11 Ways to Reduce Ageism Bias in Tech Hiring

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11 Ways to Reduce Ageism Bias in Tech Hiring

Published: March 21, 2017 | By: Olivia | Views: 2524

The other day, I was reading a ‘Dear Abby’ type blog that focused on ageism in hiring, and I thought that topic specifically geared toward the tech industry would be interesting to explore.

confident_businessmanRecently, I’ve written a lot about how you can earn skill specific micro certifications and display those skills in a meaningful way on a resume, in an online portfolio, and in-person. As with any ‘advice’ geared post, one always runs the risk of getting hit with the ‘easier said than done’ argument.

This may be the case, with ageism being one of only many factors working against us all in the job market. So again, I’ll look to address some ways we can tackle this issue head-on and increase the chances of landing that ‘dream job,’ as I always say.

Recognize the Bias

Before we dive-in, I will give full- disclosure that I am a twenty something, so I will try to approach the topic the least bias that I can.

It seems to me that both younger and older hires alike face their fair share of challenges in the job market; millennials having too little experience, while baby boomers having ‘too much.’ (Is there such thing as too much experience?)

But there’s no denying the IT industry favors the young. That is one point I will whole-heartedly agree with, especially after doing my research.

A controversial Mark Zuckerberg once asserted that, “young people are smarter.” Sounds like a discrimination lawsuit waiting to happen.

Unfortunately, this may just have set the tone for ageism in Silicon Valley.

According to PayScale, Inc., the median age of workers at Facebook in 2014 was 29, at Amazon and Google, it’s 30. The median age of all American workers, according to the Labor Department, is 42.

In the blog post I previously referenced, the author made a valid point. They said the way we address this issue is adopting a sense of understanding from both hiring managers and employees. But, even for hiring managers who are not so understanding, there’s a lesson to be learned.

“At the end of the day, a company that won’t even look your way because of your age is not a place you want to be,” read the blog. “When experience is viewed as a liability instead of a benefit, it’s not a job you’ll love or a place where you will succeed. Finding companies and roles that value employees for their skill sets is key to finding professional happiness.”

Focus on your Skills

Still, there are certain things you can do to set the tone to ensure that skills and personality, rather than age, are the focus of your candidacy. (Especially because we know not every hiring manager is perfect.)

  1. Learn to brag.

More than ever, you should focus your resume (and the interview) around some of your major accomplishments. Be sure to explicitly state the type of technology you’ve worked with, and still do, as well as the type of projects you’ve had a hand in.

  1. Get hands-on.

It’s one thing to talk about your experience. It’s another to showcase it. Consider working on an open-source project or teaching a course. Now, you can create a course on Cybrary, here. This is where an online portfolio may come in handy to best display that work.

  1. Demonstrate leadership.

Let’s face it- companies expect older workers to have leadership experience, even if they’re not seeking a management role. This lends itself to point #1, but emphasize how you’ve taken charge in the past.

  1. Have a voice.

Whether you blog, freelance, consult, etc. show that you have an opinion about the current IT trends. If you’re active in conversation on social media, you can leverage that to your advantage as well. Showing you’re up to date on the industry is something employers look for.

  1. Update your skills.

Getting a skill- specific micro certification is a great way to guarantee you know just what is needed to get the job done. “Certification gives everyone a lingua franca through which to talk about skills and your experience. It’s a shared language that everyone understands. That benchmark means that these hiring decisions can be skills-based and it can level the field so that anyone can participate,” says James Stanger, senior director of product development at CompTIA.

  1. Stay current.

small_teamThis goes further than updating your skills and being on par with industry news. Pay attention to what is trendy for a specific company. Do most employees use a specific device, contribute to a certain charity or value a particular brand of coffee? This may take some ‘About Page’ investigating, and may even sound silly, but showing you can align with the company culture in lifestyle and workstyle is huge.

  1. Show your passion.

It’s especially important to convey why you want to work for a specific company. Part of your experience is knowing what best corresponds with your values, and making that parallel to the company you’re interviewing with will make it that much easier for managers to see. Plus, you’ll want to highlight what it is about the industry that you love and why you’re motivated to continue working in it.

  1. Expand your network.

Utilize your contacts for advice, best practices, testimonials and even job referrals. Word of mouth can go a long way. And knowing how to leverage social networking, a skill that most young professionals seem to have a knack at, is an advantage. Cybrary forums are a great place to network!

  1. Be willing to have tough conversations, if needed.

Recognize some of the concerns employers may have and address them head- on. If you believe they’re worried about retention or lack of updated skills, address those concerns in your interview.

