… but it helps me to know I’m definitely not “alone”…

    Reply
  • 126. Cheri Abbott  |  December 17, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Jan, I’m so sorry that you’re going through that. I don’t think any of us have the answer to your question. But I’m going through many of the same things. I find this blog comforting because I know I am not alone in my struggle. It’s not that I’m glad that there are others suffering the same thing. The comfort comes from knowing that others recognize the discrimination for what it is and that provides solace. I wish you the best and hope something will come through for you very soon.

    Reply
  • 127. Jan Thomas  |  December 17, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    I will share that one of the most positive and interesting things I’ve been doing with my time off is leaning Spanish. Clearly it will be a benefit in our 21st-century society, and seems to be a good use of my time. It’s good brain work and productive.

    I got a CD/audio series from the library (buying the program was out of the question) and loaded it into my iTunes program. Now I listen to it a few times a week while I have lunch, and sometimes on my iPod during my walks. (Bless my iPod, which was a gift from a grateful client a few years ago!)

    Reply
  • 128. Nick  |  February 1, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Michael,

    I am an independent recruiter, having ran my own firm for more than 8 years. I appreciate the knowledge you have shared on your blog. I have learned many of the valuable lessons you have shared and share many of the philosophies and techniques you have outlined. Thank you for putting this together. I am sure it has helped seperate you from competition as I feel it has for me.

    -Nick

    Reply
  • 129. VIKAS SAXENA  |  February 2, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Michael, you are a veritable powerhouse. Your compositions on Recruiters Musings are a treat to read, a treasure to preserve, and blaze a trail to follow ! Thanks. Keep writing, and enrich us.

    Best wishes,
    Vikas Saxena
    (Senior Management & HR Professional, And Chief Executive of Professional Expertise Group)
    Bangalore, India.

    Reply
  • 130. Ram  |  February 17, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    I just saw this great article and could not resist contributing my two cents worth!
    Why is age not a factor for the CEOs, Senior VPs and Corporate board members? How come if you are over 50 you are considered as ‘unfit’ to work as a scientist or an engineer or some other management job? Only the top management have the capability to retain their mental faculties in tact whereas the people in the lower rungs have their brains deteriorating and they can not function anymore and incapable of contributing anything to the corporation? I have seen some of the board members are as old as 85!!! I don’t understand what a 85 year old person can contribute to the advancement of a company! this is just a paradox that I will never be able to understand. Just my opinion.

    Reply
    • 131. Pierre Adida  |  February 17, 2010 at 3:57 pm

      That’s right!
      Did you notice also that senators and politicians are like top Executives, they are able to retain their brain capacity until an age where usual people are “sugaring strawberries” (a free translation of the french expression: sucrer les fraises).
      Self serving, that’s the response…

      Pierre Adida

      Reply
  • 132. Chris  |  May 11, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    As a hundred before me have already stated: Michael your posts are a breath of fresh air. You are genuine & present issues as they are.

    Question: Are hiring managers & HR people disproportionally young? It would almost seem they would have to be for this to be such a big issue!

    I’m 45 and never thought this would be an issue for me . . . . but I now have to face the fact that it is. I recently mentioned the issue to my doctor as a point of interest during a routine checkup. He told me that botox treatments are become very popular among men over 40. For me, he suggested coloring my hair and botox for the wrinkles on my forehead! (My hair has been gray for 15 years – but the wrinkles are new.) I’ve also read that I should leave my older job experiences off my resume – even though they are some of the most relevant for the kind of work I’m now seeking.

    As for the legal issues surrounding age discrimination: This is a case where legislation will rarely make a difference. I don’t think it will ever be enforceable except in the most egregious cases.
    Unlike race, I think it is actually a bigger problem because all colors of people get old – and it is far easier to determine in a phone interview. (Vocal intonation, responses to friendly side discussions about more distant historical events etc…)

    It is an interesting topic since the workforce and population at large is actually becoming proportionally older . . . .

    Reply
  • 133. Thomas Keplar  |  May 19, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Saw your posting “Age Discrimination: Exposing Inconvenient Truths”

    Thought this may be of interest “Is the Unemployment Rate in Sweden Really 17 Percent by McKinsey Consulting”

    When one considers employment in a holistic way then many of the anomalies start to make sense. Have to apply
    Some pretty hard core methods to why certain things happen the way they do.

    There is always a reason for everything, results are facts that can be viewed in many ways.

    Stated differently “liars figure, figures lie”.

    The real unemployment/underemployment rate around the world is much higher than Any government is willing to acknowledge.

    And as long as the people are willing to listen to lies it will remain so.

    This study by McKinsey is very clear and cause for concern.

    I now run a small company with my partner.

    Thomas Keplar
    CEO
    M & P Enterprises
    Melbourne, Australia

    Reply
  • 134. David Morgan  |  May 19, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Frequently I’m asked to provide my DOB to agencies so that I can be ‘filed’ on their computer system.

