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Rejecting a candidate for over-qualification results in age bias (facebook.com)
641 points by KentBeck 6 days ago | hide | past | web | 419 comments | favorite





The "traditional understanding" of getting an applicant to your job that is over qualified is that they are just trying to get a paycheck while they look for something better.

I put that in quotes because yes, I've seen it also result in an age bias and as I went from one side of the equation to the other, I spent some time evaluating what was and was not important to me as an employee.

About 15 years ago I came to the conclusion that "over qualified" was never a legitimate disqualifying disposition of a candidate. Simply put, if you are applying for a job that needs less skills than you bring and are willing to take the salary that is offered, how far 'beyond' the requirements you go is irrelevant. I asked a hiring manager at Google once if they would tell a sales guy "No I don't want the Ferrari at the same price as this Mazda Miata, its more sports car than I need to get around." Even if you never expect to challenge the top end of the sports car you probably won't turn it down. Similarly with employees, if you are up front with them about what the job entails and they are ok with it, who are you to say they will be "bored" or "twiddling their thumbs all day" ?

Answer is, you aren't. Hire them and get get a discount on skilz they are offering you. Your company will be better for it.


> who are you to say they will be "bored" or "twiddling their thumbs all day" ?

But that's not the real reason. The reason is they are afraid because the experienced person can see through bullshit better. They are harder to fool and brainwash to work for free. With stuff like "There won't be a paycheck next month, but don't worry we are turning corner, once we exit you'll all drive Ferraris!", "We are changing the world, just need to finalize this feature by next week, so let's all work a little harder (and by all I mean you all)". Someone with experience will say something "Thanks but no thanks, I've heard this before" a new college graduate will say "Yay! Let's do it, I'll impress everyone with how little sleep I can get each night".

And I am not being too hyperbolic here. I've heard from owners before confessing that hey love hiring college grads because they can drive them hard, they are full of enthusiasm and are not "tainted" by other corporations.

Another friend from another startup, confessed that they like those take-home interview problems. Stuff like "Implement a distributed database over the weekend and show us the code on Monday during the interview". The reason is because they can get the really desperate and dedicated people willing to invest that much time into projects. As when crunch time comes, they'll need those "skills".


It may be less nefarious than that. There may be legitimate concern that the employee is just looking for a short term paycheck while they look for something more senior. Most managers are probably not thrilled with the idea of investing in someone who may not even stay a year.

Obviously it is more complicated than that. Just saying there could be legitimate concerns.


> There may be legitimate concern that the employee is just looking for a short term paycheck while they look for something more senior.

So set up an employment agreement that addresses those concerns. Use a vesting schedule or clawbacks on a signing bonus.

> Most managers are probably not thrilled with the idea of investing in someone who may not even stay a year.

Most managers aren't optimizing their technology for productivity, especially when new team members are concerned. This is a solvable problem. That is, "we're concerned they might quit in nine months" can be rephrased as "we're not capable of onboarding an experienced new hire in a reasonable amount of time".


What's a reasonable amount of time? Companies are often mocked and criticized for having absurd requirements in specific technologies rather than hiring smart people and training them - but that necessarily requires a significant onboarding time. And what about companies that have many in-house tooling, frameworks, etc? In another thread, a Google employee said the manager didn't expect them to make a real contribution in the first six months. Is that unreasonable?

A healthy repository allows you to make a trivial patch without fear. The surprises will all be documented in an obvious place. All of it (at least the important parts) will be tested one way or another. "How do I know if my patch worked" will be automated somehow so you don't even need to talk to them about how they broke things. It will either be obvious or clearly documented how to step through the code while it runs on a real-enough set of data, so that people can watch it work and learn about it that way.

> In another thread, a Google employee said the manager didn't expect them to make a real contribution in the first six months. Is that unreasonable?

I can't comment without more details. In particular "real contribution" can mean a lot of things. I think a trivial bug patch (forgot to validate an input) or implementing an already designed feature (we have five of these, implement the sixth) should be possible in the first couple weeks.

I am surprised that Google has code bases like that. I was under the impression that Google has engineers from completely different parts of the company transforming each others' code all the time so they can make breaking changes to libraries.


I was actually overstating the case :) the quote is "My manager has told me that I should not feel pressured to contribute at all for my first 6 months and I should feel free to just focus on learning as much as I can." (emphasis mine)

I once worked at a place that also said this, I hired on with a cadre of 5 other senior developers and two of them really took that to heart, and didn't do anything for six months. They were both PIP'ed (performance improvement plan) and out (left volentarily) at 8 months. A savy employee ought to take the "6 months to get acclimated" with a large dose of salt.

In the end, a truly "senior" developer doesn't need training on anything, just point them at the code, build and deployment scripts, and that's all they need.


I had a completely opposite experience one time. Was also told to take it easy for the first year, wasn't really given any real work to do, etc.

I did not want to waste time and lose my skills, so I talked to a few people here and there, found a few sharp corners in the product that many wanted to improve and started working on them.

Turned out, the reason behind the "relax for 1 year" rule was stack ranking. In order to promote the right people and award them bonuses, the management needed a steady flow of newcomers that would perform poorly and get abysmal review scores.


What do you think about companies who use a "fire fast" approach to staffing? You cannot simultaneously support that and denigrate people as short-termers.

Isn't that what contracts are for? That's how it works in sports. You stay with the team for X years, and after that you're a free agent. Why can't it work the same way in technology? The way I see it, employers are trying to have it both ways: they want you to stay, but they also want the ability to fire you as they please.

It is why i like contracting and find it so more honest on my and companies side of things. They say "work here for 6 months", I say "ok" after that they can ask me to stay and I can agree or not or they can not renew me - either is fine.

Being an employee, generally (not always but it must be 99% of places) you need to:

1. love the company you are working for. 2. be willing to receive emails constantly. 3. not be attracted to other companies. 4. accept begin laid-off as and when the company desires.

Contracting on a fixed length contract, I am almost guaranteed to have work until the end of that contract - working for a company, 0 guarantee i will have a job in 1,2,6,12,18 whatever months.

(how the hell do you get lists on multiple lines here ha ha)


Yeah, but then how long will you be out of work until the next contract comes along?

Years ago, I tried running my own consulting company. I found that I was fine at the technical side, but I really and truly sucked on the business side. I just couldn’t keep the contracts rolling in, and I couldn’t do the marketing and PR, etc....

More importantly, by trying so hard to do those things that I was really horribly bad at, I ended up hurting myself on the technical side.

So, how long can you afford to not have any income? How long until you go hungry and get kicked out into the cold?


> how the hell do you get lists on multiple lines here

Leave a blank line between each item.

1. Foo

2. Bar


Here's my thought about that. If they take your offer because they're having a hard time finding a more senior job, it won't suddenly get easier for them to find a more senior job after you hire them. So I think this risk may be overblown.

> it won't suddenly get easier for them to find a more senior job

My experience tells me otherwise. As soon as you have a job, everyone wants to hire you. If you have no job, nobody wants to touch you. It's kind of like dating, where scarcity makes you attractive.


Sure, but the 'overqualified' person is going to be job searching from day one. The alternative might say a year or two to grow and then look for something better.

Sure, there may be legitimate concerns. But ask me about them. Talk to me. If you’re willing to hire someone, then you’re presumably willing to trust them enough to believe something of what they might tell you.

Don’t tell me that I’ve got a great resume and that you’re looking for someone who is just exactly like me but five years younger, and then ask if I know anyone who is looking.


So why is that a harder to screen for that potential problem than any of the other ones? I can see why it's a concern, but it's also a concern that they are lying/deluded about their actual skills or are going to show up to work hungover and useless or slack off too much.

If you said those other ones were a legitimate concern for avoiding hiring young people I would say "... I guess, so learn to interview properly and lower your risk of that". The scale of that risk doesn't fit the scale of the issue at all.


I agree. With the exception of all but the fewest scenarios, a hiring decision is not to going to come down solely to one-dimension like this. It's also painting with a very broad stroke that all hiring managers think and/or behave this way. They don't.

Based on what?

Based on the idea the overqualified implies the job role is beneath them, and assuming the job's requirements correlates to pay, then the person in question may find better pay, and thus leave, at any time (because they are already worth more than you're giving them, and more than what you're willing to give, given the role performed)

> Based on the idea the overqualified implies the job role is beneath them...

So offer them the job and provide a path for more responsibility and pay as they prove themselves. I don't see the downside for the company. There's probably a downside for certain middle managers, I guess.


Presumably if I'm looking to fulfill the role of an intern, and no open positions for senior management, then I'm probably not looking for a new senior manager.

And more particularly, Im probably not looking to pay for one, and Im probably not looking for a senior manager to do intern level work for intern level pay with the expectation of approaching senior management work and pay.

More likely than not, Im looking for an intern who I can pay intern wages, and maybe slightly more as he improves.


Sure, but things happen. People quit their jobs. The organization grows. I suppose there are organizations that will absolutely not need a more qualified candidate in the next year or so. I haven't seen that organization yet, but I suppose it exists.

>More likely than not, Im looking for an intern who I can pay intern wages, and maybe slightly more as he improves.

The problem with this interpretation is that a lot of these so called "intern-level" jobs are not labeled as such. In fact, many of these opportunities require this so-called intern to have senior level skills based upon the job description and (no joke) seven-part interview spread over several weeks. So if these companies are just looking for interns, why not decide in one simple interview? And the other problem here is that many who apply to be older "interns" who are career changers are also rejected. There is really no way for the hiring company to explain that away as over-qualification.


There are many less extreme cases than that.

What if the company doesn't need a role with more responsibility, at least in the short term?

I think if you can make a choice between a junior and senior engineer you'd take senior every time. Companies need senior people with experience. Lots of junior positions are the result of there not being enough experienced people to fill the roles so companies are trying to upskill junior people.

At least that's my read on the situation. If I were a manager and I could choose between hiring somebody with 10 years experience and fresh college graduate I'd hire the experienced guy for sure (or hire them both). The only reason I can see why you would only hire junior is if your budget is limited (because of course the person with 10 years industry experience will require higher compensation than fresh graduate).


Most managers are probably not thrilled with the idea of investing in someone who may not even stay a year.

Most managers can't see past next quarter's numbers. A year is long term planning that is well beyond them!