  1. Don’t age yourself.

“Avoid statements that shift the focus to your age. Saying things like “Oh, I’m probably aging myself” in reference to an industry tool or obsolete brand or “I’ve worked with this system—but not since 2004” isn’t helpful. Instead, refer to your experience by employer, not by year,” advises TheMuse.com

  1. Remember how far you’ve come.

With age comes wisdom, perspective, maturity, experience. Market yourself around these important qualities.

Be Confident

Still having doubts? A recent Dropbox survey of more than 4,000 IT workers found that people over age 55 are actually less likely than their younger colleagues to find using technology in the workplace stressful.

Be confident in what you know and take the initiative to work on areas where you may be lacking. With these tips, and the right company values, there’s no boundaries on where you can take your career, at any age.

Comment below and share your experiences and/or additional tips!


Olivia Lynch (@Cybrary_Olivia) is the Marketing Manager at Cybrary. Like many of you, she is just getting her toes wet in the field of cyber security. A firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword, Olivia considers corny puns and an honest voice essential to any worthwhile blog.

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  1. Many good points and tips here, Olivia! I wholeheartedly agree about showing passion, keeping current, and showcasing one’s skills and experience when job searching past a certain age. Having been in the industry for 30+ years, I’ve learned a few survival tricks such as limiting the experience section of my resume to the last 10 years and not putting dates in the education section. Of course, that’s often a giveaway that you’re hiding your age!

    However, I don’t think too much experience is really the main issue hiring managers have with older workers. Towards the end of my career, it was a struggle to even get an interview, and when I did, I could tell the interviewers had written me off once having met me in-person. I could be wrong, but I chalked it up to ageism. My experience was actually a valued asset in the last software development position I held in my mid-50s.

    The reality is, that people in general, slow down with age. Sure, there are seniors brimming with energy that can outdo folks half their age, but I think they’re the exception. I think this fact, combined with concerns about cultural fit, are what give some hiring managers pause when considering older applications.

    As a result, I’ve had to resort to making a career change and working reduced hours because my stamina isn’t what it used to be. This was an age-driven concession to deal with aging out of the software industry and also physically slowing down, but I’m actually enjoying what I do now a lot more than when I worked 50+ hour weeks grinding out code. It’s certainly much less stressful.

    I’ve also found a career path where my age doesn’t seem to be much of an issue and I work effectively in collaboration with folks half my age. Sure, I don’t pal around with them, but I have a life outside of work now.

    The point about wisdom is well-taken and it comes in many forms. I only became aware of this state of being within the last few years. My wisdom takes rather modest forms such as knowing how to avoid an argument or not getting too worked up when life goes off the rails — nothing too profound, but wisdom none the less. It’s a cruel fact of life that one’s physical decline is inversely proportional to the attainment of wisdom. That’s why so many older people lament: “if only I knew back then what I know now.” LOL.

  2. Excellent points across the board, no one magical answer exists here. The best hiring managers will recognize the right talent that fits the job and the culture for their company. The right candidates will understand the demands and culture of that job. Balance will need to occur from both sides and the proper “blend” will emerge and hopefully a valuable team asset will be found! Your personal traits and habits always come into play at work, this is how you are wired and how the end product of you is made – embrace your outside interests, if not where is the balance in your life?

  3. One big problem: IT companies require/assume a very long workweek. With age comes increasing family responsibilities, whether it’s mature parents or school-age kids, and US employers frequently see that as competing with the company’s goals and needs. I’ve attended mgmt meetings where we were told to discount a resume if the applicant listed “coaches soccer” as an anecdotal interest. “He’s not a team player.”
    The real solution is creating more career-grade PART TIME jobs in IT which allow experienced people to stay in the workplace without having to apologize for having other interests (volunteering, family care, athletics, recreational pursuits). Besides, by the time you’re 50+ you’ve hopefully managed your finances well (and been lucky enough to stay healthy and employed) so frankly many of us don’t NEED to kill ourselves working 60+ hours a week to make $150K/year. However very few employers allow their corporate culture to include part-time career employment. When this is the case, everyone loses.

    • On the one hand I do agree with you, and I feel as though part-time career work could be a part of the solution, but to assume that a younger employee doesn’t also have children or outside interests, and characterizing that as traits only belonging to someone ‘older’ is where we set ourselves up for failure. I’d say there are plenty of younger employees who aren’t willing to work long hours and plenty of ‘older’ employees who are. I’ve seen that myself. It’s always assumptions that lead to the problem. Hiring managers need to set the expectation from the beginning instead of just assume.

  4. I’m 33 and I’ve always been a techie, but only recently did I decide to make it a career. In doing so, I’ve noticed the same biased points addressed above. I don’t quite know what the answer is, but I need to break into the field soon as time is somewhat against me. I think being active online plays a major role in employers having faith in your skills and trusting your “wisdom.”

    • I think you make a great point. Being active online is associated with ‘young techies’ but having a presence regardless is a major plus for employers and helps with networking/ thought leadership!

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