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Job applicants over 40 filtered out by employers (uu.se)
296 points by fraqed on June 25, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 318 comments



I just turned 40. There is an unfortunate grain of truth, especially among start ups, but it would be a mistake to think the situation that dire.

I am constantly pestered by recruiters and companies to interview. I think one of the things that helps is that I trimmed my resume to omit material older than 5 years, removed unnecessary dates, and I make a point of drawing attention to studying for new industry certifications. It probably doesn't hurt that I stay physically fit, either. As cruel as it may be, if you're out of shape and look "frumpy" or "run down," that will count against you far, far worse than your age.

The key is to make the age factor irrelevant by not drawing unnecessary attention to it or by projecting a stereotypical "middle aged" image. We can argue all day about whether that's fair or not (it's not), but you have to do what you have to do.


It's true that it's common to be pestered by recruiters. But the next step is to actually do an interview. And I think in that step you'll have to demonstrate excellence beyond the standard skillset. (Mostly because very few companies rely on work-hire tests as the sole metric for hiring someone.)

This situation sucks, and it seems to be getting worse. Or maybe it's always been bad and it's finally been brought to light.


Strangely enough, I've rarely encountered interviews that demanded more than the standard skill set. In any event, someone with 10 or 15+ fewer years of experience is easy to beat on technical questions - that's the benefit of experience!


If you're 10 or 15 years out of college, you're way less likely to be able to answer the standard "Implement a red-black tree on a whiteboard" type question. Recent grads have a tremendous advantage here.


There are very few people out of college who can implement a red-black tree on a whiteboard. Heck even those who just finished the data structure course while still in university. Even with the algorithm book open in front of them I doubt most developers can have anything working and good implemented in one hour.

If you've spent the last 10-15 years writing code every day you can review your data structures course book before an interview and do better than most fresh graduates.

Ageism is real I know lots of people >40 and >50 who hold good jobs and are also able to get good jobs if they end up being laid off for some reason. But then there are also people in their twenties who have a difficult time getting a good job for whatever reason. There are lots of factors.


"Implement a red-black tree on a whiteboard" is code for "we don't know how to interview, so we ask about stuff that the hiree will never do". I'm not so sure the "advantage" is actually an advantage.


Which means Google doesn't know how to interview.


Norvig said* that their tracking of peoples performance shows that people who would normally be filtered out by their standard tests, but still were hired due to someone fighting for them do constantly better than those who do well in their interviews. So yes, Google actually doesn't know how to interview.

* As far as I remember it was in Coders at Work (very good book btw)


It just means that the people who were hired outside the standard process were extremely talented and were worth fighting for. It does mean anything about Google's interview process because it is geared towards an application from your average Joe from the street.


Wouldn't that be an argument from authority?

Yeah, it's very possible that Google doesn't know how to interview. I don't think it's a solved problem anywhere in the industry -- teams just do what seems to work for them, with lots of false positives and negatives.


I'd agree with that. If it takes 10 interviews for a company to properly assess someone, the problem is most definitely with the company.


To be fair, Google, Netflix, FB, Amazon, etc are some of the companies on a very short list of places where you would actually need to have an in depth knowledge of this type of stuff to do your job well. If your job is scaling or optimization at Google, yes you should definitely know this stuff. If your job is building the latest CRUD app in Xamarin, you probably don't need to know how to implement your own bubble sort in pseudo code (without access to any resources, at that).


Well, they don't. They hire people who make Glass, Wave, Buzz and all the other projects they've had to cancel because their staff are so out of sync with the real world.


They did make the "why are manhole covers round" type of questions popular a few years back. Then admitted later that it had no correlation with on the job performance.


Classic argument from authority. Big, successful entities can do dumb shit too.


Google might be one of the few companies in the world where this kind of knowledge is relevant for the work you do.


but it knows how to select, and that's way more important.


We are talking about real jobs now, the ones with real coding interviews because they pay real money and come with stability and opportunity within an exciting company-- just to clarify. DHH said something about this recently and how he could not do a bubble sort if his life depended on it or something to that effect. So, yeah. You're right. And these respected people need to start doing something about this gated community of tech. The thing-- well, one of the many things-- people need to start getting honest about is how we interview and what we consider "skill" or "merit" and if that thing should be the thing we select for. If the interview system is all about how well you can memorize "Cracking the Coding Interview" and the like and then how well you can act like you are then "thinking it through at sight, never before having seen it" (which is exactly what it's about now in this age of bootcamp prep for bootcamp prep for bootcamp), then isn't the interview system selecting for a very particular type of person? I'd say that person has a lot of time on their hands and a desperate need to get a job in programming. That person somehow bought that time with loans they are scared to death they will never be able to pay back (they probably won't) because they are career changers, or they are young or youngish- still parentally funded--- or just still parentally funded. Or their spouse or partner has $$ work and they can afford to take the time to practice these things to be competitive. I'm sure there is an exception of one woman, against all odds here, but I have not yet met her. Please, give her a shout out! So, basically this tech interview process filters for young people with money and leisure time to practice the "skill" of programming until they can whiteboard like Marlon Brando. Not to ding algorithms- they are cool and all, but you see what I'm saying. We are trying to convince ourselves that we are still pre post-labor. And the cracks are showing when labor is now a gated community that likes to hire Ivy League Grads and likes to keep out people of color, women, people over 35,etc...and then likes to also get itself into the new - well, I won't give it a name... let's call it the H1B program for short.


I don't like this question for an interview. But I have also seen and received questions with a larger scope that require working together, asking questions, etc.


Had the classic 'what happens when you type a URL in the address bar of a browser' last week. I don't think any recent grad could compete with the things I even half remember on that one. It used to annoy me as a superfluous question, but realised it's a good way of showing you know what's actually going on in the machine, your understanding of middleware, GPUs, caches, networking etc etc.


The easy answer to that is: I have it configured to search through a list of my history, otherwise nothing happens. You have to press enter for it to search for it :_)


Not really.

You can still go on about how there is a keydown/keyup event, DNS lookups, safe-browsing lookups (Google, Firefox), cache hits or not, GPU redraws, etc etc.

It's a question for asking how much you know about which bits are flipped when anything happens. You can literally pick any bit of the pipeline and riff about it. Assuming that is you know about them.


I know, I was deliberately giving a sarcastic answer to show that the example should be better worded.


Ah, gotya!


Just memorize a few variations. Not that hard. And, full disclosure, I've only been asked that once - I played dumb, just because I'm contrarian like that - and the interviewer thought I did a fantastic job of "thinking through the problem."


Recent grads may have an advantage in answering such questions, but that doesn't mean they have an advantage on the job. Jobs that require you to be able to implement a red-black tree are extremely rare. Experience should count for more.


It should yes, but to get the job and show the advantages of experience you must first pass the inane filter, that's the issue.


An easy fix to this is to not apply for jobs where you get these ridiculous questions despite the 15+ years of experience on your resume. Unless you're going to be implementing your own data structures and/or algorithms, of course.


Yup, that's an easy fix. Where's the unemployment line again?


Or maybe this is how it's always been and you're just getting older?


This could definitely explain something. I have no trouble finding work, but I apparently look young for my age (some friends of my younger sister (who looks great herself) thought I was her younger brother), and most recruiters these days seem to find me through linkedin, where I have a photo. I don't normally send a photo with my CV, but I only just realized that my linkedin profile of course has a photo.

In another comment here I mentioned an older co-worker who is retraining to front-end developer, but he was Dutch champion marathon skating a couple of years ago, so he is absolutely fit (if a bit wrinkly).

But somehow selecting for appearance and fitness for a programming job is even weirder than selecting for age.


Is it really that weird though? You really want your workers to be healthy, full of energy and dynamic.

But I have known very amazing programmers who are not so fit though. So I guess its not a very good idea to discriminate based on appearance.


Exactly. Young and skinny does not automatically mean hard or smart worker. My son is absolutely young and very, very skinny, but it's very hard to make him do anything other than hang on the couch.


> It probably doesn't hurt that I stay physically fit, either. As cruel as it may be, if you're out of shape and look "frumpy" or "run down," that will count against you far, far worse than your age.

I am still in my early 30's but this really resonated me. All my life I have been conditioned to think that character, experience and expertise is what matters.

But the reality is that people will form impressions of you by they first 5 seconds they meet you.


Once they get to know you and your work, looking frumpy or whatever becomes a much smaller factor in their opinion of you. But the first impression is often what determines whether they will get to know you or not.


Yes. Some of our best engineers look rather frumpy, but they were all word of mouth/connection hires.

If I look at the engineers that we hired based on recruitment and CVs alone, they are all young, in-shape, and attractive.


> But the reality is that people will form impressions of you by they first 5 seconds they meet you.

This is something everyone should probably learn early on. Or at least be mentally prepared to overcome a bad first impression (which is much harder!).


I am constantly pestered by recruiters and companies to interview.