Interesting, as a candidate I prefer the take home project because then I don't have to cram largely irrelevant knowledge.

There is nothing wrong with that as long as you're aware of what that selection does.

Just like the topic at hand, that kind of requirement is correlated with other characteristics, think young, fresh grad, not married probably, no kids, really wants the job, maybe a bit desperate, doesn't mind expending their free time etc.

In some cases the companies are aware of what they are doing. They know it is not about the take-home test but about picking those types of candidates most of all, and they are ok not selecting the rest. This was my friend's company.

In other cases, companies are not aware of it, they just copy what others are doing or say believe that this testing method is better, so use it strictly for that reason. Which is fine too, it might work for them better. However, they'll still end up selecting certain candidates and not others, but they just don't do it explicitly.


Last interview I had contained a take home test, it was for a senior position.

The test was designed to be a 6 hours task. I spent a Saturday on it (with regular pauses to go out a bit, play games, watch tv, etc)

I got the job. I have started there very recently so I can't really speak about the amount of work / week in that place.

Again, compared to a very skilled friend who had to cram for 2 hours each evening for a couple of months (and speaking with other people I know having gone through that, it seems pretty standard), I really see my time investment as ridiculously less than an on-site whiteboard.


Have 3 kids. Take home interviews won't be happening for a while in my case.

Well apparently you have expendable weekends :)

So do you - it's just that your priorities are different. Which is totally fine, but let's not pretend there is a class of people who cannot possibly take 2-3 hours out of the next 48 to do something. With rare exception, they're just making the (completely reasonable, completely okay) choice not to.

I am obviously only referring to programmers, knowledge workers etc.


Hah. that sounds like my dad telling me I should get more out of my day!

yes it’s entirely possible to be at a stage where you can’t pull more hours out of your sleep or other obligations to fulfill X task you truly want to. I really have a lot invested in believing it.

Could you burn the candle at both ends ? Sure! But I the case that you already are, what more can you do?

If you are a knowledge worker - and on HN, perhaps you do have the spare time.

But if you are older - Do you need to take care of your family? Help around the house, sleep? Maybe not! But usually the older you are, the more likely it is that you don’t have those hours lying around to just burn a weekend at your convenience.

Which supports the idea that this is going to be a request (take home exercises) that will favor one type of person. The person with the freedom to burn that time.


Really ?

A very competent friend had to cram for months in order to pass the whiteboard interviews at one of the tech giants.

I had to spend a Saturday on this test (it was scoped to be a 6 hours project, I spent the day on it with frequent and long pauses).

My time investment is orders of magnitude lower what it would have been for a whiteboard.


I do, too, when it's a substitute for on the spot grilling. I think the idea in the example is that is a massively over scoped project.

A distributed database is ok as long you can assume reliable network and no partitions :P

I do think that "homework" interview problems are better than pointless algo.


Distributed database seems like a quite complex project. Let's say I could do a minimal version of etcd using raft or paxos over the weekend but it would probably take most of my weekend's time, I think 10-20 hours work at least. That is not reasonable as a home work for job interview.

Something which takes 2-3 hours is much more reasonable and I am willing to do that because it leaves me with enough time for family / life over the weekend or to do homework for few different companies to not put all my eggs into single basket when interviewing.

If you are looking for a job you would rarely only concentrate on one opportunity. For sure you would try to compare at least 2-3 comparable jobs to choose the one which fits you best. So these sort of tests / home work assignments should be quite simple, probably algorithmic questions which can be completed in 50-100 lines of code.


I think it depends on the applicant, I'm willing to do such a project but the prices I will demand if hired will be markedly higher than a firm that offered me a simpler project that consumed less time. The way I see it is you have limited the risk you have undertaken in hiring me thus I can see more of the fruits of my labor.

Raft or Paxos are used for partition tolerance and there are implementations that you can use. Maybe you will spend more time but you will learn something useful.

You will easily spend 10-20h for "normal" coding interview.

  5h to refresh basic algorithms BFS, DFS, sorts, Trees.
  2h for hackerrank challenge from clueless HR person
  3h for another preparation before whiteboarding on site
  1h whiteboarding before any design question is asked
A benefit of "normal" interview process is that you chase multiple opportunities and your prep time will compound for better results.

Homework problems should be doable in the same time, just at home. If you present your results afterwards they can also be good to judge presentation skills.

I think you're wrong. Sure, I won't buy the hype, and I won't pull the all-nighter, but I'll still get more stuff done than the people who do stay all night. I may tell you your schedule is unrealistic, but it was unrealistic whether I told you or not, and you won't make it realistic by sleep-depriving your new grads.

Any owner who thinks they can get more real work done by driving a college grad hard than they can by hiring me is an owner who's short-changing their bottom line.


> but I'll still get more stuff done than the people who do stay all night.

I agree you. Was just presenting someone else's perspective. Don't think such things are usually shared or discussed so I found it interesting. I personally advocated for a more diverse team - more women, more age ranges, more cultural backgrounds, rather than just young college guys.


I'm not sure of that. A senior with ~15 years of experience (typically in his late 30s) doesn't accept this kind of bullshit but is still highly employable.

Age discrimination probably starts close to 50 I think.


This says more about those hiring than those being hired.

> The "traditional understanding" of getting an applicant to your job that is over qualified is that they are just trying to get a paycheck while they look for something better.

With the current lack of bonds between employer and employee, you must consider that all your employees are in this condition.


No, theres no good reason to assume that.. I can make up stories that support the opposite view too - skilled employees are likely to be able to land many great jobs, so if they pick yours they are likely to stay.

The story is just a rationalization for whatever you want to believe. You could simply evaluate the candidates record of tenure at earlier companies, ask them about their motivations etc. to get some idea of whether they plan to jump ship just like any other candidate.


> so if they pick yours they are likely to stay.

We all know that our idea of what a job is before we pick it is much different after we work there for 3 months.

People are always looking to leave. More money is made leaving. Companies aren't willing to adequately pay to retain talent.


But chances are the person was never in this situation (applying for a job for which they're overqualified) before, so their record of tenure doesn't tell you much.

That's the point: the over qualified are more likely to find something better.

[Edit: that's the employer's logic. Right now I'm on the wrong side of that equation, but I can understand their concern. Even if it's true that you really want the job and not that "better" job that might not even exist or you may not really consider "better".]


And in the interim, that overqualified person can help upskill the rest of your team.

Assuming you are not a complete muppet and have built mechanisms into your company culture to provide for rapid knowledge transfer, of course.

Or, it could be that you offer something that a lot of other work environments don't. Kind, friendly people, a fun-yet-professional atmosphere, remote work, generous vacation, etc.

Personally, I expect that every member of my team will matriculate out at some point. What's the harm in bringing somebody in that, assuming culture fit, will bring more benefit to my organization than I'm paying for?


> Personally, I expect that every member of my team will matriculate out at some point.

That's good - if your organization (even if not your team) has a need for the people that now have souped-up skills.



You don't see the huge selection bias in that study? They're interviewing people that were hired despite the discrimination that already exists. It's like trying to see if alcohol leads to more crashes by only interviewing people in intact cars.

It may be that overqualified workers don't in fact leave sooner - or it may be that the hiring manager correctly identified those who would and wouldn't, and only hired the latter. By studying only the people already hired, it's impossible to tell.


Edit: original response was too harsh. I'm just grumpy I guess.

The study was done properly. Have a read of: http://today.uconn.edu/2010/08/over-qualified-not-really/ which provides better detail.


Thanks, but I don't see how that link contradicts my objection. Can you point me to how they're tracking the workers that didn't end up being overqualified because they were excluded by the hiring managers?

From what I can tell, they tracked the jobs they took, but not the jobs they were denied for, so I don't see how they could've accounted for the selection bias.


That's because the selection bias you are asking them to account for is based on the psychic abilities of hiring managers. Even if it exists, it doesn't matter because there are still people hiring overqualified people and it only makes sense to talk about those in this context.

Either the effect exists or it doesn't, and you need to show that it doesn't if you want to claim that discriminating based on overqualification is not effective. And that study doesn't show that - it only shows that overqualified candidates that hiring managers thought wouldn't leave soon don't leave soon.

In jobs - as with relationships - going with someone because they don't have any other options is unlikely to be a winning strategy. Think about what it says about your organization when everybody is there because they ain't got nowhere else to be.

This only makes sense if the applicant has perfect knowledge of the entire job market and all available openings, while also having applied to all pertinent openings. The idea of "I don't have any other options" can be attributed to shortsightedness on the part of the applicant. People desire to be immediately employed more than they desire to be perfectly employed over the option of being unemployed.

This was a good point. Real question for those with experience: How often do you see someone in the top decile of their professional peer group go unemployed for a long period of time? (I could see it with PhDs with lots of education but little experience—but for that reason they may be willing to cut their teeth and work up).

When I have seen this it is typically someone who 'grew up' in a company (10+ years of tenure) and had regular salary growth and now they've been laid off and their salary expectations are high but their network visibility is low. (hard to find someone who can validate their claims).

There is a limit on how much salary anyone can command in a purely technical position. And at some point in a career there is so much critical information in your head at a company that they start paying for you to 'not leave' rather than 'compatible salary'. You can't pick up that 'don't leave' premium at the new job until you're indispensable.

Working through that value equation can be hard, especially if you don't have a lot of self awareness to begin with.


I've found myself in this position. I built up a lot of value for one company, but that value doesn't translate into new opportunities. I was compensated well for the knowledge, at the tradeoff of the future

This is a really great point and something that I keep in mind when considering my current job and future offers. Its really easy in a big org, to stick around for a long time, feel valued and wanted (intra-company professional network, regular raises and promotions etc.) and think that that is it, that its a good enough life. I see a LOT of people like that and I've always wondered if they could possibly move to another company and be as happy as they are in their current position.

I'm still figuring out ways to not get into a rut like that...


If someone can carve out a spot and be really happy somewhere for a decade, I say more power to them, but man is it a risk.

The longer you're at a big company, the more you get used to it, and the harder it is when it's time to move on. I worked at a big SV company for ~4 years, did extremely well, stack ranked in the top 5%, got raises, my last review I got a "critical talent stock award" -- it's easy when that's happening to imagine yourself there forever.