    The biggest joke in the UK is to extend the retirement age to 66 or above for men. I’ve rarely met someone 65 or over in a company. Usually a female cleaner working part-time or possibly the company chairman.

    Reply
  • 135. Steve  |  March 8, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Michael: Your frank and honest comments based on experience are a breath of fresh air. Enjoyable reviewing something that although negative in nature is both real and honest.

    Reply
  • 136. Secret Age  |  March 12, 2012 at 9:04 am

    You should be a part of a contest for one of the best websites on the internet. I am going to highly recommend this blog!

    Reply
  • 137. Angus King  |  August 5, 2014 at 8:02 am

    All very interesting but is this really new? Age discrimination was an issue when I was “young” 35-ish! You mention self belief and understand what one can contribute, these the most important things. We all have a lot to contribute and quite frankly I dont understand companies that will not hire senior people for a reasonable salary, they could get so much more “bang for their buck”. Nice article though, pitty we still have to remind people that this exists.

    Reply

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Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 15 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Experis Finance, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, and Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, a professional services firm that deploys professionals with at least 25 or more years of experience. Prior to that, he worked for two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours
         Pass?

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

Networking:
 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

Interviewing:
 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Skype Interview Tips ...
         Welcome to the Future!

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job
         Interview"

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient
         Truths

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More
         "Searchable"

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your
         Rut!

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule: Never
         Burn Bridges

 The Power of a Positive
         Attitude

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales
         Position

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-
         Seekers

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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Job Opportunities:

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Blog Visitor Count:

  • 512,297 hits

Recent Posts:

Previous Posts (by Date):

►  Comic Relief: Job-Seeking
      Humor - Volume 4

------------------------------------------
►  "Unemployed Need Not Apply" -
      Working Around This Scary
      Message

------------------------------------------
►  Explaining Short Stints and
      Employment Gaps

------------------------------------------
►  The Lost Art of Customer
      Service: Unreturned Phone
      Calls & Emails

------------------------------------------
►  Comic Relief: Job-Seeking
      Humor - Volume 3

------------------------------------------
►  The Résumé Test & Checklist:
      Does Yours Pass?

------------------------------------------
►  The "T" Cover Letter -
      The Only Type Worth Sending

------------------------------------------
►  The Brutal Truth on how
      Résumés Get Eliminated

------------------------------------------
►  Comic Relief: Job-Seeking
      Humor - Volume 2

------------------------------------------
►  Age Discrimination: Exposing
      Inconvenient Truths

------------------------------------------
►  The Double-Whammy of
      Rejection and Isolation

------------------------------------------
►  Is Your “Elevator Pitch” Taking
      You UP or DOWN?

------------------------------------------
►  Comic Relief: Job-Seeking
      Humor - Volume 1

------------------------------------------
►  Warning: That Rant You
      Posted Just Went Viral!

------------------------------------------
►  Using Social Media to Enhance
      Job-Searching

------------------------------------------
►  Avoiding the “Black Hole
      of HR”

------------------------------------------
►  “In Transition” and Other
      Awkward Euphemisms

------------------------------------------
►  Getting Un-Stuck from
      your Rut!

------------------------------------------
►  Time Management: Recipe for a
      Well-Balanced Job Search

------------------------------------------
►  Face-to-Face Interviews:
      Secrets, Tips and Tricks

------------------------------------------
►  Counteroffers: Just Say No!
------------------------------------------
►  The Proper Way to Quit a Job
------------------------------------------
►  The Real Truth About Working
      with Recruiters

------------------------------------------
►  Phone Interviews:
      Secrets, Tricks and Tips

------------------------------------------
►  The Golden Rule: Never Burn
      Bridges

------------------------------------------
►  Candidates Gone Wild:
      Recruiter Horror Stories

------------------------------------------
►  Following-Up: An Essential
      Key to Success

------------------------------------------
►  Nuggets: A Secret Interviewing
      Technique

------------------------------------------
►  New Year’s Resolutions for
      Unemployed Job-Seekers

------------------------------------------
►  How to Network: A Step-by-
      Step Guide for Job-Searching

------------------------------------------
►  Top 10 Most Helpful Things for
      Job-Seekers

------------------------------------------
►  Top 10 Most Annoying Things
      for Job-Seekers

------------------------------------------
►  Age Discrimination: Secret
      Conversations Revealed!

------------------------------------------
►  The Art of Giving: The Key to
      Effective Networking

------------------------------------------
►  Targeted Networking: How to
      Effectively Reach Out

------------------------------------------
►  Why Job Hunting is a
      Consultative Sales Position

------------------------------------------
►  The Power of a Positive
      Attitude

------------------------------------------
►  Looking for Networking in
      All the Wrong Places

------------------------------------------
►  Answering the Dreaded Salary
      Question

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