The people who find candidates to interview are not the same people as the managers who decide who to hire. The fact you're getting lots of recruiters chasing you just means recruiters don't discriminate on your age; it says nothing about the hiring managers.


Recruiters typically don't want to waste their time with folks who aren't going to get selected. They're competing against a lot of other recruiters filling the spot, and with their top candidates finding another job on their own or through a different recruiter.

Perhaps this means that as a 40+ year old developer, you're more likely to get a job if you go through a recruiter, as opposed to sending your resume off on your own?


> Recruiters typically don't want to waste their time with folks who aren't going to get selected.

My spam folder says otherwise. There are still enough bad recruiters out there (or bad recruiter spam-bots) hitting me up for positions that don't remotely match any skills I've ever listed anywhere. Not worth my time.


Recruiters typically don't want to waste their time with folks who aren't going to get selected.

As someone who gets sent candidates by recruiters, I don't think this is true.


Conditional probabilities -> it does say something.


Agreed. You are what people see. Whether that's past experience, or your physical fitness.

Humans are tribal. For better or worse, we are attracted to those most like ourselves. All other things being mostly equal, we'll pick the person like us.

Put another way, people with experience usually like to flaunt it. No one wants to hire and over-used asshole.


I trimmed my resume to omit material older than 5 years

Does this mean you only apply for jobs wanting 5 years experience?


I might have 'lucked out', I'm 41. I under performed in my 20s (it was the 90s after all and the bubble burst just as I was gaining momentum in the market) and received my college degree at 30. I assume most people who see my resume consider me 8 - 10 years younger than I really am. Doesn't hurt that I hit the gym and haven't gone gray yet. I went the mobile route (iOS) and haven't had a pay cut in 8 years (currently 200k+ living in the mid-west). Not without its ups and downs, I tend to not get hired at start ups, maybe those 20 somethings smell something is up, but fortune 100s are quick to give me an offer letter.

With age comes maturity. It's allowed me to get along better with my co-workers (so many upper 20s, lower 30s tend to be a bit... hot headed) and I'm not afraid to negotiate. The older I've gotten, the more comfortable in my skin and in my skill set I've become.

If there's ageism I've yet to experience it and I've worked with people well in their 50s doing mobile. It comes down to who you're working for, what your skill set is, timing and, in my opinion, health. You've got to stay healthy and look healthy! Also, I tend to prune my resume, no one wants to see your experience 8+ years ago.

Or maybe it's all luck, ask me in five years what I think when Objc/Swift goes the way of PHP, I might be singing a different tune.


Unrelated question, but are you working as an iOS developer and making that salary in the Midwest? Or do you have a different role like Architect or PM?


Strictly as a developer. I tend to gravitate toward team leader. I had a role for about 2 years in health care as a architect. Management wasn't for me.


I think it is combination of luck and skills. I work with many developers in 40s and I am just couple of years to 40. Company pays pretty good salaries but they produce atrocious work with much delay. However they love to talk about all the latest technology and company is lagging behind. They want company to arrange training in new stuff, meanwhile spend most of the time checking stock markets, chitchatting about kids' education, and personal family stuff in break rooms.

To me they are like most people in IT/Software who work there, because no other type of job will have this kind of salary or flexibility.


> Also, I tend to prune my resume, no one wants to see your experience 8+ years ago.

Can you talk a bit more about that? Do you only list your latest 5 years of professional experience?


I am 31 but just got my degree a few years ago. I don't put the graduation year on my resume, but in another 5-10 years I may start!

I'm seeing similarly high rates for contract iOS worth (1-year contracts in the $200-250k range, in a city most folks on HN have never heard of). Is it worth trying to transition from C# where the cap seems to be in the $120-130k range?


I would think mobile actually favors older people with C++ experience a bit more, since iOS dev does not have garbage collection and doing C type of things can be useful in iOS dev. iOS dev I think wont go PHP level because of the difficulty bar.


> currently 200k+ living in the mid-west

Is this an employee salary or contracting/consulting income?


It's Salary working for a fortune 50. This does include a 30% bonus which year over year I tend to see 20-25%. This is almost the same salary with a 'paltry' 18% bonus I was receiving when working mobile in health care (technically total compensation was ~192k at that time with the bonus).

It's tempting to work in start ups. They are far more exciting, they can have an easier barrier of entry and, coming from the start up gaming industry that I was involved with when the App Store was only a couple months old (this means I'm pushing ~8 years of iOS experience), I worked my tail off. In three years I and our team released over 13 games and applications. In the five years I've been in fortune 100s we've released at best one and tend to keep the company's very first application, usually about six years old, written by a ruby dev interested in mobile, alive. It's not super interesting work but it pays well. That's where you have to draw the line. In another year or so I would leap at an opportunity to take a 100k pay cut and go back working for a start up... but am I going to keep 35-40 hour weeks? Rotating Fridays? Unlimited vacation that you actually have time to take? I suspect not and that's what makes me nervous about looking for work outside the big companies.

So you have to keep it interesting. I make games on the side and take deep dives into algorithms and concepts. I actually nailed my interview where I'm at now because of an article about Levenshtein distances on this site. I wrote it out in swift, understood it the best one can in a day. Turned out to be a great answer for the technical interview I had a week later!


I'm not sandoze, but the figure seems reasonable for folks with 20 years of experience. Most of my buddies make about that much (plus 25% to 50% bonus) in NYC. I make slightly less than that.


NYC is slightly more expensive than the mid-west.

I can say that I live in an area closer to the rural mid-west than NYC, and we consistently see 1-year contract rates for iOS developers in the low $200's, up to $280-300k if you have 8+ years of relevant domain experience (again 1-year contracts). If sandoze is consulting $200k is 100% reasonable. If they're a full-time employee, $200k is pretty high but definitely possible with their experience.


It's not typical for the Midwest.


Harsh and an obvious problem for those over 40 and industry in general, but is this simply the natural result of companies optimizing for maximum productivity at the lowest possible cost to them?

Many 40+ year olds have families or other life obligations outside of work, and thus they may not be as willing to put in absurd hours that a young employee could be squeezed for. The older employee also might be more likely to take weekends off, and want to use vacation time.

Additionally, someone over 40 is supposed to be in or near their peak earning years, which lasts ten to twenty more years (or did historically anyway) so their expenditure is going to be significantly more than someone with a few years of experience.

I realize it's one of the lamest analogies possible, but for many companies, employees are quite literally a cog in a larger machine, and so they want the cheapest possible cog at a reasonable quality level that works the longest before breaking down (quitting, getting fired, burning out, etc).

To fight this, I'd bet those over 40 would have to aim to get into important management and executive positions, which are less likely to be swapped out for less experienced, less demanding, and cheaper labor.


> Many 40+ year olds have families or other life obligations outside of work

Why is this a (seemingly) common belief? It seems backwards to me. I had a lot more obligations outside of work in my 20's and 30's when my kids were young than after 40. I'm in my early 50's, and I have more free time now than ever.


I suspect it's because many people are having kids later in life nowadays due to career, education, circumstance, priorities, happenstance, etc.

I personally know tons of people in their late 30s and early 40s having their first child, or maybe their second.


I assume the average age-at-first-child of tech workers in urban areas is 30-35. That makes the early 40s still fairly busy. Still no excuse not to hire anyone.


I am a few months past 40 and never felt busier. My first child was born when I was 35, FWIW. I don't know many people who had kids in their 20s.


The first few years of childhood are absolutely time consuming. You have less and less obligations as they get older and reach teenagehood. They want to spend less time with you!


I'm in my mid 20s and i don't know any friends my age with kids.

It's just not very common to want a family before 30.


Not sure why people downvoted you... "mean age of first time mother" is climbing and is nearly at 30 years old in most of the developed world now.

http://time.com/4181151/first-time-moms-average-age/

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-630-x/11-630-x2014002-eng.ht...

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2016/03/09/pregnancy-around-...


> Additionally, someone over 40 is supposed to be in or near their peak earning years, which lasts ten to twenty more years (or did historically anyway) so their expenditure is going to be significantly more than someone with a few years of experience.

We pay 25-30 year olds $100-140+k and call then "senior" in this industry. Unless 40 year olds are asking for $200k+ in non-specialised roles, I doubt companies can't afford them.

--

My hunch as to why they are getting filtered out is that people think 40+ year olds are out of touch with whatever the 20-30 year old programmers are doing and thus less skilled/able to contribute ASAP. Also there's a weird stigma for people in their 40s+ still programming (as opposed to managing/some high level position) unless they're in some world expert role at Google/Facebook/etc.

BTW, in many other upper middle class jobs, you speak in your early 50s or late 40s. Very different from tech indeed!


> weird stigma

I'm late 50's and write code 7 days a week. I guess I'm in deep doo-doo :-)


I think the above post made it cleared by:

> unless they're in some world expert role at Google/Facebook/etc.