Then over about 6 months my division was divested, my manager was replaced, and a bunch of us in the old regime got laid off at once. It was heartbreaking, I was in shock. I bought my first house there, had 2 kids as an employee. Transitioned really to a fully-formed adult there. The work was interesting and I had a wonderful team. The job was a part of me, and I went from blessed top performer to the soup line in a matter of months.

But that's what happens when you don't manage your career really hard. If I had been smart/ruthless, I would have moved diagonally to a new company and started making a name before they had the chance to make a move on me. But I fell for the siren song (and vesting schedule) of the Big Corp. This isn't an unusual story.


I think hindsight is always 20/20. Maybe the path you are on is exactly the right one for you, you never know.

Its true, although it doesn't hurt to be a step ahead of the game. And to be sure, one can usually see the warning signs if one is careful enough: lack of growth in the division, change of management, changes in the market etc. When you're in a good spot, you often tend to not look as hard. If you can pre-emptively find a better position instead of waiting until you are laid off, it gives you a lot better sense of security when negotiating/selecting the new role etc. And for many tech workers like myself who are immigrants, being laid off creates attendant immigration issues which are a huge headache to deal with.

If they can get the job done, who cares why they took the job? You can't read other people's thoughts.

How many "don't have any other options?"

And the underqualified and overpaid...well, you're never getting rid of them.

I think the analogy is more illuminating than you meant it to be - what if you can't afford the upkeep of the Ferrari? I mean, there are a lot of originally high end cars available for low prices due to depreciation, and people do reject them for more practical cars that cost the same.

So are you saying overqualified developers have a higher maintenance cost, or are you trying to show that the original analogy isn't a complete 100% point to point analogy? If the former how so?

In general older developers have a higher 'monthly nut' (as do older folks in general). This is obviously a generalization, but things like saving for retirement and housing costs are higher the older you get.

Of course, it is up to the employee to determine if they can handle their expenses on the salary granted to them. However, just as an employer may look at something like commuting time and say to themselves "wow, they're going to commute for 2 hours, that's going to be tough", an employer can look at someone who is older and assume more expenses and say "wow, they might be digging into savings, that's going to be tough".

Now, that should be just one factor of the hiring equation. And someone may be interested in transitioning fields, doing a startup, have a trust fund, live well below the normal standard of living, etc, etc, and may be ok with the salary.

But as an employer, hiring, you aren't just looking at what the employee is saying now, but trying to figure out if/when they'll be moving on (and picking someone who will be less likely to do so is just human nature--that's why job hoppers are looked down upon by some companies).

That said, how can you combat that? (I'm in my early 40s and am terrified of this.)

* start your own company

* consult

* don't job hop, settle into a company

* keep your skills up to date

* be productive enough to justify the extra money (be a true 'senior' developer)

* move into management, again, a higher leverage area.

I don't know, maybe there are other ways.


You have no idea how much someone’s monthly expenses are based on their age. Someone 22 might be carrying 200k in student loan debt. Someone 45 might have their house fully paid off. Randomly guessing at someone’s monthly expenses is a really bad way to estimate how likely they are to stay.

For that matter, someone who keeps getting rejected for being “overqualified” might be extremely loyal once they find someone willing to give them a job.


You're correct, guessing is a bad idea. But don't monthly expenses play in at some level?

Maybe? But you don’t know what those are so it doesn’t matter. Having family across the country is probably a bigger factor in how quickly someone will leave but you can’t account for that either, so just don’t try.

they "play in" only to the extent you can safely assume everyone has some monthly living expenses (food, shelter, etc). without knowing what the specifics are, you ... just don't know.

my monthly expenses are ... relatively low compared to lots of other folks my age and in my area and profession, but I do without some things they have (bigger house, newer car, newer cell phones, etc). We could tighten our belt even more if need be, but many others can't.

as in that other example, the 22 year old might be supporting massive student debt and maybe some consumer debt. That 48 year old developer might have a high earning spouse and together they're pulling in $240k in a medium cost of living area, with no debt.

You just can't tell by looking at someone's age what their financial situation is.


> things like saving for retirement and housing costs are higher the older you get

I can relate to KIDS blowing up one's monthly budget. But retirement and housing?

I set aside the same percentage of my income for retirement as always (the raw number may be higher as my income climbs, but I've always approached it as a percentage). And my mortgage will be paid off free and clear in my 40's, while most of my 20-something colleagues burn obscene amounts on monthly rent for tiny apartments. Because they'd rather live in some trendy gentrified spot in the urban center, than have a house in some non-sexy and supposedly-racist suburb.

If it weren't for daycare expenses, my monthly needs would be a fraction of what they were two decades ago. And I'll be done with daycare in a couple more years.

> don't job hop, settle into a company

This is atrociously bad advice. If you are going to remain an individual contributor, rather than exit into a management track, then it becomes more important to move around and keep yourself relevant as you age. Not less.

> move into management, again, a higher leverage area.

If you genuinely want to move into management as a matter of advancement, because you are tired of coding and a completely different career intrigues you, then fine. But if you don't really want to be a manager, and are just doing it for salary reasons, then I can say from experience that you're setting yourself up for misery. I was fortunate enough to come to terms with this in time to turn back, before the detour caused long-term damage.


Good points about kids being a big expense. I know many folks who are upping their retirement savings, as a percentage, as they get closer to retirement.

As far as not being a job hopper, I think that you have a point, staying at a company can cause your skills to become narrow. But showing loyalty over your career might lead an employer to believe you when you say "I am overqualified for this job but I stick to the jobs I have".

As far as management, I think everyone should try it, just because it gives you an appreciation for how hard management is, but I concede your point that it is an entirely different profession and you shouldn't move into it solely to stay employed.


In 7 companies since leaving graduate school, I have seen precious few examples of "management" that weren't exemplars of the Peter Principle. It's become synonymous with "bureaucrats" for me.

The only flavors of management I would ever be willing to climb out of the trenches for would be a very technical, very creative form of management or possibly a founder-level role. All the rest seems so boring, a lifetime of meetings, meetings, meetings, and spreadsheets.


In general older developers have a higher 'monthly nut' (as do older folks in general). This is obviously a generalization, but things like saving for retirement and housing costs are higher the older you get.

Huh? My expenses have never been lower. My housing costs sure as hell aren't higher because I bought my house when they were a lot cheaper than they are now. ($1900/month for a detached rambler in Redmond, WA; suck it, youngsters.) Haven't had a car payment in, what, about ten years? We've bought all the high-end stuff we're going to buy. TVs wear out, but high-dollar musical instruments don't, so no obsolescence there.

I'm sure our retirement savings is higher than yours, but it's not because retirement's coming up; we're set there. It's because I don't know what the hell else to do with the money, and I have a tax-deferred savings account? Okay, sign me up for that and max it to the Federal limit. And even that's not enough to siphon off the surplus, so we make extra principal payments on the house.

Granted, that's two incomes and no kids. But we could get by on half of what we make. I'd do it, too, but no one is offering a 20 hour/week software job, and at this point I don't have any marketable skills other than writing software.

EDIT: sorry, went off on a rant and didn't answer the question: "That said, how can you combat that?" Mmm, I don't. Maybe employers overthink it like you do, maybe they don't, hard to tell. Frankly, do I want to start an employment relationship with a company that's already second-guessing me? I just inquire about positions that interest me, and at some point some sucker hires me. I do think one would do well to avoid job-hopping. When I've been a hiring manager, my guess is going to be that one looks good on paper but is insufferable to work with (and hence gets fired), or can't be pleased. Having "my own company" on the resume, even if it's one that didn't quiiiite work out, seems to be a plus, too. Other than that, I dunno, just go look for a job like everybody else. <shrug>


Thanks for sharing your experience. As this thread shows, my generalization is apparently incorrect. :) Oh well.

Just a minor point, when you get interview training from someone who knows discrimination laws, you will learn that there are things you should not discuss with a candidate. That includes where they live, because of the discriminatory mental logic you describe about commute time.

Thanks! I didn't know that people who lived far away were a protected class. I have hired, but only for small companies. I know about protected classes (in the USA that's race, color, religion, and the others listed here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protected_class ). Can you point me to anything about "where you live" being a protected class, or is it part of one of the above classes?

I’m not editing my statement above, but after researching this I learned that I’ve been given the right advice but the wrong reason for it. A better explanation is below.

The specific concern is that if you ask and they talk about living in a place that is primarily occupied by a specific protected class, you have now accidentally strayed into the danger zone of federal concern. Long commuters are not a protected class, but people are highly variable in their sensitivity to commute times. Since it does not specifically relate to their ability to do the job, experience, or other factors you should be focused on, you should stay away from it.

A safe question you can ask if you’re concerned is something like “our core working hours are N to M, will that pose a problem for you?”


Excellent! Thanks for clarifying and sharing your research.

> A safe question you can ask if you’re concerned is something like “our core working hours are N to M, will that pose a problem for you?”

That is going in my toolbox.


I don't think you're wrong, I think it's just one of those things that makes people uncomfortable. The thing with ageism is that on a societal level it's counter-productive, and unethical, but for individual actors (companies, managers, etc.), there are various disincentives for wanting to hire older folks. They generally cost more, they're probably going to have more risk of long term health issues, and frankly, they're probably going to see through a lot more management BS that younger people might not have the experience to read correctly. Ageism is horrible, but it exists for a reason :-/

> and frankly, they're probably going to see through a lot more management BS that younger people might not have the experience to read correctly

I think this is bigger than most people realise. Bring in the bright young things straight from university (or with a couple of years' experience) and they won't know that "working 20 hours overtime per week is normal" and "you don't need a lunch break if the company supplies food" are a crock of shit.


> they won't know that "working 20 hours overtime per week is normal"

That was certainly my experience. I remember in my first job out of college, working 96 hours one week to rescue a client project (that was a lot of pl/SQL coding). The project launched and I got a six pack of beer and a t-shirt as a thank you.


I hear the downvotes. I knew this would be an unpopular comment. Would love to hear some counterpoint so I can learn how I'm wrong.

Should hiring decisions be entirely divorced from context? Should employers not worry about anything but 'can the person do the job right now'?


I didn't downvote you, but I didn't agree with the first half of what you said (I'm also past the hill). In fact I just upvoted you, because down voting isn't for disagreements, it's for shallow and unproductive arguments (which yours was not).

