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Are Employers Discriminating Against Older Job Applicants?

The 'no-resumes' rule and Silicon Valley hiring practices suggest a strong possibility

posted by Richard Eisenberg, February 6, 2012 More by this author

People in a video conference

Richard Eisenberg is the senior Web editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and Assistant Managing Editor for the site. Follow him on Twitter @richeis315.


People in a video conference
Some employers don't want to interview older job prospects
Creatas | Thinkstock
Although it’s against the law to discriminate against older job applicants, recent articles in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times sound to me as though a subtle, legal form of discrimination may be going on. And if you’re over 50 and looking for a job, you’ll want to know about this.
 
In No More Resumes, Say Some Firms, the Journal’s Rachel Emma Silverman noted that some employers now refuse to look at resumes, insisting instead that applicants submit evidence of their “web presence.” That means sending the firms links to things like your Twitter account or Tumbler blog.
 
To apply for an investment analyst job at the venture capital firm, Union Square Ventures, you had to submit a short video showing your interest in the position. Said Christina Cacioppo, an associate at Union Square: “We are most interested in what people are like, what they are like to work with, how they think.”
 
Similarly, IGN Entertainment Inc. required some candidates to submit videos, not resumes, showing their love of gaming and the firm’s products.
 
Companies with the “no resume” rule aren’t flatly saying: “No older applicants allowed.” But the reality is that younger people are far more likely than older ones to have strong Web presences and to feel comfortable submitting a video for a job.
 
The Times’s piece, from its nonprofit partner The Bay Citizen, shows discrimination among Silicon Valley employers that’s more blatant against older engineers.

In Old Techies Never Die; They Just Can't Get Hired As An Industry Moves On, Aaron Glantz describes how out-of-work engineers with decades of experience and advanced degrees are finding it nearly impossible to get job interviews with many tech companies.
 
Glantz quotes Facebook’s head of human resources and recruiting efforts, Lori Goler, saying that her company was looking for “the college student who built a company on the side or an iPad app over the weekend.” She says Facebook does hire more-experienced workers “if they are results-oriented and can deliver again.”
 
Paul Bernard, a career coach in New York City, told me he feels the “no resumes” rule is “gimmicky at best” and can be very dangerous. “Without a resume, the hiring company doesn’t have a sense of the person’s true story,” says Bernard. “Has the applicant been designing web ads for five weeks, five months, or five years? Can this person manage and motivate people?”
 
What’s more, Bernard argues, eliminating older applicants from the potential job pool is just bad business. “We need an emphasis on true diversity – diversity of opinion,” he says. “We've just been through two bubbles over the last 15 years, the dotcom bubble in the late ‘90s and the real estate bubble in 2003- 2007.  In both cases, people who thought differently or who dared question valuations were ridiculed or terminated. The possibility of group think is not a very comforting thought since we're probably about to have technology bubble 2.0.”
 
Carol Ross, a sharp career coach in Denver, thinks older job applicants need to cater to employers’ preferences head on. She says that a Web presence – whether it’s a blog, an audio interview, a Power Point presentation, a Twitter feed, a post as a guest blogger, a collection of photos on Flickr -- shows prospective employers “who you are, including how you think, how you interact with others, and what you care about.”
 
Her advice is blunt but worth considering: “If you choose not to play, you put yourself at a disadvantage.”
 
I have to agree with her. I got my last two jobs partly because the employers found my LinkedIn profile and then contacted me to discuss open positions. (I confess that I could do more to improve my Web presence, though.)
 
If you want to build a stronger Web presence but don’t know how, consider hiring a pro to help. Companies like Intrvue.com work with you to showcase a multi-media resume in one place; Intrvue charges $9.95 a month.
 
You can’t prevent businesses from ignoring over-50 applicants, but you can make yourself the strongest candidate for ones who don’t.