People who hire for A-players or who hold top level position in big companies, politics etc understand there is no paradox in being old people holding top ranks saying we need young blood all across organization.


A healthy organization needs a mix of old and young, a mix of rogues and steady hands, etc.


Me too, I'm obviously over the hill and should abandon the new project I'm just starting.


>Harsh and an obvious problem for those over 40 and industry in general, but is this simply the natural result of companies optimizing for maximum productivity at the lowest possible cost to them?

If we go one step further, it's the result of society allowing them to "optimize for maximum productivity at the lowest possible cost to them" all other things (product quality, workplace safety, agism, sexism, environment, health safety, etc) be damned.

Addition: I think shareholders, and the shift of moral and motive center from a person or board to an blob of people is one of the worst structures that's allowing for the above.


That, and young people are much easier to take advantage of.


I just love this meme that 26 year olds making 3-4x median salary, getting pestered daily by recruiters offering five-figure signing bonuses, are somehow being taken advantage of.


After a master at $50k per year and only if they live in one of the two most expensive cities in the world, where twice the national median will not afford them a one bedroom flat in 20 years.


The multiplier of the median salary doesn't matter. Money is not an absolute, it's a relative (exchange) concept. It's what they make in value for the company vs what they get back that matters.

Plus, making $100k/year but working 12+ hours day is worse than what just doing the division would show (that it amounts to $67/year of 8-day work) because the toll of those extra hours on personal life, health, family, personal development, opportunity cost, side business etc is not linear.


> 26 year olds making 3-4x median salary

As if that's all of them.

Not to mention the ones that are working absolutely insane hours.


Most are not tho': they are being paid mediocre cash salaries with seemingly vast "stock options", and working 80 hours a week. Experienced engineers treat stock options as lottery tickets and insist on fair cash salaries.


I once calculated my $/h when I was working a deathmarch (80+ hrs per week for over a year). It came out to considerably less than what my brother was making per hour working an assembly line in a factory.


> not be as willing to put in absurd hours that a young employee could be squeezed for

This is exactly what makes them valuable. They refuse to get sucked into the burnout dynamic.


The article states it's for a variety of jobs including low-paid by the hour jobs, therefore willingness to work overtime shouldn't be an issue.


> Many 40+ year olds have families or other life obligations outside of work, and thus they may not be as willing to put in absurd hours that a young employee could be squeezed for.

This article is from Sweden. Note that the environment and expectations are wildly different in Sweden than in e.g. the US.

I am pushing 40 and I have yet to make a 50h week. Sice I had kids 6 years ago I haven't even made a 40h week.

Obviously a few tiny startups would need the 25yo type developers to work around the clock, but those employers are so rare and so small that it should not make a difference in the statistics.


Tell that to Slack :)


That's hilarious. In medicine, a 30-year-old MD is too young to make some more complicated operations alone. In IT a 30-year-old programmer is just too old to be hired.

The funniest interview I had was with some blonde girl in her twenties, who read through my CV and said: "Oh, you see. We cannot send your application to our client. You see, here I have hundred of applications from people at your age, who are managers in their thirties, and you are not. There is most probably something wrong with you." And it was a position for a programmer, not a manager.

And it was when I was in my early thirties, not forties.

Currently, I'm almost 40, and I seek only for remote work (family issues). I have been paid for programming for the last 14 years. I had different jobs like sysadmin, dba, programmer; using over 10 different languages.

And despite all that searching for work is really hard. Usually, it stops at the recruiter who is only interested in an answer to "how much do you want to get?". After that, there is no counter offer, no negotiation, nothing. Sometimes there is an answer like "you want too much, but don't negotiate at this recruitment step".

When I get to the technical part of the interview, I usually get some Yeti-Level programs to write. Yeti-Level, because you are not going to write anything like that in those time restrictions in that jobs. A good example is implementing a program which gets input from a file, in the input, there are domino tiles, and a function needs to match them and find the longest chain... all must be super optimized from the beginning. And you have 5-10 minutes to do everything, including reading the task description, examples and writing tests.

The funny fact is that this company is searching for candidates for months. The sad fact is that due to such strange recruitment process, good old experienced programmers will starve.

I really think that I did very bad choice with my career. There are so many other jobs where people are not removed because of age, and experience is really appreciated. In IT you just need to accept that companies want young inexperienced kids, who want to get little figures, but a game room is a must.


It probably depends on local culture or corporate culture. I'm 43 and have no problem finding work. Recruiters are constantly calling me to see if I'm available, and many tell me my CV very attractive. I don't think my CV is anything special, though I did switch between a couple of different languages (C++ to Java to Ruby to Groovy to js/Angular and now back to Java), but 16 years of experience is exactly what empployers and clients want.

One of my co-workers at my current project is 47 and just learning front-end development after a career as system administrator. So they're certainly not doubting his ability to learn.

> The funny fact is that this company is searching for candidates for months.

If they can't find anyone while rejecting perfectly valid candidates, the problem is absolutely their own choice. They are clearly idiots. Sucks for you of course if all companies in your vicinity are like that.


> 16 years of experience is exactly what empployers and clients want.

Which area of the country is this?

edit: oh. Based on other comments, you're a freelancer. What companies want in a freelancer/consultant are wildly different from what companies want in a full time salaried dev.

edit2: And you live and work in Amsterdam. I hear the european job markets do indeed value experience. The American job market doesn't.


>but 16 years of experience is exactly what empployers and clients want

They do want 16 years of experience, but only if they can pay you a mid-level[1] salary/rate...

[1] Mid-level -> 5-8-years of experience


> I really think that I did very bad choice with my career.

Sadly, I have come to a similar conclusion: tech is a great way to earn money early (because the wages rise quickly), but the ceiling hits early and is quite hard to break through. Use those early years to save up money, then switch to something else.


That is a really sad thought. I am currently leading the technology team at a 4 year startup (~ 30 technical people, 80 total employees). About a year ago I hired as DevOps a guy who is in his early 40's, who had been working in lots of stuff.

Shit, that has been the BEST decision I have even made. This guy has been helping us mature in our processes and the way we do things. Before him, we were just kiddos playing the technology startup game. We knew what we were doing, but we had no idea of how a big company did things.

What 40+ people can give you is a really huge amount of experience. These guys have seen things and the majority of problems are not new for them. I am myself in 35, and still consider myself kind of a noob in a lot of real life development processes.


My early years I was terribly paid. It's only recently (since I became freelancer, in fact) that I'm making decent money.


I worked with a freelancer once when he was brought in to help pick up the slack due to two people going on paternity leave, guy was being paid more per day than the two guys were getting in a week.

Contract work has interested me since then, but it looks like a real hard slog to get good income.


My first year I made € 8000 (though that was mostly due to trying to make my own product). I recommend building a buffer before you take the leap, though once I'd had my first big project, it's been fairly smooth sailing.


Or start your own company. Late 30s or 40s is a great time to found a company. Then no one determines your paycheck except yourself.


Yes, but before that, make sure you marry someone with a good earning potential :-)


Or learn to live cheap. Mr Money Mustache is a good start.


Maybe you need some bling in your CV?

I think that the secret ingredients are this:

- Open source projects (the more GitHub stars, the better).

- Tech blog (the more followers, the better).

- Experience working for at least one hot Silicon Valley startup.

- Experience working for at least one large corporation.

- Momentum: Proof that your career has been going upwards recently, not downwards or stagnating.

If you're older, they may also want:

- Proof that you're adaptable and open to criticism.

Unfortunately, it's extremely competitive and companies are obsessed with getting "The best" and they will not admit to themselves that they don't actually know what that means.


- Open source projects (the more GitHub stars, the better). - Tech blog (the more followers, the better).

What other professions do this? Do accountants need to do pro-bono work in their spare time to be hireable? Do lawyers just sue people for fun and blog about it?


Most photographers and other artists probably have a portfolio of some sort. The point of open source here is just that it makes it easy to see what your code looks like (e.g. you can show off parts of a tool/product that you are selling, and use a license that makes it practically useless to competing businesses).


There is absolutely zero correlation between GitHub stars and employability. None.


Yey. What a great list... OK, not great. I have almost all of that in my CV. Does it help? I'm not so sure.


> Currently, I'm almost 40, and I seek only for remote work (family issues). I have been paid for programming for the last 14 years. I had different jobs like sysadmin, dba, programmer; using over 10 different languages. And despite all that searching for work is really hard.

Unfortunately this isn't really unexpected. Between inexperienced kids with nothing to lose, ambitious graduates with strong short term experience, and experienced programmers specializing in one area it's hard to be competitive solely based on experience. The programming profession is very "free", but that also means you have to manage your own career and make sure that you're "selling" something that is relevant for the "buyer".

From an industry perspective the blondy is right. When you're in your mid-thirties you're expected to either to progress in your career to a role with greater responsibility, have an established career at larger companies or sell your services on the open market as a consultant/freelancer. Basically something that is using your experience. Anything else might not only not be competitive, but also a red flag.