>However, just as an employer may look at something like commuting time and say to themselves "wow, they're going to commute for 2 hours, that's going to be tough", an employer can look at someone who is older and assume more expenses and say "wow, they might be digging into savings, that's going to be tough".

I think it really boils down to context. If you are a 6 figure developer taking a $40K job, yea, maybe, but if someone is paying $40K for US developers, they don't get to bitch about turnover, that would be a given.

So let's take something more realistic (and I'm framing everything in terms of development, because that's what I know). Say a $150K guy drops down to $100K. To me that isn't a red flag, maybe the guy wants to do something different in a new language. Say a Windows guy wants to do iOS or Linux or vice versa. Unless they are crazy with their money $100K is easy to live on for most people, even as a sole provider with a family.

Another example is they are unemployed and looking for work. A lower paying job is better than no job, so they would already be digging into savings, so I would consider that a moot point. I would imagine that person would be more likely to stick around because they have to dig out of that hole and knows the sting of being unemployed. (It happened to me in 2001 and it sucked.)

It also greatly depends on where you live and what industry you are in. I happen to live in a low cost of living city.


Thanks for the additional example and context. I guess the point that I'd take away (and another way to deal with this if I confront it) is to provide that context as the candidate, rather than letting the employer guess the context. Maybe it'd be good to confront it head on and say "I'm willing to take a pay cut because I'm a windows guy who wants to transition to iOS".

You're welcome. It's all a game. Employers pretend like they can tell the difference between a good developer and a bad one during the interview process, and the candidate pretends like they can prove how good a developer they are in the interview process.

Whenever I interviewed (this was a long time ago) I would always take control of the interview. So when they would ask me about my prior projects, I would go on and on about them, enough so the person had a pretty good idea I knew what I was talking about.

The best antidote for being over the hill I have found is I usually ask friends first if they have any openings. They usually do and they will vouch for me. I also stick around a while: 6.5 year and 8 years for the last two. I make sure I push for new technology projects and make sure I do a good job so I'll get more. I really find the recruitment process distasteful.

A college friend of mine gave me the best advise for starting a new job. The first task they give you, make sure you bust your ass to get it done fast and well. That will set the tone.


> A college friend of mine gave me the best advise for starting a new job. The first task they give you, make sure you bust your ass to get it done fast and well. That will set the tone.

Underrated advice.


> Should hiring decisions be entirely divorced from context?

If by 'context' you mean things not related to the applicants ability to do the job, yes. They don't have anything to do with the ability to do the job.

> Should employers not worry about anything but 'can the person do the job right now'?

No, they should not. Whether they can do the job is your first and only concern.

There are so, so many reasons why someone might be forced to take a less than 'optimal' job. Maybe there are no appropriate jobs in the area available anymore and the applicant is trying to switch fields to one where they can find work. Or maybe they have a family now and can't do the 70-80 hour work weeks for lead dev positions they could do when they were single. Or maybe they've developed anxiety from having the weight of a business' systems lying on their shoulders alone and want a generally easier gig. I've known people in my peer group their late 20s and early 30s that found themselves in all these situations.

These are not the applicants fault, and to reject him on that basis alone makes no sense.


There's a difference between taking into account your own known context and assuming someone else's hypothetical context.

Definitely. I spoke from my experience and that quite obviously wasn't common. Here are some actual statistics (which I should have researched before I posted: https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-4/mobile/consumer-expend...

The first chart does show expenses increasing by age group but income appears to keep pace.

What's that saying about never assume? :)


I'm sorry you were downvoted: being [thought to be] wrong isn't a reason for downvoting in the official guidelines

Even if you're only paying them based on required qualifications rather than on their actual qualifications, you're paying them at below the market rate that they could command. If they ever decide they want to leave (for more money, or something annoyed them, or a friend of theirs is hiring) they can do so easily, and they're more likely to be tempted.

In this analogy, you can buy a Ferrari at the same price as a Miata but the Ferrari is much more likely to get stolen.


I don't know how much I buy (!) this explanation - if an overqualified engineer is applying for a role that is below their usual expectations, it's probably because they can't find something that is a better match for whatever reason. If they are going to up and leave to a high paying job "easily", they would have done so already.

The question is whether "whatever reason" is a permanent issue (lifestyle decision to reduce work pressure, maybe?) or is a temporary issue (laid off due to market crash or unexpected company merger and needs a job in a hurry). If the latter then they may just be looking for a temporary job to tide them over until they get a better offer.

Reading the tea leaves in someone's personal situation is a path towards discrimination in hiring, however unspoken or unintentional. I've heard interviewers question someone about their decision to move to another city, not thinking the reasons may be entirely personal and inappropriate to be brought up in the context of an interview.

Absolutely - there’s a ton of implicit biases at work whenever you go down this path. Comes down to, if you want them to work for you, make them an honest offer and let them decide if it works for them. Companies obviously can’t put out multiple offers for the same position at a time, so there’s a natural tendency for companies to be careful with offers and only put them out if they are sure they’ll be accepted. But in this kind of case, if it’s an offer the candidate would reject out of hand, then they will reject it immediately and you lose nothing.

How about: Developers might not want to work to the full extent of their capabilities all the time (especially as they get older) because it has additional costs to them (stress, burnout)?

The analogy is a bit stretched, but imo still works even when talking about the consequences (which often easily translate into cost) of owning Ferrari/working at high paying job.


I think that when one is called "overqualified" it's best to take it not as a criticism of what one is but of how one is marketing oneself. It's hard to humble oneself, but it's necessary to face the fact that you can't have it both ways - if you really want/need a job that doesn't require your education and experience, then you can't brag about your education and experience that is irrelevant. Pretending this is a matter of honesty, as people sometimes do, is a way to avoid admitting you can't control your ego.

A couple of things:

1. I don't see how that applies to the analogy of higher maintenance costs.

>if you really want/need a job that doesn't require your education and experience, then you can't brag about your education and experience that is irrelevant.

2. That is a double edge sword. If one removes expertise to pretend to be junior, then they are vulnerable to a junior who inflates their resume to appear more competent.

3. Also, putting your past experience isn't bragging, it's, as you said, honesty.

It's good business to (all other things being equal) hire the best person you can find at the price you can afford. To do anything otherwise is nonsensical. I can't think of a good business reason not to.

Having said all of that, I'm so glad I haven't had to use a recruiter in nearly 20 years. It sounds like a cluster out there.


So let's say you undersell yourself, but you're also somewhat older. That's just going to lead employers to ask "why is this guy/gal not more accomplished after all this time."

This doesn't work for everyone. Some people are just not good at being deceptive like that.

I have strong social anxiety that is at its worst in interview situations. When I try to 'edit' my answers to questions like that instead of giving a straightforward and honest answer about the stuff I've built and the experiences I've had building, my brain spins endlessly trying to model all possible 'edits', the possible responses, and possible counter-responses.


Yes, but that assumes you're not competing with anybody. If you are, then why shouldn't you put your incidental "extra-curricular" credentials up front?

How did you get to bragging about one's education/experience? Or that someone needs to control their ego?

Whenever I see analogies all I can think back to is Dijkstra saying how theyre a good sign of medieval thinking. We shouldn't resort to analogies; They obscure case specific information.. or in other cases also allow us to draw parallels that aren't very apt to the case at hand.

Analogies are important for the human aspect of decision-making. We have limited cognitive capability, so it is beneficial to describe a problem in a similar, but more-familiar context to help people build mental models to help them decide.

Dijkstra was a crazy smart guy, but I would have to disagree with this point. Analogies are useful tools for aiding understanding.


And if somebody offered me a Ferrari at a Miata price, I'd be doing a lot more due diligence on the Ferrari than the Miata. When something seems too good to be true, it often is.

I saw this coming when reading the original comment and thought a more fitting analogy would be something that gets better with age.

The first thing that came to mind was a cast iron skillet. Would you rather get a brand-spankin' new unseasoned skillet or would you rather get one that had cooked breakfast everyday for 3 generations of Appalachian homemakers for the same cost?


It seems like many employers are quite worried about hiring someone who is under qualified, even though they can legally fire them for any (for certain values of any) or no reason where I live.

Given that, it doesn't seem like the worse problem in the world to hire someone who is over qualified, and if they get real unhappy, they give a professional 2-weeks notice and then leave.

I think we're all probably ignoring the real reason this happens though, those hiring are intimidated by the over qualified candidate. "A's hire A's and B's hire C's" as they say.


My experience is a bit different. The real problem with me being overqualified is that I want to be paid for the qualifications I bring, and they don't want to pay that much. They aren't afraid that I'll move on soon. They just have sticker shock.

Now, if I take their low-ball offer, if they pay me as if I had 5 years of experience when I really have 30 and for whatever reason I have to take that job, then yes, I'm out of there as soon as I find someone who will pay me what I'm worth. I like the work, but I do this to make money, not just for entertainment.

And why am I worth more money than someone with 5 years of experience? I don't even work as hard as those people; why am I worth more? Because I get more done, and it's done better when I do it. I don't write the bugs those people write, so I (or somebody else) doesn't have to spend the time finding and fixing them. I don't design the bad architectures that they design. And so on.


Your experience might be worth that much to a company who needs it, but if they are hiring for a junior role (and I mean they truly just need someone junior, not playing games), they may not value what that role will be working on enough to justify paying for your extra experience.

Nothing wrong with that... It just likely isn't a good fit.


> ...just need someone junior...

What does this mean? It sounds like expectations around pay and responsibility. If someone says, "Yes, I'll take your marching orders for 30k per year," why not hire them and let them do that? You might have something with more responsibility open up in the next year or so and have an immediate (and usually harder to find) candidate for that job.


My point is that some roles may not have much upward mobility, or they may want to bring in someone with less experience and train them up (a good thing).

Someone with a mountain of experience coming in has to work against the suspicion that they are taking the role for the wrong reasons, namely that they will bounce as soon as they find something more in line with their actual experience.

It goes beyond expectations of pay and responsibility.

If you take someone with a ton of experience who says they will do the job for $30k/year, their growth expectations are quite likely different than that of a junior person. As such, there's a greater likelihood they will leave sooner if they find something more senior.

And the hard part of this is, they might genuinely be interested in the role. But enough managers get burned by taking in someone with too much experience for a lower level role that leave in under a year, and they tend to avoid that type of candidate.


Not if the person feels demotivated by the fact that the job is not taking advantage of their skills or experience. People want to feel respected and appreciated for what they bring to the table. Without that, they may lose motivation and thus be less productive than a fresh person with a strong desire to learn and grow.

Sometimes having your mortgage paid and getting to eat trumps self actualization.

You pay me, I'll do what the job calls for and we're square. Motivation is a weasel word. I'm either meeting your (hopefully reasonable) performance requirements or I'm not.


That's right. Isn't the young energetic person who is eager to learn and grow at least as likely to leave after they've learned-and-grown as a person who is more skilled and gets bored.

I'm 36 now, with a mortgage, and have stayed in the job I am in now longer than any job I've had before.


A friend of mine pretty much only hires ex cons (ok, not for programming jobs). Because he says they're the most loyal and hard working employees he can find, and they usually don't ask for more money.

You can always use other peoples prejudice to get market rate discounts.


Yea but that is a high risk to take. Imagine you are the manager, and you have been given just one head count. Who would you choose? Would you risk your head count on an over-qualified person?

Having been a hiring manager previously, I will usually take the person with more experience.

The odds are lower that they'll leave than someone with less experience needing more time to become senior. There is no substitute for experience.

EDIT: To expound on this, as a manager, I will look out for the company, but also for you. If you have limited experience and want to climb the ladder, I will help find you a path internally and if one is unavailable (happens all the time), I will introduce you to opportunities outside the org to get you into higher roles and pay grades. Same deal if you're a senior person with "too much skill" for the role: tell me your goals, and I will help you get there. No one sticks around forever, and its unrealistic to ask people to do so.

This is, in my opinion, what a good manager is. Not someone who can code well, not someone who is a technical wizard, but someone who manages away problems outside of the team while helping individual contributors maximize their potential.


Not quite. If your hiring for a certain level depending on the scope of work, an overly experienced person may not be satisfied with the scope of work. So a good manager would try to find the right level person for the scope of work.

You're entitled to your opinion. I know lots of overskilled folks who are happy to put in their 40 and leave.

You're under the impression (it seems, correct me if I'm wrong) that labor is entirely fungible in an org and you can just shuffle people around to match skills to tasks; rarely is that the case, whether you're a company of 80 or 8000.

Managing people is super hard, and technical skill overlap with management skills is almost non-existent.


Well that's why I am saying you want to hire the right level for the role.... It impacts things like promo and peer comparisons etc..

If I were a manager, and I were to optimize my bottom line, I'd discriminate by hiring young, single men.

Of course, this would be incredibly illegal and unethical.


But the point is that the pay is the same for the younger person and the older person.

You can ride the young person harder, make them work unpaid overtime, and force them to obey your wishes. The old people will get uppity, they may still remember the times when there were standards and ethics, you see.

I didn't mean that entirely seriously but it does seem that the labor market still hasn't recovered from the recession when it very suddenly became a buyers market. In theory, it could have by now but it feels as if the job market is still being kept at an artificial scarcity, maybe because companies are still afraid to spend on people, or because they're trying to eke out every last cent of profit regardless of future.


Where does this meme come from? As a young person man, I have no debt, no kids, no elderly parents to support, and so on. Since I'm in software development and didn't try to make it in SV, I had enough cash to cover multiple years of living expenses after about a year of working. Hell, even just collecting unemployment would cover my living expenses. Entry level jobs are plentiful, while my understanding is that senior dev and management jobs are harder to find.

I've only been at one job so far, but my opinion was that I would suffer literally zero short-term effects for getting fired/laid off. I probably would just end up at a better job since I've got a bigger network and time to spend grinding out interviews if that happened.

So in the end my employers would act the way you described, but I would be confused about how to respond to them as they had zero objective leverage over me. As a result I could pretty much just work a regular 40 hours and my boss could just blow smoke out his ears if he didn't like it.

As an aside I actually don't have an issue working extra hours sometimes, but 100% of the time I'd been asked to, I thought it management was responsible via poor planning or making shitty technical choices. I'm fine helping out to cover someone else's bad work, but people would just become more rude/demanding. So I would just stop since I was only working extra out of kindness in the first place.


No, it's not - at least, not if the older person has more experience.

If you insist on paying more experienced people the same as less experienced people, then all you're going to hire are less experienced people. That has nothing to do with either age discrimination or over-qualification, though. It has to do with you, the employer, being penny wise and pound foolish.


How is it a higher risk than hiring an entry-level person who has not proven their ability?

Which is why you have to have that discussion with them and ask them to consider whether or not their work satisfaction comes from being challenged at work or not.

And while they may not be honest with you about that, in general there are many things that interviewing people are often not quite as honest with the interviewer as you might expect. A good example was a guy who said he was ok with commuting from Los Gatos to Redwood City and took the job, and then called up the Thursday before the Monday when he would have started to say he had taken a job for lower pay but was closer to home.


> than a fresh person with a strong desire to learn and grow

...who is also going to leave as soon as they get a nice offer.


If they're that good, give them a better offer (a promotion, more equity, a raise) first. There are worse things than finding someone ambitious who can back it up. Most companies spend piles of money trying to identify and recruit that kind of talent.

You're suggesting that someone should buy into a counter-offer. This is terrible advice. Accepting a counter-offer is a sure-fire way to get yourself shortlisted for the next round of layoffs. It also shows how wanting your company is that they can't even meet someone's market rate without them threatening to leave.

I've taken a counter-offer, and it worked out very well. So have several other people I know.

It turns out that sometimes, a manager wants to pay an employee more but is blocked by corporate policy or HR. Threatening to leave clears up some of that blockage.

If you are only going to leave because of money, there is little downside to taking a counter-offer. After all, if you were able to get another job now, you should be able to get another one if you happen to be laid off in the future.

I've seen advice like yours many times, but I've never seen any evidence that workers who accept counter-offers are more likely to be laid off or fired.


No. I'm saying we should identify people with potential for advancement. People overqualified for their current position are almost certainly ready for advancement. It's not a counter offer because you've already identified them before they felt a need to shop around.

...just like everyone else.

> People want to feel respected and appreciated for what they bring to the table.

Yeah, because if someone wants to be respected or appreciated for what they bring to the table, that's unreasonable.

If you (royal you) buy into this thinking, the problem is you, not the employees.


Not if it takes 6 months to get a new developer up and running on the codebase, and then they leave just when they are getting productive.

In my experience, when someones applicable experience is more than what is stipulated by the job requirements, they come up to speed much faster. I hired a brilliant engineer who did the new hire on-boarding exercises we reserved a couple of weeks for in about 6 hours.

I say applicable because having a PhD in Chemistry is not being "over qualified" for entry level programming. But having 10 writing code could be interpreted as having more qualification than the job merits.


Even if it's somewhat applicable (like coding in a different language), it's still much quicker than onboarding a college grad. Someone who knows C++ and C# can probably learn Java in a week or two, to the level where he can contribute at least as well as your moderately skilled employees.

These is also the appeal of developing in a well popular langguage/framework like .net or java. The hordes of experience devs available. Sure, you may not want to use these heavy weights when your discovering your product/market, but when you've got a fit and need to hire talent, it's nothing for a 15 year java dev to come in and be productive on day one using Spring, maven, intellij, etc.

> ...if it takes 6 months to get a new developer up and running on the codebase, and then they leave just when they are getting productive.

That's something you can optimize for. An overqualified engineer shouldn't take six months to earn their keep unless the codebase is a huge mess. If the overqualified engineer is worth the salary they're really qualified for, they'll be able to describe exactly what parts of the system need to get fixed so the next engineer can be patching code in much less time.


> if it takes 6 months to get a new developer up and running on the codebase

That's the problem you have to tackle as fast as possible. An overqualified candidate would be a good fit there: first task, streamline the onboarding problem. Document, test, document.


Right, but we know there are all kinds of reasons people quit jobs quickly. The question is probably whether someone legitimately "overqualified" is any more likely than anyone else to leave in a particular timeframe.

>> The "traditional understanding" of getting an applicant to your job that is over qualified is that they are just trying to get a paycheck while they look for something better.

I'm getting to the age where I wonder about these kinds of things. And yet I've interviewed older highly qualified people and thought exactly that. I will use this discussion as a reference point and adjust my attitude. I could be in that guys position any day/year now, what will I want? I'm beyond the point of caring about certain things that seem to matter to younger people who think they're going to change the world. I just want to do solid work and get paid my rate. It makes sense that those I interview want the same.


Sounds like the interviewee's job is to convince the interviewer that it's not just a temp job. Explain your rationale for what appears to be an illogical career move.

Is not every one "trying to get a paycheck while they look for something better"

I'm a big fan of yours ChuckMcM, but your analogy is wrong, but very pertinent. You would not want to buy a Ferrari at the same price as a Miata, because if you want to change the oil, it will cost $1000, instead of $50. You get 8 mpg, instead of 30 mpg. If you don't drive the car properly, you will wear down the clutch and it will cost you $30,000 to replace.

Initially, it will seem like a great deal to get a Ferrari for the cheap price, but if you actually intend to use it, there are very practical reasons why it will cause a lot more problems simply having it, than having a Miata. If you can't afford to use the Ferrari properly, it will end up costing you more.

In the same vein, hiring an overqualified candidate WILL cost you more money and opportunity because they will leave quickly, and you could have spent the time training a more properly qualified candidate. I've been in the business 25+ years and I've seen this mistake time and time again. Maybe soon I'll be the one who is overqualified as well, who knows, but it is a legitimate reason to not hire someone.


The discussion of the analogy has been very interesting!

I'm not sure I'm convinced that overqualified candidates either higher maintenance or more likely to quit. That hasn't been been my experience and I know my experience is limited, the HBR article cited however seems to back up my personal experience for what that is worth.

The variables around why someone works somewhere and whether or not they quit has, again in my experience, been more very strongly correlated with how well they like their job. And it is the factors that they "like" or "dislike" about there job rarely relate to how experienced they are or are not, and are much more likely to be based on whether or not they feel they are respected for their work, if they like or dislike their peers, like or dislike the day to day of their job, and like or dislike their office configuration (environment). That is the basis for my belief if "over qualified" is the single factor left over then it doesn't seem to correlate how successful they will be in the job.