This doesn't mean you aren't eligible for a job, just that it will be harder to find one.

(And I know that all this might sound arrogant which is why people won't really tell people how it is)


But my career progresses... but not in the management way. Just imagine a surgeon (who loves cutting people :)) and a hospital looking for one. Do you think it's OK to fail a great candidate just because she doesn't lead people?

Btw. going this way it looks like everybody in their thirties should be a leader. Who are they going to lead then? If we have a team of 10 great programmers, one will be a manager or a team leader... does it mean the rest will never find a new job because of that?

And side projects... a family, kids, jobs, and side projects - choose three of them unless you forget about sleeping.

"Hey, I'm a great surgeon, I love my job, in my free time I make operations on other people for free, I don't sleep, but here you have documentation of my free work. And no, I'm not going to work for you for free. And yes, I'm going to work for free after work. Oh, you ask about my kids. Who cares, I have my free work to do".

Yea


A surgeon will have something like four years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school and five years of relevant experience. People with an equivalent profile in software generally don't have a problems finding work.


> Basically something that is using your experience.

Why can't you use your experience to actually be a GOOD developper? Why do you have to manage or consult something?

Would you say the same thing to e.g. a surgeon?


Because the folks staying at a single company for decades or just moving around various "Programmer 1" and "Programmer 2" jobs are not good developers. In my experience socially and professionally, the best developers are very quick to move to another position at another firm. Whether it's for the money, the better title, fewer working hours in the week, or whatever I'm not sure is the point, but that they're not sticking around waiting for their current circumstances to change.

And most companies only have 3-4 levels of developer before you start leading teams, mentoring, etc. Even those that specifically have architecture tracks where you can do more senior-level technical work without any management or teaching overhead will only have a few of those positions as well.

Stagnation is death, and maintaining the same position for a decade is a pretty good definition of stagnation.


Why do the current circumstances have to change? What's bad about having a job that you actually have experience with.

That's like saying that you should divorce every few years because otherwise you seem like a bad husband... Rich people and prominents do it all the time, after all.


It's sad tho', interviewing is a pain in the backside, I would love to stay with and grow with an organisation for a solid chunk of time, 10+ years. But it seems impossible - far easier to get a promotion/raise/transfer whatever by moving. And this makes no sense for companies either!


>>> interview [I had was] with some blonde girl in her twenties

That's a red flag!


In an article about prejudging people by age, we have comments prejudging people by gender and hair color.

My wife (blonde) frequently gets talked down to by people who make assumptions about her intelligence.


Yea, maybe you are right. I was not writing about her intelligence... but I wrote 'blonde'. On the other hand, I would no write about the color of her skin the same way, and I'm not sure why.

Unfortunately, I cannot edit my first comment.


No, it's not. I was just a description, maybe you should change your attitude and stop judging people by their look.


How so? It seems misogynist to assume that that's a bad sign.


Personal anecdote here, which may mean absolutely nothing in the bigger scheme of things.

I had encountered, from time to time, a certain category of recruiters who seemed to be hunting for brogrammers. The type looking for passionate ninja rockstar hackers to work for free beer, free food, and night life in an exciting high-energy startup. These recruiters just also happened to be young blonde women in low-cut tops who were rather overplaying their ditziness. They also preferred video conference to phone calls.

My assumption is this was all quite engineered to hit their mark.


HR is ucked!


I am 43 I know this is true. Even for people in their thirties.

This is why I decided to start my own company again after 4 1/2 years at Square which was probably the last time I ever would be working for someone else.

This way age becomes an asset rather than a liability.


I've often wondered whether this industry is similar to Hollywood with its ageism. Once you get in, there are often many roles available. But at some point, you need to start creating roles for yourself (if you can).


I've struggled with this for the last 15 years ;) the "romantic" me wants to start my own company but it seems a lot less risky to get a well paying job working for "the man" than starting your own company. I can write code but I'm not sure I can do what needs to be done to run a business. Did you get investors? Any tips? Did you have a specific idea you wanted to pursue?

I've also been pretty fortunate to always have interesting stuff to work on while getting paid very well and always have options. People I've worked with would generally work with me again and/or want to hire me.


I don't understand why everyone bought the idea that we don't need unions anymore.

This is exactly the sort of thing they make better.


Because so many developers think they are unique snowflakes who are better than everyone else, and a union would just drag them down to everyone else's level. Unions are for people who work on assembly lines, right?


Special snowflakes or not, a group of majority young people won't unionize themselves if the benefit mainly goes to old people. Granted, everybody ages, but unions of today may not survive into the days when the young of today become old.


Which definitely points to a truth, obvious as it is disquieting: brutal violence lies ahead.

Seriously. Unions have been pretty violent for well over a century, as labor struggles have circulated the force of shockwaves created by obstinate dysfunction on both sides, but because of this, a collective memory of known quantities had built up.

Now, in a sudden bout of amnesia, certain mistakes are primed to repeat themselves. Others not so much, but how to guess which errors boil over first, and why, without understanding the roots of each problem?

Technology and any related social change will augment outcomes, but not always in a good way. On the one hand technology empowers mobility and learning, on the other hand, eavesdropping and misinformation.


So I expect a lot of people here are well above average and wouldn't be better off represented by a union.


Citation required.

A union won't make a company hire you. Whatever power union has, it comes after signing on the dotted line, so that particular problem would not be solved by a union.

Unlike police or muni drivers or Detroit auto works, programmers are among the most frequent job changers.

Other than Hollywood unions (where main benefit, as far as I can tell, is ensuring that you don't get taken advantage of too much at the low end thanks to minimum wages etc.) is there any example of a union for a profession where you change your employer every 2-3 years?


Theater and film are great examples of unions whose participants change jobs every few weeks or months. The unions are sometimes "hiring halls": you get the call from the union itself where to appear tomorrow morning. They also protect workers from competition: the only way new workers enter the field is when the union decides it can't fulfill its employers' needs with existing senior members.


is there any example of a union for a profession where you change your employer every 2-3 years?

I know a few construction workers who essentially work for the union. A contractor will get a job, and they'll contact the different unions and say they need people to get it done.


The unions in construction also provide continuous training for their members, and good training to boot. I've had real estate developers in NYC tell me they won't do foundation work with non-union labor because it's so important to get it right the first time.


Though the drawback is that union workers tend only to want to work with union workers. So you can't go with the union workers to do your foundation, and use a non-union contractor to do other work.

An employer I used to work for found this out the hard way when word got out that they had hired a non-union carpenter to do some custom cabinetry on an office build out (he was an expert craftsman who was not cheap, so it wasn't done for cost savings).

Suddenly it got very hard to find workers to finish the electrical and plumbing work.


Though the drawback is that union workers tend only to want to work with union worker

That is the whole point... a worker's only leverage is to withhold labour. As an individual that is insignificant but en masse...


Unlike police or muni drivers or Detroit auto works, programmers are among the most frequent job changers

Also unlike police or muni drivers, if the union makes it too expensive to continue to pay your wages and work within the constraints of the union contract, the company will either outsource your job somewhere cheaper, or it will go out of business and be replaced by a company with cheaper workers.

Detroit Auto Workers found this out when the Big Three decentralized and moved jobs out of Detroit and they were under intense competition with foreign car makers.


>A union won't make a company hire you. Whatever power union has, it comes after signing on the dotted line, so that particular problem would not be solved by a union.

Actually a union can very well push for changed attitudes and laws regarding age discrimination.


> I don't understand why everyone bought the idea that we don't need unions anymore.

Because things were good enough and a generation after Unions became a thing, people got complacent.


We have them in Europe (IT related I mean).

It is up to us to keep them being relevant to take care of our rights.


A trade union wouldn't work in this industry. A mediaeval style craftsman's guild would tho'...


Since it is not legal for employers to require you to give your age as part of an application, doesn't this simply encourage candidates to lie about their age? One way that age is given away on resumes is to look at work history or date of college graduation. In lieu of the current situation, is it not advisable to simply not give the date of graduation and only provide the previous 5-10 years of work experience on resume?

It isn't a perfect approach, but it makes it more difficult to discriminate since by the time you have a face-to-face interview with the employer you are already well along in the interview process.


I drop pretty heavy clues in my resume to indicate that I'm old. I don't want to waste time on the email or the phone screen, just to walk in and get rejected because I have grey hair (and have to sit through awkward meetings for half a day). If you're going to reject me because of age, I'd rather you do it on your own time.


It is difficult to hide your age. LinkedIn makes it impossible. If you want to be competitive, you need to share your accomplishments. If they are actual accomplishments, they are Gooogleable in a simple search anyhow. Hiding your age by leaving off dates says, "Hey! I'm old enough to hide my grad dates!" (which means you are now over 30) This culture is not helping itself. We all need to find the bravery to stand up against this at every age, because, I hate to break it, every person under 30 on this forum will be over 40 before they know it. I sure hope it finds them at the very tippy top of their career game. Our economy doesn't look great right now. Best of luck finding that chair before the hip-hop stops.