All that said, and specifically addressing the analogy, the things that I find make for 'high maintenance' employees are an inability to hear constructive criticism (so poor self awareness), a lack of curiosity (so unable to see the questions that need to be asked), and a lack of respect for their work (so they aren't really trying to improve at all).

Does that make them Ferraris or Jaguars ? :-) Sometimes the more expensive car (like the Model S) has a lower total cost of ownership, sometimes it doesn't. But it has been really interesting thinking about the "maintenance" cost of employees from that perspective.


One of they guys on jalopnik owned a Ferrari and found that oil changes on a 360 was $400 his fina comment was.

"Now, here's where it gets interesting: if you figure that all cars depreciate, and you drop the $8,500, I only spent $4,629.81 for the year. And if you get really crazy, and you take out "unusual" repair items — namely the tires, brakes, and battery, which will last several years without another replacement — my total cost was limited to two oil changes and a tire patch – or approximately $835.75. Not so bad for a year with a Ferrari."


For older applicants, they've probably have only had one or a couple of jobs - they're the last people anyone should worry about chasing changing jobs every 12 months for higher pay.

Most 40- or 50-somethings in tech would be happy just having medical and getting to retirement w/o having to sell their house or raid their 401K.


Huh?

Might I suggest that you might not know enough 40- to 50-somethings to sling around that word "most"?

Sure, as an old fart, I don't like the new culture of the young snots that change jobs every 18 months before they've started to add value, or even really learned anything, but that's about as much time as you'd get from an overqualified person looking to bide his time before he moved on anyway.


As someone a year off 40 doing contracting, that sounds incredibly depressing.

It also doesn't fit other software devs I know who are similarly old.


Depends on what you are stuck in.

In Toronto, I've worked with 60+ years olds getting paid six figures as 'c++ developer'.

I've also worked with 40 year olds hired as 'frontend engineers' unable to get more than $35k.

So yea, maybe your statement is true if you are only after job, but if you treat this as a career, there are no limit to opportunities.


I clicked on the comment section assuming I misunderstood something. No. Apparently "over-qualified" is a thing in Silicon Valley. Wow.

I am torn between thinking this is just bullshit to not say to someone "you are too old" or believing that people really think that additional skills are a bad thing.

Just wow.


>I clicked on the comment section assuming I misunderstood something. No. Apparently "over-qualified" is a thing in Silicon Valley. Wow.

Yes. And it isn't just Silicon Valley. I started getting "you are overqualified" in my former profession at age 35, when I was at the top of my former field. Many of my similarly experienced colleagues got the same treatment. So I switched to software hearing that qualified developers were in short supply only to find that this same lame "overqualified" argument was being used for over 35 year olds I came to know in my new profession. There doesn't seem to be a place for anyone who isn't already securely positioned at 35 in any profession these days. Career changes after 30 are becoming impossible in many fields.


>About 15 years ago I came to the conclusion that "over qualified" was never a legitimate disqualifying disposition of a candidate.

Which is about the same time I decided the opposite, having been burned a couple times. You're neglecting the amount of time and effort other people in the group put in to make a new employee productive. Where I work it takes an absolute minimum of about three months to understand how all the moving pieces of the business data flow fit together, and maybe another three before the new person is truly independent.

And during that time other people in the group are spending time on the new guy instead of doing work themselves. If I hire someone and then he quits in six months, all that effort is wasted.


> If I hire someone and then he quits in six months, all that effort is wasted.

That a crazy huge amount of ramp up time, so much so that it sounds like there might be a major problem with your project or employer. There would have to be a super uncommon, really good reason to justify a six month ramp up time for a skilled experienced developer.

I mean, it would have to be something like "I literally work at NASA on the International Space Station" levels of complexity to justify that length of time.


He said it took that time to "to understand how all the moving pieces of the business data flow fit together" which doesn't seem to me to be that long at all. Not every employer is an "Uber for X" where you can understand the product concept in a day or two. I've had jobs where I didn't feel really comfortable with my understanding of the entire scope of the business until I'd been there a couple of years.

> I've had jobs where I didn't feel really comfortable with my understanding of the entire scope of the business until I'd been there a couple of years.

I've had that problem, too, but I considered it a failure of architecture and design, not an inherent property of the space we were operating in. Often this is a sign of a lack of separation of concerns at the system level.


Yeah, I don't think so.

It's not "have something of an understanding of what we're doing here", it's "feel comfortable, and _competent_, in the interactions across the code base, why some approaches might not work or have failed in the past, etc.

I'd totally agree with three to six months before that comfort sets in.


Six months really isn't uncommon at all. Almost every company has a weird legacy codebase you have to figure out. Unfortunately it doesn't generalize very well -- figuring out why some weird COM interface has 14 inheritance dependencies or what weird JSON file is driving behavior is part of the job. It's just, uh, the part that kind of sucks.

Depends on developer I one took over a super nich system written in a new language (Pl1g) and using bleeding edge tech (Map reduce in the 80s) took me < than a month to get productive.

This "time on the new guy" ought to only happen once, document the on boarding process. Personally I've never seen a 15 or 20 year guy (yes it's always men at this tenure) take more than a couple of weeks to get productive, 6 months to mastery. That's been my experience at least.

I’d love to work on a tech stack that can be mastered in six months, with just as much understanding as someone who has been around it for five years.

An experienced developer won't need that amount of understanding to do 99% of the tasks at work, and for the remaining 1% there is documentation (right?). And if that's all your homebrewn stack, something is very wrong there.

There are very few companies that have a completely unique tech stack that couldn't have been encountered anywhere else.

Depends on how similar the domains are. Stacks are vastly different in companies working in disparate domains -- I've worked as a software engineer in C4ISR, gaming, EDA, oil & gas, HFT, remote sensing, consumer electronics, and more. The stacks couldn't be more different & foreign from each other. Like living in different universes. Six months to learn all the moving parts is about right.

(I can't imagine a career in only one domain; how boring would that be? Hopefully will be getting a new job in HPC soon.)


Your experience is probably atypical.

Documentation is one of those concepts that can be the answer to any problem, but seldom is.

I've yet to work at an organization where everything is documented, the documentation is up to date, and the documentation is of high quality.

There are always gaps somewhere in the documentation and in the end it does take time to ramp people up.

Now, if you work on project based work and it's always on something different, that's a different story.


Well yeah, the gp specifically said document the on boarding process. A high level architecture overview is all the system documentation required. Personally I ignore all that crap anyway, the truth is in the code and deployments. I don't know how many times I've had to tell the senior, long time employees how their system works.

Nah. The problem with overqualified people is that they will get bored very quickly and either underperform or leave.

They can also cause a lot of friction because their higher level of knowledge and experience can make them refuse to follow established processes and procedures, even when there are very good contextual and historical reasons for why those processes and procedures exist at that particular organization. This can cause a lot of resentment among their coworkers.

Personally, I have never worked with an overqualified person who didn't quickly develop what is commonly referred to as an "attitude problem". That's of course just my own experience.


"They can also cause a lot of friction because their higher level of knowledge and experience can make them refuse to follow established processes and procedures, even when there are very good contextual and historical reasons for why those processes and procedures exist at that particular organization."

Personally, I have seen that more with less qualified, younger, new cow-orkers. Particularly those who have had only one previous job. "At my last job, we did X. Therefore X is the one true way to do it."


"At my last job, we did X. Therefore X is the one true way to do it."

I mostly see this in younger people, but the number of older people I have seen like this is ridiculous. Boggles my mind (being on the younger side)


I believe this is called the Expert Beginner.

https://www.daedtech.com/how-developers-stop-learning-rise-o...


> Nah. The problem with overqualified people is that they will get bored very quickly and either underperform or leave.

I was more prone to that when I was younger. As I am older, I understand better what I can expect from position (so I dont expect more fun then is possible), know better how to deal with more boring tasks and better understand why they are (and why process) are important.

However, as I got older I oftentime can tell much faster that the process can indeed be done better and seek companies that are willing to improve their processes as they go and are willing to learn from other companies processes. (I dont need to get it my way, but I like to see people talk about process issues openly.)

Oddly enough, it was mostly young people who were downright hostile to the idea that processes are something that can be improved, negotiated over or simplified.


Can you say a bit more, how did the "attitude" manifest itself? And was it something the manager was unable to see? I ask because I would like to understand the dynamic a bit better. How might you address an 'attitude' problem with one of your co-workers regardless of how the attitude originated?

Mostly arrogance that stemmed from the belief (unfounded or otherwise) that they knew more than others and therefore can refuse to do certain (usually unpleasant) tasks or order people around.

For example we had an analyst join the business intelligence team recently, and unlike everyone else on the team she has a masters in finance as well as many many years of experience. She refuses to run financial forecast reports for the executive team because she thinks such tasks are below her, and that others should run them instead. Really nice girl otherwise, but just terrible to work with.


The conversation would go a bit like this:

"Run the reports."

"No."

"This is your verbal warning. The next step is a written warning. Run the reports."

"No."

"I am going to my office to write a written warning, of which you can accumulate two."

Et cetera...


Or:

"Run the reports."

"Instead, can I please help replace this broken system with a modern one that is automated and good?"

"This is your verbal warning. The next step is a written warning. Run the reports."

"Your system for reporting is manual, tedious, and error prone. How could you be proud of this?"

"I am going to my office to write a written warning, of which you can accumulate two."

"The quality of the system is terrible and I can't stand behind it. The fact that you've refused my offer to improve it means that I should probably just leave. I quit."


"Let me fix it." isn't something I'd count as a refusal.

Are you hiring? (At least halfway kidding, but you sound like the kind of person I want to work for...)

I sold and retired, about a decade ago. I am the partial owner of a few franchises. I don't suppose you want to be a sandwich artist?

I have nothing to do with their regular operation, I'm just an investor to help a friend out. I suppose I could get you a job as a sandwich artist, though. Maybe someday you'll make Assistant Manager! ;-)

Err... Your other option is being a logger. However, I don't employ them, they actually pay me.


Exactly. Ultimately, people who work for a company need to follow orders. Managers should strive to avoid issuing orders like this, but if people are exhibiting an attitude problem and not doing the right thing, then they are entirely appropriate. If a person can't follow a clear order, then they're a problem that needs to be dealt with (coaching, performance management, etc.)

It shouldn't be a big deal. The person's manager needs to sit them down and say: "This is what's expected of you. We expect you to run these reports, same as everyone else at your level. I know you have prior experience, but at our company you are <job role / job level>". If they won't do it, fine: "so long".


Yeah, I'm absolutely not going to put up with an employee who refuses to follow orders. This assumes they are lawful and ethical orders, of course. If they are outright refusing, we are going to have an immediate correction or termination.

On the other hand, sometimes you're hiring a professional rather than a laborer.

The difference is they'll do the quitting rather than you doing the firing.


The vast majority of my employees where STEM employees. Programmers, IT, traffic engineers, etc...

There's a difference between 'it should be done like this' and outright refusal. I'll listen eagerly to the former. After all, I probably hired them to do things I could not. If I could have done them, I'd have not needed to hire them. I have no time for the latter.


Your conversation flow relies heavily on the other party doing a solid, succinct, clear 'no'. If only human interaction were that simple...

Brevity was a consideration, but the idea was refusal. If it is refusal, we have a problem. If, as an above poster suggested, there's an offer to fix the system then I'd not consider that a refusal and I'd be a fool to not at least hear them out.

i've also seen plenty of underqualified people that developed "attitude problems".

i think it's a bit sketchy to equate ("over")qualified with opinionated.


>The "traditional understanding" of getting an applicant to your job that is over qualified is that they are just trying to get a paycheck while they look for something better.

Is the solution here to bias the "overqualified" candidate's compensation in equity rather than salary? If the company thinks that salary x is too low and may tempt the person to leave, put the employees skin in the game to stay with more equity. This seems like a potential solution.


Overqualified candidates are probably more likely to see that in a vast, vast majority of outcomes equity is worthless and never worth trading for cold, hard cash :)

If it's publicly tradable equity in a stable company it's worth SOMETHING, but only as much you as a hypothetical buy and hold investor would give it over the cliff period. It obviously also comes with some risk so I'd give a public equity offer with a future vesting date a considerable discount vs cash now.

>"No I don't want the Ferrari at the same price as this Mazda Miata, its more sports car than I need to get around." Even if you never expect to challenge the top end of the sports car you probably won't turn it down.

Ferrari comes with very high maintenance costs, well beyond what regular Miata buyer can comfortably afford. (note: age/experience wise i'm probably close to the "Ferrari" myself :)


That is true with the analogy. I personally haven't seen a correlation between qualification fit and maintenance challenges for employees but it sounds like enraged_camel has had different experiences.

What I'm trying to tease apart are which are issues the manager causes and which are ones an over qualified employee would cause.


In that case, the problem is not overqualification, the problem is that the person is high maintenance.

Age discrimination is a crime in the US. We don’t tell bank robbers, its not a nice thing to rob banks, and in this industry we’re all part of the bank robbing problem. We need to look at our attitudes in calling out bank robbing as a bad thing.

Crimes have legal consequences, more than a morality lesson is needed.


If the Ferrari could any day start up and tell you that it would drive away if you could not pay the price difference down the line and leave you with no car because it found someone else who would pay market value, I think you might in fact think twice about buying it at discount.

All cars do this, not just Ferrari's. An increase in salary would be the no. 1 reason people change jobs. Instead, while you have the Ferrari, make use of it.

"No I don't want the Ferrari at the same price as this Mazda Miata, its more sports car than I need to get around."

Personally, I'd be worried that the Ferrari would still end up having a higher TCO due to the elevated maintenance and insurance costs.


With respect, when it comes to vehicles, I think I would actually refuse the Ferrari. It’s too expensive to get insurance or to have work done on it. Parking it at my house makes it an attractive nuisance and increases the likelihood that my home may be burglarized.

Most importantly, I am old enough to know that my personality is such that I would be strongly tempted to drive that vehicle too fast and in an unsafe manner.

There’s a whole host of things wrong with this analogy.


Inclined to agree. I think a resistance to hiring "overqualified" people probably reflects a lack of imagination. There may be lots of ways this person could make your team better, and you haven't even stopped to think about what those could be.

I suppose people who are at risk of being considered overqualified should learn to make exactly that kind of case for themselves.


It could be a deal, it could be a steal, or it could be too good to be true.

In either case it's a red flag that should be carefuly evaluated.


> I asked a hiring manager at Google once if they would tell a sales guy "No I don't want the Ferrari at the same price as this Mazda Miata, its more sports car than I need to get around."

A car doesn't leave after 2 months, but you would worry about it being a stolen car, wouldn't you?


Depends on your city. In my city there are plenty of high end cars parked on the street, but at the same time I couldn't afford the cost to maintain a Ferrari, and the fuel consumption isn't light either.

Actually you can run a classic car 11 or some older feraris) on a relatively low budget and you have the massive deprecation you do with a new car.

Minor point: a rational person who can afford only a Mazda Miata oughtn't take a Ferrari for the same price for the simple reason they can ill afford it's running costs (fuel, maintenance, etc.).

I've heard people refer to them as performance drugs, good for short term gain, but possible side effects.

They can challenge authority. They can get work done twice as fast, and you'd get a good deal if they show up only 80% of the time. The star players can also be divas, challenge bosses. Some cultures have more difficulty dealing with it and sometimes it comes with drama.

They tend to be a little stubborn. I met one senior with almost 10 years experience who refused to use source control or log into Trello. Project management for that project fell apart because the key members were not on it.


There's stubborn and stubborn.

Are they being stubborn because they've seen this before and know it leads to a bad place? (probably not when they're objecting to Git or Trello)

Or are they being stubborn because they don't want to learn new things? (which sounds more the case here)

If the second one, then that's a problem. But it's got nothing to do with their age or experience. I've seen total newbie coders unwilling to learn Git because they don't think they need it (or it scares them, or whatever). It's easier to justify the mindset with age and experience, but it's not caused by age or experience.

If, however, it's the first kind of stubborn, then that's gold. That's what you need. That's the thing that stops teams from repeating the same mistakes over again.

Instead of dismissing it all as "stubborn", it might be worth checking the rationale behind the reluctance.


Yeah, that situation was a, "We've been perfectly fine managing bigger projects with Excel and emails for years."

But that's an extreme case for example. Much of the time it's in a gray area.

Is this guy refusing to use JS because it's a buggy language or because it threatens his 7 years of PHP experience? Is React Native really that bad or does it just threaten this guy's native iOS experience? Is it some expert instinct to put semicolons on JS code or just FUD?

The true experts usually develop a kind of instinct for danger, so you probably want to trust them when it's FUD.

It goes a lot deeper than just seeing this person have X years of experience. You have to filter them for quality years of experience.

Is it a bad sign that this guy is willing to take a 30% pay cut from his qualifications? After all, the best people want to be challenged. Maybe he wants less workload so he can focus on a side project. Or it could just be that he has no intent of actually improving, just wanting a good enough job to pay the bills.


When we talk about "disparate impact" in racism, this is the type of think we're referring to. Yeah, you clean-shaven policy seems fair, but but disproportionally affects a certain segment of the population.

Similarly "you over-qualified for this positions" seems fair, it may even seem like you're doing the applicant a favor, but if it disproportionally affects a particular community, perhaps it's time to reflect on it.

edit: spelling, thx icelander, and damn you autocorrect


"Disparate Impact" is not about fairness. It is about non-arbitrariness. Factors that are demonstrably job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity are considered a suitable legal defense.

Agree - in this case I don't think it would be hard to find some study somewhere that supports the idea that experienced workers attrition at a higher rate than average when placed in junior positions.

You might question the validity of the study, but it appears there is enough information out there to make a case.


Do you mean "disparate impact?"

A policy has disparate impact if it is not intentionally or directly discriminatory, but it disproportionately harms a protected group. A random example might be to require that all employees are at least 6 feet tall. That isn't inherently discriminatory against a protected class so it might appear legal at first look. However it results in disparate impact because women are much less likely to satisfy the requirement than men. It could therefore be ruled discriminatory if the business could not prove why the height requirement was a necessity for the job.

The parent was correcting the GP's typo, not asking what they meant.

Yep, you are right. I read that quickly as "What do you mean" and not "Do you mean". Oops.

maybe so, but i found it helpful

I want to understand your reasoning better. If a policy is fair, but disproportionally affects a certain segment of the population - is it bad? Why?

The whole reasoning as to why exactly racism and ageism is bad, in my opinion, doesn't have to be based on morals, IMO (since everybody has different morals). It's sufficient to base it on self-interest: in an ideal simulation, where there would be bazillions of employers competing over bazillions of employees and vice versa, racist and ageist agents would lose, because they wouldn't make optimal decisions. (Of course, ideal simulation isn't real world, and that's why we have anti-monopoly and other laws that help to make the system run as if there were a bazillion rational agents).

But if some rational decision making merely correlates to segments of the population, and is not directly based on information such as race or age, I fail to see what is bad about it and why it should be avoided.


It is fair if it is relevant to the job. If the legitimate requirements of a job happen to negatively affect a sector of the population that's not necessarily a problem (think firefighters being able to move a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time). If it's completely arbitrary - everyone needs to be clean-shaven every day - and disproportionately affects a certain protected class, you could have issues.

I'm completely with you right until the phrase "and disproportionately affects a certain protected class". What's a protected class and how does it differ from any other class?

Protected class is what you can't fire/refuse to hire someone for. Race, religion, etc. You can refuse to hire people who don't wear a suit to an interview. "People who don't wear suits to interviews" is certainly a class, but not protected. You can't refuse to hire black people, because race is a protected class.

But what if there is a significant correlation between protected and unprotected class? Like, what if black people are much less likely to wear a suit?

Protected class usually refers to groups protected against discrimination by law.

Because its indirect discrimination

I'm not sure I know what definition do you, personally, use for "indirect discrimination" in this context. Can you clarify?

The legal one :-)

Which is if a company's procedures though applied to all has a worse effect on a certain race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, disabled and caste.

It can be legal discrimination eg a fire fighter being abele to lift a certain weight.


> The legal one :-)

Well, I'm not that interested in what is legal and what is not - I'm more curious about how do we arrive at the conclusions at what is ought to be legal or not.

> It can be legal discrimination eg a fire fighter being abele to lift a certain weight.