I am under 30 and do not list my graduation date.


you may want to start listing it and take advantage of the ageism in your favor while you can. :) I had a 28 year old friend who was getting botox a few years ago. I could not believe it; they looked so young to me. They told me I didn't understand how bad it had gotten in NYC. I thought they were nuts. Now I see why they were freaking out. This climate is so unhealthy. If we thought we had real problems with body image and eating disorders--- I fear the level and scope of mental illness this kind of youth-loss anxiety tech bro culture will deliver unto us as time passes and we do nothing. This plus body image plus some of the social issues that come these plus drugs plus work only social circles seems like a recipe for a kind of health crisis epidemic that---- we totally see this coming and are doing nothing about it. In fact, we are still convincing many of our own on this very forum that its even a problem even as Chinese workers are facing overworking themselves to death as a health crisis.


Thanks for the advice, and it may hold true in some markets but in my market I've been seeing ageism affect the young, too.


If you list enough experience or your college dates, it can be inferred.


I think that's what they were referring to by saying

"In lieu of the current situation, is it not advisable to simply not give the date of graduation and only provide the previous 5-10 years of work experience on resume?"

It seems like the point is you might be better off not listing university years or more than 5 years of experience, so your age cannot be inferred before they talk to you. Of course, 90% of people will have social media accounts that will make this useless if the employer tries hard enough.


I'm a actually going to start scrubbing my LinkedIn and resume and see what happens.


I'm working remotely for a startup where my bosses are 25. When I stepped into the office in person for the first time they immediately commented they didn't expect me to be this old. Probably wouldn't hire me if they knew they had to manage somebody 15 years older.

Graduated 5 years ago. Didn't list any experience longer than 10 years ago because I didn't want anyone to think I was actually going to do Java and PHP every in my life.

Age: almost 40.

Thinking about doing a master and hiding my bachelor once I have it, it'll probably help ;)


>Since it is not legal for employers to require you to give your age as part of an application, doesn't this simply encourage candidates to lie about their age?

Doesn't matter since when they'll interview you they'll find out you're not 20something -- unless you have exceptional genes.

Not to mention a few Google or FB searches and they'll not only have your age, but more than the FBI had on a target citizen in the days of Hoover.


> In the study, the researchers sent more than 6,000 fictitious job applications to employers who had posted job ads for administrators, chefs, cleaners, restaurant assistants, retail sales assistants, business sales agents and truck drivers to then compile the employers’ responses, such as invitations to job interviews.

Not trying to be in denial, but all these jobs appear to be blue collar jobs (assuming "administrators" is office admins and not Sys Admins / Network Admins :) .

Any data on whether this happens in our Tech / I.T. Industry, where every other month, you read a story on severe shortage of skilled tech workers everywhere?


I have to concur with you. I've been hearing about this death at 40 thing for decades and I think it's a bit blown up, especially in IT field. There were a lot of folks warning about this even during the dot com bubble when there was very severe IT labor shortage.

In my 20 year IT career -- and I've worked mostly in tech/finance in the NYC area -- the only downturns I noticed were during the most extreme financial crisis, such as the dot com bubble (2001 -- I was at an internet startup) and the housing crash (2008 - I was at Merrill). Most of my buddies in my age group are doing quite well. Even those non-technical folks who used to complain about the age discrimination two decades when they were in their 20's, are now employed in semi-technical jobs.

Now, I'm pretty sure that the age discrimination is real in other industries, but it's still quite difficult to find qualified, experienced candidates in IT, regardless of age.


The finance industry is much nicer than the web industry, when it comes to aging.


In the past year there was a (edit 2:) NOT a settlement in one of the age discrimination lawsuits against Google. Got a postcard to notify me I was a member and with info on how to opt in or opt out. (edit 1, I found the link) www.GoogleAgeDiscriminationLawsuit.com


Do you have a source on this settlement? As far as I can tell from online searches and the website you linked, the lawsuit is still ongoing.


Made a mistake, should I edit my posting or only put it here? I got a postcard with a deadline of April 4, 2017 to submit an opt in.


"You know what they do with engineers when they turn 40? They take them out back, and shoot them." - Primer


This reminds me of the off topic question I always had about YC - "if it is an incubator for fungus - is it valuable?"


"And there was value in the thing, clearly, that they were certain of. But what is the application? In a matter of hours, they had given it into everything from mass transit to satellite launching, imagining devices the size of jumbo jets. Everything would be cheaper. It was practical, and they knew it. But above all that, beyond the positives, they knew that the easiest way to be exploited is to sell something they did not yet understand."

I've always been quite impressed by the writing in Primer. The dialogue is a massive departure from the clean world of Hollywood but it makes it feel far more frantic but also real.


In government contracting, the jobs can be hit or miss. There's some really good ones and some stinkers. They usually pay based on experience. Jobs requiring 20+ years are of course more rare than ones requiring just a degree and no experience. A buddy of mine who's 60 decided he'd take an entry level Java job for a few years after being in a challenging senior architect role. The pay is less, but he loves it.

Part of the challenge of getting a new job after 40 is deciding whether it really matters whether you're making the same or more $$ in the next job or not. Many people are unwilling to take a pay cut when they have 20 years of experience, even though the job only requires 5.


Time for some heavy stick and penalties, laws exist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employment_discrimination#Lega...

Challenge is to prove it.


An employment lawyer chimed in on this in another thread. Apparently discrimination laws are generally only enforceable at the end of employment, but discrimination is much more prevalent at the beginning. It's much harder to prove that some didn't get hired for a prohibited reason than it is to prove they got fired for one.


Welp. Guess it's freelancing and minimum wage shift-work until I die, then.


Sometimes I really do wish I went into an industry where experience matters, such as law or medicine.


Someone needs to clean up the crap left by all these 20 somethings.

We have 3 developers all nearly or over 40 cleaning up the mess done by someone who appears to have been in his early 20's. The system works, but it could have been done with a fraction of the complexity.


Right? Sometimes I wonder about sticking around in this business.


No need to wonder or worry, when you get old enough people will help you decide.


Sorry to hear freelancing is not working well for you. What's your line of work?


Mostly web development in PHP and Javascript (kitchen sink "hack my Wordpress/Business Catalyst" stuff,) but I have experience with C++ and C# from a business application programming degree that I can't find any work with.

All the programming I've done for the last couple of years has been for personal projects. My actual job is in an Amazon fulfillment center, though.


I see. I am not in the same field so some of what I say may not apply but as a designer I'm always looking to partner with people who can create websites to specs. Maybe other developers can chime in but I can give a few tips that have worked well for me:

-if you don't have any current leads, ask around. Colleagues, family, friends, people you know. Just get the word out so next time a relevant topic comes up in a conversation you're the first on their mind. Also get a profile on freelancing sites. - Don't compete on price. Offer solutions not services. - Make a portfolio of your projects, even personal ones and talk about your role in those projects, goals, outcomes etc. - listen to freelancers podcasts - art of value is a good one. - get to know people in complementary fields like designers. Your source of leads could be from a business, an agency or a designer.. even copy writers. - start on a paid gig. Personal projects are alright but developers need paid gigs in their portfolios. - start now, somewhere, anywhere. Some people never start.

If you are beyond these tips already, great. If not, wish you the best of luck!


The fact that you use the slang term "welp" means you still have hope! You aren't 40 yet, probably. If you are... way to stealth, tiger!


This might just be a southern colloquialism, but I've heard my grandparents say "welp" many times.


You're absolutely right! My grandparents too. Pure Americana. The speaking of it is old fashioned. It's the writing it out like that "welp." in text that is pure Millennial whoop. I salute it.


I left my former industry at 40 (now just over 3 years ago), bootcamp'd and got into dev and it was the best thing I ever did. I've been gainfully employed since the move and love my current job. I can't say it wasn't a lot of work, and yes I feel the competition of the young folks, but it is what it is.


Congratulations, and welcome!


that's excellent. i think 'age discomfort' by younger hiring managers can be alleviated if they are reasonable; just be about the task at hand. The unreasonables aren't desirable to work for anyway.


How did they actually test this? Without details, there is no new information. As well, do we know that there are no confounding variables in these findings?

As a hypothetical employer I might think these roles are lesser roles, so if you are older I would wonder why you had not been able to secure a greater economic situation.

Second, as consumer facing roles, attractiveness is a benefit, with those over 40 having less of it. It is not discrimination on the basis of age, but attractiveness that would be the cause.


This is a tough one, because it's rooted in reason. The employer asks themselves "This guy is applying for an entry-level or junior role at a very senior age, why are they doing so? I must be on guard for potential problems because if this guy is still applying for these kinds of roles at this age there must be something wrong with him/her".