I think we can safely say that women, on average, are not as capable at such physical tests as men. And yet, we, as a society, see this kind of indirect discrimination as completely logical and do not see this kind of discrimination as evil.

If we were to derive a general rule from this example, what this rule would look like? And how does this rule differ from other kinds of indirect discrimination that you define as bad?


Your getting close to sealioning here but I will bite.

You need to have an "objective justification" if the job really needs you to be able to lift a 210lb person on your back and carry them down a ladder


After my dad's manufacturing related engineering position moved overseas he got told by an automaker that he was over-qualified for line work. However no one was interested in his engineering skills even after he tried to pivot to quality-control engineering.

The pay and work at the automaker would have been great for him. Instead he ended up carrying mail until retirement.

I constantly think about him and remind myself to not get to comfortable in an industry.


> I constantly think about him and remind myself to not get to comfortable in an industry.

What are the practical outcomes of this? Side projects?


Save enough to retire early, or at least enough to be able to survive on a lower salary later in life.

If you work in an industry in which jobs are likely to be outsourced, or where ageism is a significant factor, you should not assume that you will be able to work until the normal retirement age. It's just not realistic.


Unfortunately, most industries are rapidly becoming ageist if they aren't already. And if you work in a job with lower general compensation (most of them... except finance which has major discrimination problems too) It's impossible to make enough money to retire at 40, which is exactly what most of us are now being asked to do, at the prime of our expertise, due to "overqualification"... ahem... ageism, I mean.

Unsorted list of things you could do: Grow your network, read books and learn new stuff, get jobs with great sounding titles, get jobs, where you are exposed to key stakeholders in your industry, give talks, setup a „coffee date“ every other week (meet people for 30min, don’t ask for a job, just mention you’re always interested in oppurtunities to grow, they will reach out to you when something opens up).

As wonderful as those things on your list are, the issue is about earning enough to pay rent.

The vicious cycle doesn't end for the vast majority of us. We have to keep working to keep up with expenses.


Keep learning new things. If you can't think of something substantial you've learned in the last year, switch something up. Start a company, give some talks, or switch jobs and industries if you have to.

When I hear about getting too cosy in an automotive industry my brain screams "modern day Germany".

Why is that? Automotive in Germany is generally a high pressure high turnaround job. If you're not at one of the big car manufacturers themseves chances are your employer has closed in 10 years, or fired 50% of their employees or something ridiculous like hat.

Additionally, nowadays you don't get hired by car manufacturers but by third party companies that loan their workers to them. In the lower levels (factory work) there is some pushback against that, but in the higher levels its generally accepted


I think the use of the term "over qualified" is often used to mask the real reasons for rejection.

I was rejected for a job when I was aged 39 for supposedly being over qualified. When I applied for the job in question I was upfront about my experience, qualifications and desired salary which was market rate for my experience. I didn't sell myself short. The product I would be working on was unified message distribution system not too dissimilar to Twilio.

After a code test, a whiteboard exam and two rounds of interviews I was told "Yeah, we really like you and you undoubtedly have the skills. But we were really looking for someone a little less qualified". I pushed a bit to find out what that meant and the HR person claimed it was my salary expectations, but I had my doubts.

During both interviews I was asked if I had children. I said I had two. I was then asked their ages and where they went to school. This led on to questions about how they got to school and what happens if one or both of them are sick etc. The questioning style was casual, but they were definitely probing me. In Ireland this line of questioning is illegal, but it happens a lot. At the time I answered the questions with a feeling of reluctance. I do believe that having young children lost me the job. I was asked what would happen if my children were sick off school, I answered that either me or my wife would have to stay home. I was asked why my wife wouldn't take on that responsibility exclusively. I responded because we share our responsibilities to our family. I could see the interviewers brow furrow when I said that.

I have a strong suspicion that the reason why age affects IT recruitment so much is not because of "over qualification". It's because the older you are the more likely you are to have family that you want to spend time with. Or if you don't have children you might have other interests that take priority over work. I've had managers who have straight up admitted that the older you are the less likely you are to put up with overtime and more likely to challenge over bearing bosses.

Put simply younger people have fewer adult life distractions, will work longer hours and put up with more crap.


Absolutely spot on.

That's the reason I am ( or got ) into freelancing. No one asks about this details.


I always wondered, could one simply lie? I mean, I never had to face the situation in an interview, but I would like to be prepared for it.

If my interviewer asks for my marital status/family size, could I simply refuse to answer? Or, if not, could I just lie about having children or not? Can a contract be invalidated by the fact that I lied about something during my interview?

I would guess that providing an excuse for firing someone would be harder than providing it for not hiring him, and you cannot simply fire someone for "having children and not having declared it".

I wish there was a way to prevent interviewers from asking these kind of questions, but until then this seems to me like a viable alternative.


"If my interviewer asks for my marital status/family size, could I simply refuse to answer?"

I would _think_ if you so chose, you could sue the shit out of them for discriminatory practices. This is so illegal it makes my head hurt.


I've been tempted to bring claims. The problem is it's your word against theirs

Plus, once your name gets out as a potential trouble maker then it's even harder to get a job.


You are so right about all of this! Here are my notes from "the resistance" (distant, muted chuckle) This year, after my fourth experience with ageism in the hiring phase as a candidate, I was disgusted, frustrated, and fed-up. When I contacted an attorney about the outrageous level of age discrimination I recently experienced at an interview, he was skeptical, at first, saying that these cases are very difficult to prove. He asked me for the key facts-- When I told him exactly what happened and some other facts about the job description as it was posted online versus what was told to me about why I was not hired versus who they ended up hiring (a 20-something year old with none of the posted experience supposedly "required" at the job). He asked me if I had written proof of this. I said that sadly, I did. I also had a recording. (Yes, they are that irresponsible about their hiring practices)He said that it was one of the most clear-cut cases of age discrimination that he had heard of in hiring, particularly because I offered every single experience and skill requirement listed in the job posting while the job winner offered none of these.(no, the online posting/position was never changed) He wanted to take it on contingency without hesitation. He did warn me that going after discrimination in any form is best as a last resort (i.e. If I know I'm too old for anyone to ever hire me in tech), because I will be marked as someone who stands up for themselves and no company wants to hire that person. He pointed out that since they were a well-known company in tech I'd face significant blowback and shunning, even if I won, which he felt I would. He also pointed out that the compensation I can get from it is not what it should be. I told him that changing this in our industry is important to me. If more people filed EEOC complaints it might help, but I'm not sure. (FYI, I just turned 47)

I guess next time I will check with my lawyer before going to an interview

I guess the answer depends a lot on your jurisdiction. Here in Germany if they ask you illegal questions you can just lie to them (and you cannot be terminated in retaliation obviously).

It sounds like you had expectations up front that you would be permitted to stay home from work if your kids were sick. If that's the case, it seems reasonable that your employer know about that before hiring you.

They're likely asking because they've already hired people who expect to be able to come in late after taking their kids to school, work from home without notice if their kids are sick, etc.

I know this is an unpopular opinion, but: To me that's reasonable employer's discretion. If they're expecting you to work after hours and probing if you have kids to gauge that, that's one thing. But I've seen coworkers get allowances for kids for all kinds of things. Both parties (employee and employer) should be aware of what the expectations are ahead of time.

And if that means that I (as someone who doesn't have children, or lives near additional family who can handle those contingencies) come out as a better candidate, then that's not unreasonable.


Except discriminating against familial status is illegal (in the US and apparently Ireland, at the least). And sick leave is sick leave, if I have to take off because I am sick, or my kid is sick there is no difference. Emergencies happen, and should be expected from anyone. Discriminating against someone because maybe their kid gets sick doesn't make sense to me. Hire qualified candidates and make reasonable schedules, and an employee's sick kid won't interfere with the business at all.

It's not discriminating against familial status--it's acknowledging someone's expectations about being allowed to miss work. Someone with the same familial status who arranges for other accommodations for getting their kids to and from school would not be affected.

Sick leave policy is up to the company. You cannot assume you are entitled to more sick days simply because you have children. If you will be taking off additional time due to having to care for sick children, that should be discussed ahead of time.

Emergencies do happen, but that doesn't excuse poor planning. A child becoming sick is not unforeseeable, and it's not unreasonable for both parties to acknowledge what the expectations are.

Many (most?) companies absolutely do make for allowances for employees with children, but that doesn't mean employers should be on the hook for whatever expectations the employee has. This is absolutely reasonably in-scope for an interview.


No one said anything about additional days of leave. If the company gives 5-10 days sick leave (or whatever their policy is) then it is perfectly fine to take said leave to take care of a sick child. If you don't want people taking it, don't give it. And if that is the policy, then it is up to the employee to decide. But purely amusing someone is going to ask for extra time off because they have a child is wrong.

And I do agree that a perspective employee should not make assumptions about their schedule, if there are morning meetings you will never be able to make during the school year, then that needs to be discussed. But discuss the concerns and don't hide behind another excuse about why you didn't hire someone. Be honest and say their schedule does not fit the company needs.


> No one said anything about additional days of leave. If the company gives 5-10 days sick leave (or whatever their policy is) then it is perfectly fine to take said leave to take care of a sick child. If you don't want people taking it, don't give it. And if that is the policy, then it is up to the employee to decide. But purely amusing someone is going to ask for extra time off because they have a child is wrong.

If company policy allows, sure. But if you have two kids and only five sick days per year, you're budgeting for three people when others might not. And the employer could quite possibly be just fine with that! But it's not unreasonable for that to be discussed ahead of time. Not all company sick leave policies are written assuming however many sick days you need for all of your children, and it's the company that takes the hit if you unexpectedly need to be at home with your kid for an additional week during a critical time six months after you're hired.

> Be honest and say their schedule does not fit the company needs.

When not risking a lawsuit from unintended perception, absolutely honesty is better. If it might be spun into a claim of "age discrimination" (like this thread), then maybe not.


> Sick leave policy is up to the company

I am really astonished that this is considered normal. Sick leave should not be up to the company, at least not for normal employee contracts. In many countries it isn't up to the company and they work just fine.

EDIT: to further elaborate, I'm not saying that companies should not be able to hire only single white males in their twenties, what I'm saying is that if you want employees that don't have a normal life, you should be expecting to put on the table more than the average salary for the role.

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