The worst part about this is that it's somewhat rooted in truth in a lot of cases - but it shouldn't be a preclusion to an interview at least. I try to view things as objectively as possible and give objective examinations to avoid this kind of bias.

With consumer-facing roles, I think that is an acceptable bias to have. After all, the courts have ruled that Hooters can discriminate on basis of gender for their consumer facing roles (not back end such as chefs though). For joe schmoe engineer that only writes code and rarely/never talks to the end user though there is no excuse.


I don't agree that most consumer-facing roles should be able to discriminate in such a way. Does it matter if your wal-mart cashier is older or younger in the same manner that it does at Hooters - or any other establishment that is based on looking at people?

I'd argue not. Hooters - and modeling agencies, nudie bars, and so on - actually have a business based on how their employees look. Stores, offices, and so on? The truth is that it doesn't matter. Unlike Hooters, they wouldn't lose a large base of their customers.


I didn't have too much trouble last year at 41. Took a couple months to get any traction at all, but then suddenly got a few interviews and eventually some offers all in quick succession. Maybe I was lucky though. After reading this story I'm definitely more inclined to stick with the position I have rather than to try to go out on my own again.

Another talking point: the trend of waiting until late 30's to have kids greatly compounds this problem.


I've been actively searching the last few months and my resume is getting rejected on sight despite many years of experience doing exactly what the requirement states. I honestly don't know if it's agism, their expectation that I'll demand more salary or It's just written poorly.


When you're past entry level, you need to be getting jobs through your network not by cold-calling or submitting resumes in response to ads.

I've changed jobs three times since I was 40, but in all cases I knew people at my new employer who could sell me internally.

I don't think it's so much age as it is that employers don't want to take as much risk on an unknown person for more senior level positions.


It's how I got my last job. I haven't actually been hired off my resume in 10 years. Almost all of my network today do the crap I'm trying to get away from.


OP here. FWIW I got my leads entirely off of spamming my resume around. For the prior 15 years I'd done freelancing for local companies and had a few-year stint in a small company, so didn't have a network. I was in small-town Michigan so once freelancing dried up I knew moving was going to be a requirement. Thus I was able to spam the whole country. That probably helped my cause a bit.

I noticed you mentioned LinkedIn in another thread. FWIW I don't have an account and it didn't appear to hurt me.


If you don't mind me, a 40 something taking a couple of months off from work, asking what area of the world you're doing your search?


New York.


I know you just phrased this loosely, but to be clear, the "trend" is due to exorbitant land prices in urban centers.


>A questionnaire study directed at a selection of employers shows that there are three characteristics that the employers consider to be important and are worried that employees over the age of 40 have begun to lose: the ability to learn new things, being adaptable and flexible and being driven and taking initiative.

Open question - is there any research on to what degree these three worries are true?


Not really an expert in this particular area, but the research I'm aware of kind of suggests if anything the opposite is true, depending on what you mean by "the ability to learn new things."

There's some cognitive decline, but it tends to start after 25 or so, and it's mostly associated with slowed speed per se rather than learning ability. There's also some controversy in that the declines might be associated with serious health conditions, that are associated with age, rather than age per se.

The other things you mention either stay the same or increase with age, which strikes people as kind of counter-intuitive, which speaks to stereotypes people have.


For founders who are fundraising, it's even more extreme.

Job applications generally don't and possibly can't ask about age, but it's a required field on applications for YC or other incubators.


That's extremely curious, if it's indeed the case, because older founders tend to succeed more often than their younger peers.


For a investor who funds many businesses, EV matters much more than hit rate. TBH, for an early investor, a success rate of over 20% is possibly a sign of being too risk-adverse.


So, age discrimination is not tech specific, but unlike other industries, tech workers change jobs much more often and that creates the illusion that the problem is more tech industry related.


With general increases in the age to receive a pension (increasing six months every two years in Australia), but challenges in finding employment, what bridging options are there? What's the landscape going to look like for 50 year olds if re-skilling after a lay-off doesn't always help?


There's ONE thing that really amazes me. A lot of people around the world - not just in Europe or in US - keep speaking about talent crunch, STEM shortage, etc, as an emergency... so, if this research is not flawed, the real issue is that such talent is just ignored at 40?


They only say that to loosen immigration for cheap, visa-dependent developers.


Thank you for saying that. The Elephant was just sitting on everyone's face.


Can be also sooner. In some countries researchers are ignored at $Ph_degree_year + 3 years in fact, for random reasons.


It's very hard (if not impossible) to avoid being biased when reading resumes.

Personally I would strongly prefer that resume's I review were anonymized and all hints that might bias me were removed before any decisionmaker see's them or they are filtered. This could help more women and minorities get a foothold at that step in the process (I mean generally, not with me specifically).

However, while relatively simple censoring of resumes would remove some bias from review, such as race (can often be hinted at by the name or university attended), gender, etc, and it would prevent googling of the person's name, age is extremely hard to hide. You can see a person's job history, which is generally will tell you their age within +-5 years. One partial solution might be to only list job history for the previous 10 years and remove the year a degree was earned, but relative seniority at the beginning of that 10 year work history will still be a very effective proxy for determining age.

So, unfortunately I think we can't hide age in an effective way without removing critical information from a resume (removing everything else we can that can be removed should be removed or hidden), but I think it's interesting to speculate on why older workers will be filtered out. I suspect it is a belief (or intuition aka unconscious belief) that someone applying for junior or entry level positions when they are > 40yo is correlated with 'something being wrong', since if there is nothing wrong you would have expected them to have reached a point in their career that they no longer have to blindly submit resumes for these kinds of positions.

I wonder what would happen in a study like this if the resume's representing older hypothetical candidates included some kind of cover letter explaining the situation. For example, saying that they started out working at a bank for 15 years but they found a passion for cooking and that is why they only have 5 years of experience as a chef. My guess would be that not only would this undo the bias against them, but you would find a strong bias towards them (just a guess).


My father, 60 y.o. engineere, in a few months retiree, asked me how to find a reliable freelance basic lvl jobs. The thing is, the country just passed a couple of recession periods, and the retirement program, the country is going to greet him with is around usd100/mo. What obviously is not enough to cover expenses. To find a local job at such age and at that economical situation us just not worth time and effort. And there are literally millions of such as him. I personally will probably not receive any pension at all (currently 32yo.).


> In the study, the researchers sent more than 6,000 fictitious job applications to employers

Might this be a clue?

Any job application which is in the reaches of an automated process must be a joke endpoint. How many other automated applications do they get selling employee skills, sex, penis enlargement pills, fast loans, malware and other trash.

Disclosing information should be the first "BS" smell for a job. I'm often well into getting work done before the person I'm working with figures out how old I am, where I live or other personal details. Granted, that's freelancing.

I live in the Philippines where the age requirements are actually advertised. And these ages seem pulled out of a hat. And I get the sense that people running the show at all levels couldn't tell their asses from a hole in the ground. It's a pleasant surprise to find someone who seems competent at convincing you that there's some purpose for them taking up a spot at that spot or role they are taking up in a serious time commitment out of their life.

Clearly the hiring process is just as broken as everything else. Why expect that hiring is going to be significantly more awesome than the rest of the system?

Don't interact with machines. Get to know real people. Show people what you can do. Preferably find people who tell you they could use your help rather than you telling them that you need a job. ;)


Have a side project in an en vogue "cutting edge" framework or language, and they will care much less about how old you are.


I am unable to reconcile these facts that life expectancy keeps rising and jobs opportunities keeps falling. Government across the world in low/mid or sometimes even high income countries are already running huge budget deficits. So they are not going cheap/free amenities to jobless masses when even people with jobs are finding things expensive.


Is there (age) discrimination? Of course.

That said, there are qualifications and there's "fit." The more experience you have, the stronger the signal on what you might (or might not) enjoy.

For example, if you're 40+ and most your resume says startup, do you really expect a blue chip international to be interested in you? Do you really want them to be? Sure, maybe YOU really need a job. But history probably shows you'll leave as soon as you can land another startup opportunity.

Again, not doubt there's bias in the hiring process. But bias can have a purpose. And sometimes you have to live with the depth and breadth of your CV.


This is why employment-based purposefulness of life is so dangerous -- I think it is nothing short of a tragedy that the way society is set up validates an utter hopelessness if you are not employed, this despite the fact that there may be structural factors arrayed against you. I've seen it almost chew up my father and I want to resolve that it'll never happen to me, but I know so long as structurally employment remains the default badge of worthiness in a capitalist society -- that it will come to pass for me as well.


Whats the logic here? Are applicants >40 generally worse performers?


You don't get too old to be relevant. You get too old to be cheap.


Silicon Valley objectively, measurably does not care about engineers being cheap. If it did, tech companies would open engineering offices in the Midwest where 1/3rd the salaries would let employees live 3x better.

I don't think this works as an explanation.


If they don't care about engineers being cheap, why did Google, Apple and Intel collude to keep wages down?

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/01/16/silicon_valley_415m...


You don't have to care to pick up free money off the ground. Wage-fixing didn't involve any downside or tradeoff until they got caught.

If they cared about cheap, they'd be willing to take on tradeoffs like communication overhead with satellite offices in low COL areas, potentially increased risk of a bad hire by making the interview pass rates higher, etc.

Even if you want a particular engineer very badly and money is no object, you're going to offer just enough to beat his next best offer. You're not going to 10x it. That would be waste.


I don't know what you think SV salaries are. 1/3 of typical engineering salaries here would be about $40k year. In the midwest that is going to buy a very modest lower-middle class lifestyle if one doesn't have debts.

Also, cheap is relative. $120k/year sounds like a lot, and it is a lot. But relative to the value provided it's pretty small. Also, these companies work together to suppress wages. It helps that so many willingly play the "work for free" game by contributing to these companies' open source code with no compensation. Workers in SV are cheaper than their salaries make it appear.


I'm always confused why the shareholders in these tech companies don't throw a fit over the very expensive locations that the big SV firms occupy. A huge chunk of their engineering talent comes from the Midwest and overseas, so why not relocate to Nebraska?

I suspect the upper management really doesn't want to move because they already have nice spots in SV.


Actually, the real estate was reasonable in the Santa Clara Valley/South Bay before they came along and made it $$$$$$. The same would happen in the Midwest. Look at Denver. So, yeah, they do care about cheap.


Cheap is relative. In the U.S. $90-120k is a common salary for mid to senior level engineers working with trendy technologies all over the country (i.e. a salary within the top 10% of income earners in the U.S.). If you're rocking 25 years of experience in the industry and demanding a salary that's pushing into the $130k-200k range for a non-executive position, you're very likely going to get passed over in favor of a cheaper engineer that can produce similar results but is demanding a significantly smaller, but still excellent salary. The bottom line is, 20 years more experience doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be "20 years" more valuable to the company, especially if the trending tech stacks are all less than a decade old.


In any major metropolitan area, $120,000 is barely middle class.


Whatever you call it, $120,000 puts one within the top 8% of income earners in the U.S., if you can't make that salary work then you only have yourself to blame.


National statistics are totally irrelevant. The only thing that matters is where you are relative to others in your housing market.

The median income in San Francisco is $78k. The 25th percentile is $141k. To be in the 10%, you need $238k.

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-salary-of-the-top-earners...


Barely middle class? That's an insane exaggeration. After taxes you are left with nearly double the median household income. Even if your rent is bonkers expensive, you still have way more money leftover than many people even start with. Barely middle class.


In a minor metro, middle class generally means comfortably paying the mortgage on a middling single family house in a good school district with a sub-25-minute car commute.

In some major metros, $120k is struggling to pay the rent on an okayish family-sized apartment in a below-average school district with an hour-plus public transit commute, with homeownership maybe creeping into the realm of possibility by making extreme sacrifices to save for 15-20 years for a down payment.

So yes, barely middle class.


I don't understand this mentality. If you're paying $3600+ in rent and are struggling, then you need to find a cheaper place to live or find a roommate, because you simply cannot afford it.


Oh, I have plenty of discretionary income for my situation. Maybe a teensy bit more than I would in a place with low housing costs but also low salaries.

But even a sacrifice of 100% of my discretionary income wouldn't put homeownership or childrearing (extra bedroom + good school district or private tuition) within reach. Certainly not both. Maybe I'll get to pick one on this salary if I ever see liquidity on my equity, but really I'm holding out for making a much higher salary in 10-20 years.

It's a fun thing to do with my early 20s. But I understand the presumption that a middle-aged man would not take this salary, as it'd be pretty damn difficult to rent more than a studio. Even the studio is extravagant: several of my peers of similar age have roommates. A family is certainly below middle class if it has to share an apartment with other families.


> I have plenty of discretionary income for my situation.

Then it sounds like your salary is great.

> But even a sacrifice of 100% of my discretionary income wouldn't put homeownership or childrearing (extra bedroom + good school district or private tuition) within reach.

Middle class doesn't mean you get all that without effort. You have to budget, you have to shop around for the right neighborhood, you may not have the option of spending money on a whim, your partner may need to find a job, but $120,000 is more than enough to buy a great home in a good neighborhood, it just won't be one in the heart of the city.

> Even the studio is extravagant: several of my peers of similar age have roommates

Right ... you're living in an expensive studio apartment in the city, you have to move when you want to start a family unless you're making much more money than a typical senior level engineer.


>$120,000 is more than enough to buy a great home in a good neighborhood

What? Let's suppose I could save $1,000/mo over 10 years, giving me a $120k down payment. (After retirement savings and $3k rent, this would leave me about $1000/mo in discretionary spending, including groceries).

The figure that maxes out a debt-to-income of .36 is $3526/mo, corresponding to a home value of around $640k.

For two bedrooms, that's a fixer-upper far from transit in a bad part of any East Bay BART stop town. And that's today: run the last 10 years of increases out another 10 years.


A $640k house is an amazing home almost everywhere in the country. The problem you're describing here is that the region you're living in has insanely high real-estate prices compared to the rest of the country and you cannot afford to live there.


Jobs that would pay someone like me $120k don't exist "almost everywhere in the country." They exist here, and in drastically smaller numbers in a few real estate markets with similar characteristics: New York, Seattle, maybe LA or Boston. Some of these have cheaper prices today, but also steep growth curves. I think they'll all be pretty similar in 10 years.

You're making my argument for me: $120k is "you can't afford to live there" territory, i.e. barely if even middle class, for the vast majority of software engineering jobs that would pay it to junior engineers.

Therefore it's reasonable to think middle-aged engineers would not take it, and that it would be a waste of time to interview them if that's your salary ceiling.

Of course $120k is great money and $640k is a great house in some places. These are not the same places where junior engineer salary ~ senior engineer salary ~ anywhere near $120k. They would pay more like $60k to the junior and $80k to the senior.


You're living in a bubble where you've somehow been lead to believe that the only places where software engineering jobs exist is in the most expensive cities in the world.

https://www.sokanu.com/careers/software-engineer/salary/

These jobs are all over the country, that's just a fact, even excluding remote positions.

> The context of this thread is paying senior engineers the same as juniors, around $120k, which implies an expensive coastal city.

I never said anything about juniors, I said that seniors often make around $120k already and at some point there are diminishing returns on the business value of seniority for engineers. If my company is paying the senior engineering staff around $120k/ea why would we then pay a new-hire $180k because they have 25 years of experience when they likely produce work of a similar quality to our engineers with 15 years. I'd be much better off hiring a new engineer at $120k and using the difference to provide raises to my core engineering team that hold onto critical business process experience. Of course, exceptional candidates can command an exceptional salary, but they're the exception by definition.


Looking on Glassdoor for places where $640k is a great house - Omaha, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Akron, Des Moines, etc. - the median software engineer there is making $70-80k. Great money, upper middle class in context, but not $120k.

$120k seems unrealistically above market, even for a seasoned old pro, in such places. Am I off base?

Of course if you're paying it there, then it's an extremely lucrative gig. But as far as I can tell, there are maybe a few hundred such positions in the country.


Are you familiar with the "Old economy Steve"-memes? Not all places have those magical cheap homes readily available. The US (and Canada/EU) in 2017 are made of two kinds of places: 1) Incredibly expensive housing 2) No jobs.


Not if you're making a $120,000 salary.


You don't start with a salary and then choose a city. The city determines the salary. If you can find a salary at all, it's likely to be in a high COL city.

Of course I'd love to make $120k from somewhere that buys a nice house. That is, far as I can tell, not an option. I can save while living in a high COL city and then buy a house for cash in a low COL city, but I'd still need a job to pay property taxes/groceries/transportation. In cheap areas, the pickings are slim.


Consider the price of bread and milk in NYC or SF, or, you know, housing. Like I said, barely middle class.


The median household income in the US is ~$52k. Unless your definition of 'middle class' is 'top quintile', $120k is not 'barely middle class'.

NYC and SF are also notable outliers, and aren't representative of 'any major metropolitan areas'.


I'm detecting some cognitive dissonance on the definition of a major metropolitan area.


How either of us defines major metro areas doesn't matter anyway, because the median household income in NYC is in line with the rest of the country, in the low 50s[1]. San Francisco's is around 65k[2]. If you're earning $120k, you're not "barely middle class", you're "doing well".

[1]https://project.wnyc.org/median-income-nabes/

[2]http://citylab.news21.com/data/types/19/


Dallas, Houston and Atlanta aren't that expensive. They're three of the ten largest metro areas. $120k in those cities is just fine.


Maybe if you're a <40 manager or interviewing team then you don't really know, so it's better not to risk it. Besides, what would you talk about at lunch?


The logic here goes like this: Oh no. Here is this person who is confident and seems to be pretty chill and nice. They are expert at what they do and seem truly interested in it enough to have done lots of independent work in their field just because they were interested. They actually have that BS term we all throw around like we knew what it meant called "passion". They make me feel like I don't know what I'm doing at all, and I feel really insecure already. What's worse- they are totally not being a jerk about this and must notice that I'm asking really surfacy questions when I should be asking much better ones since I'm interviewing them. Boy am I really nervous. I wonder if they can tell. (yes, we can tell, but it is fine- we were all young once. We all felt challenged once- it's great that you feel challenged at your job, and I'm happy for you about that---- I just want a job, dig?) Oh my god, if I hire this person I'll be afraid I'm a fake every single day, and I'll be nervous around them. I can't hire them becuase they will see through my bullshit. (yes, we will) they will know all my tricks because they have been here before (yes, we will) yeikes! Oh my god. I have to get them out of my office. I'll just hire that young person with no experience who makes me feel really really smart. Then I won't have to feel like I'm having a heart attack every day. --- I think the reasoning goes a little like that. Which is too bad, because we are thinking: hey- this economy sucks. I just want a job. Really any job. Just a nice job with nice people. I don't need to show you up. In fact, I might be a cool person you become friends with who you like to chat with during lunch you know? I can do this work in my sleep and I think I can help this company, and now that I'm in a great position to do so, no one will hire me? This is totally insane, and it is all because you are afraid someone will notice you are not qualified to do your job? Well, guess what? We notice. We just want to have a job at all. We can't turn back time, be 25 and look awesome in our skinny jeans. We just need to pay rent. But I get it, you need to feel mentally like you are not gonna die of anxiety every day. But this situation hurts everyone.


I wish I was in the hiring position so I could hire older people than me who have more wisdom so I could learn from them :)


A's Hire A's and B's Hire C's


No one has mentioned that sometimes older people don't fit into the culture of the business.


I'd like this explained in FULL COLOR if you please. What does this mean? "the culture of the business" Because from my vantage point (and I think from the vantage point of women, people of color, people over 40, and people with pink reptiles for pets at home) culture-fit is the way we do sexism, racism, ageism, whateverism, and anti-pink-pet-ism these days. But I'd love to hear a truly legit explanation for it from someone here. Anyone?


Businesses have three major phases they go through. They're adolescence, teenager, and maturity. Adolescence is the phase where the business is formed, and there isn't any formal procedural manual written or processes within the business, but they've either achieve funding and backing from a niche market. Mostly this is where businesses either promote the importance of keeping everyone together to achieve a `collective` dream to improve the world. In this phase all hands are on-deck to get to the goal, and generally during this phase the business owners have no idea what they're doing and typically will either over-sell a service or promise the moon and the pay is all over the place.

During the teenager years, (if) the business is still profitable and hasn't bankrupt itself the business owner start noticing the need for formal operation procedure manuals. They've either felt the pain of the lose of key developer and or customer and they to secure their position within the market place. Typically this is where in one form or another organisation charts come into existence and more formal documentation and processes start. Either in this time/frame you have HR/Sales/Support starting to take form.

During the maturity years, most of the teenager years of formalizing and documentation of procedures manual is in full swing. You have well defined organisation charts with formal processes to follow and legal department to sign off on new contracts. You have the existence of Managers of each department to coordinate the necessary sales goals, and marketing goal for the business.

In each of the three different phase you have cultural shifts. From young and dream focused. Then the shift during teenage years of reigning in the younger attitudes and formal processes. Then finally to the maturing phase where for better or worse a more mechanical and empirical processes of doing business.


So, you are saying that at each phase, the company should hire employees that are tweens, teens, and then young adults in correlation to the phase the company is in at a given moment? It's like this imaginary business is all done on MILF Island with the book crew from Lord of the Flies. So, by that logic, if I had a rock band at age 15 and Katheryn Bigelow said she wanted to play bass in it, I'd say no? Because she isn't in my collective-teen-fever-dream? And also, because although she is an incredible film maker with tons and tons of expertise in a technical discipline and tons of insight in business and tons of artistic gravitas you could learn from and riff of and maybe grow from, and the maturity to know that you might have some things she could learn from too, in fact- she isn't a super duper experienced professional bass player. YET. YET. YET. Did I mention that she has become a decent bass player in just a very short period of time and can prove it? Doesn't matter right? But what are you? Sheesh, maybe she could be all of these things and more?! Maybe she will be your company's greatest asset. Perhaps you could do with some diversity and modularity in this imaginary acme-company-kit so you could get injected with a "view of paradise" as Willy Wonka would say. Want to change the world? Well, as he would say, there's nothing to it. But, first you'd have to imagine that things don't snap together in a grid. Perhaps if you hire some over 40 people they might share a bit about the benefits of embracing chaos and improvisation into your business -- well, I guess the kids call it "agile" these days. But there is not agile like the agile of chaos and diversity. Shake it up a bit. You might find that it helps you move a bit faster that your competitors who are following these scripts. Well, this is what many of us over 40 people think when we interview for a job in tech after having achieved some great things in our carers and are pretty great at the things the job asks for too, but then are passed over for a 20 something with no experience who is less skilled as well. Culture fit. GOT IT. Anyone Else?


and using your model/analogy, everyone at the company must "be on the same culture page" with company at every stage? In the life model with which this is supposed to correlate for illustrative purposes, teens and tweens have parents and other facilitators, role models, coaches and guides on their team is all I'm saying. Adults have friends, maybe kids, maybe nieces and grand kids and friends of all ages, one hopes. Here are some big tech innovators whose later business derived benefit from their own mixed age/ability education in Montessori School. Just saying. http://www.businessinsider.com/tech-innovators-who-went-to-m...


How is the need of procedures and formality "culture"? It's just a company priority. And how's it even related to the candidate "culture fit"? What makes a 50-years old unable to work in a startup?


I get it. Thanks.


There is an extent to which culture fit is an appropriate discriminator, but writing people off based on their age is taking it too far.


Really sit down and ask yourself do you really want to be in your 40's around 20 year old's who have completely different ethical, moral, and work ethic than you do? Personally I would rather find/work for a business that have similar cultural values as myself than find a business that have completely differing values. Being at a start-up when you're young, healthy and want to go out with your colleges and get hammer after work is fantastic. Though when you're in your 40's I can see nothing better than finishing work at 5pm, going for a 1 hour jogging with my partner and curling up in bed at 10pm to read a book.

Do I think I will fit into a young crowed who have absolutely no social circles outside of work in their 20's now? The answer is no. Do I get approached by startup's to start some new fancy facebook clone every 2-3 weeks? The answer is 'yes' but I decline their offer's.


> 40's around 20 year old's who have completely different ethical, moral, and work ethic than you do

Care to provide examples? Also I've never heard of engineers being interviewed on ethic principles.


This would be your choice to make, and it seems you get to make it. Great! But the point is: so many do not because employers make it for them by discriminating against them based on their age.


I cannot speak for a employers, but I would say they've found a better person for the position. Either it be by age, sex, religion, health, ect... They're in the Business to make money and they've chosen somebody who is younger, more eager for the position than you. Accept it and move on.


> Either it be by age, sex, religion, health

I'm fairly sure those criteria are all illegal, at least in most U.S. states if not at the federal level.

Also, it's a huge leap to say that discrimination is motivated by profits. I have no idea how you worked that one out.


Younger. More eager for the position? I doubt it. In fact I have moved on again and again, like so many here. You are speaking directly to discrimination that is illegal in the United States. We have a formal complaint process. I've never filed one. I have had a clear opportunity many many times. I'm sure many of us here have. We may need to start organizing. We may need to start filing these with enthusiasm and pride. This is how other discrimination battles are fought. People are kept silent on this one for fear of never working again. Perhaps it is time to stand up.


Yes, I want to be around those 20 year olds when I'm in my 40s. I want to be around a few 60 year olds as well. I don't want to just talk about diversity, I'd actually rather like to live it. Those who insist on living in bubbles can have it, even if it means I have to face unemployment after 40.


Mono-cultures aren't healthy, not for the individuals nor for the business itself.


So funny to be called older people when you are 43 and party with the best of them. Anyway.

This is why I decided to start my own company again after 4 1/2 years at Square.

This way age becomes an asset rather than a liability.


How do you recover? I'm only 33 and while I can still party with the best of them it takes it out of me. No more $1 drinks until midnight on Thursdays and being back at work at 8am.


I don't recover I just don't do it as often as I used to :) I have two kids how wake me up between 5-6 am.


[flagged]


In what regard?


More like experienced people are less likely to buy into just another rehash of a 30-years old idea.


Except if an "older than us" came into the business, the culture would change somewhat. But we always want to keep out people that are different from us, in the small and in the large.


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