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Rejecting a candidate for over-qualification results in age bias (facebook.com)
644 points by KentBeck 102 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 419 comments



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.


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.


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.


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.


I've been interviewing quite a few people for roles and more recently there have been far more who have PhD's in Machine Learning. I point out that role won't use these skills/expert knowledge, and ask what they think. No one ever says that the role is not for them but you know that if there were a machine learning role open they'd jump at it, thereby costing the company money in rehiring. It is a tough decision.


The news that there are apparently people with PhDs in Machine Learning who are finding the job market difficult enough they're applying for unrelated technical positions seems like it runs counter to the conventional narrative about high demand and trouble finding truly qualified scientists...


To me it seems that the explanations in both cases are that humans are really illiquid. When I'm job-hunting, I want a job; I don't want to wait two months for a better one. (Part of this is my own desire; part of this is the social convention that companies who do manage to give me offers want answers quickly, and won't be interested in re-interviewing me two months later if I decline them.) When I have a job, it will take a significantly better job for me to risk the steadiness of my current job, the accretion of social capital and seniority/tenure, etc., and also to risk the unknown of whether management will be good at my new job, which is rather hard to determine even if you know people at the company. And I'm certainly not going to jump ship within about a year of starting a mildly acceptable job, and within much more than a year if I recently jumped ship after about a year.

So people are probably badly in need of for PhDs who are on the job market, but those PhDs are meanwhile badly in need of positions fairly quickly once they graduate, and if the market isn't big enough, both sides are going to reach theoretically-suboptimal outcomes because of lack of liquidity.

(Consequently, GP should not be afraid to hire those people. If they say "No, I want this job," chances are the majority of them will stay around for quite a while even if better opportunities open up.)


Or it means that supply is starting to meet demand. People interested in tech hear that an intellectually stimulating field like machine learning is highly lucrative and short in supply, what happends? People start entering PhD programs and out they come a few years later. That narrative is years old at this point. That original NY Times article on deep learning is now five years old, plenty of time for people to be finishing their degrees. Clearly it seems like the tides are shifting. And I don't think the supply is on the downturn at all, but demand definitely seems to have peaked since companies are starting to realize that none of the stuff that drove the hype (deep learning) is actually applicable to them personally.


Certainly true from what I've seen. The last company I was at was desperate to find a remotely qualified ML guy in the area (we were out of town), and three different startups I have talked to in the last two weeks have multiple openings for ML and asked me (who has no formal ML qual) whether I was interested.

So who knows. Maybe they don't want to move or it isn't sexy enough ML work for them.


>conventional narrative

That shit's been broke for employees since Agile was successfully marketed and they figured out how to reproduce it (blogs, news, and conventions lead to consultants). Same for Big Data, ML, AI, coding bootcamps, and DevOps.


Why? Apart from the big guys, who is actually doing deep research or highly technical work in Machine Learning? It is a niche industry.


I think there's some pretty high variance in the quality of machine learning PhDs - some professors are pretty upfront that they have a team of graduate students throwing algorithms at datasets and seeing what sticks. I can't imagine that approach trains great researchers.


Ya, something smells fishy here. On the other hand, I hear my PL PhD is great for working on ads at google.


What do they tell you they think? Do you reject them? I don't know many people who'd jump out of a good job for one that's more closely related to their school work.


Agreed - that last bit's the key:

if you have a good workplace, and people like being there, then it's a lot less likely that they'll jump ship. If you have a poor workplace, then it doesn't matter if you have overqualified staff or not, they'll all go.


My own response would honestly be "That's fine, I like learning new things and want to be broad too.". I don't have a PhD, just a BS in CE, but even if I had a Masters or higher I'm not going to jump at a job to do hardware development, or radar applications, just because of my academic experience. What I work on is much less important than who I'm working with and how we're working.


If you have a Ph.D. in machine learning and can't find a machine learning "job" and want one, then go to Wall Street and become a quant. Bear in mind that it could also be that these folks don't want a machine learning job, maybe they need to level up their programming skills or are interested in other software engineering related skill sets. There are many programmers who majored in business or physics or even history.. yet they became programmers and some are quite successful! Should they have not been hired because they would eventually leave to go teach history or smash an atom?


This doesn't happen just because of age. While I was living in Canada, I met plenty of highly-qualified immigrants desperately looking for jobs, and would routinely get this response even though they weren't old or anything; its just that they would literally be applying for low-skill jobs because the appropriate jobs would not take them for lack of "Canadian Experience".


This is a thing in Australia as well, and it's quite baffling. As far as I can tell, it's not even racism or genuine comms concerns etc, it's just that any work experience outside Australia gets discounted as "not real work".


>>it's not even racism

>>work experience outside Australia gets discounted as "not real work".

I mean, that might not be the strict definition of racism, but it essentially is.


This is still true even when the people getting discounted are of the same race and culture as the interviewer, though. Like, hospitals seemingly don't want doctors that grew up in the US but then studied medicine at foreign universities—even when those universities are world-renowned for producing great doctors.

Unless you're suggesting that such places think that the foreign culture "contaminated" their own countrymen in the few years they were abroad—and made them useless—a different explanation is needed for this effect.


If you discount the quality of a degree from a well-regarded university just because it’s in a foreign country, it’s racist (or xenophobic or something roughly equivalent). Not against the candidate but against (citizens of) the nation hosting the university.

With that said, I think hospitals want American candidates with degrees from American universities because the concern is that an American educated by a university in another country was perhaps unable to gain acceptance to an American school, in which case perhaps the foreign university isn’t actually as selective.


> If you discount the quality of a degree from a well-regarded university just because it’s in a foreign country, it’s racist (or xenophobic or something roughly equivalent).

i don't see how it can be 'racist', because countries aren't races. it might be in some sense 'xenophobic', as it seems more a case of people being more comfortable with people similar to them.


Of course countries aren’t races. The citizens of those countries do have races, though. If, for example, you’re only judgemental against Latin American universities, that could be considered xenophobic but it could also be considered racist. The two aren’t really that easy to separate when the prejudice is against a group that is both foreign and a different race.


i'm not sure i follow your reasoning. is canadian a different "race" than australian?


Describe to me what the average Canadian thinks the average Australian looks like.

Now describe to me what the average immigrant to Australia looks like.

I think that will help you understand.


what is the correlation between 'the average immigrant' (whatever that is) and this notion? are other immigrants 'outside the average' seen differently within the scope of this notion?


right, this is the “effect, not motivation” thing in the OP.


nationality <> race


One reason I can think of, which can cause this, is that it's going to consume greater resources to background check internationally than just within the country.

I do know at least two people who have lied in their CV and got jobs based on those and was wondering how they could get away with it so far.


When I moved to Australia I encountered exactly what you described, luckily I was still junior so I presented myself as fresh out school to find an entry-level job. A few years later I moved to the valley and finding a job was easier in many ways.


What about work experience in popular western countries in Europe? I've been living (and working) abroad for the last 10 years but might come home sooner or later.


That’s exactly what happened to my wife. She’s highly qualified and had a lot of international experience in large, well-known companies (HP, Intel, HSBC). Here in Canada, she’s rarely been able to even get to an interview these past couple of years, and when she did, she was “over qualified.”

She now makes sandwiches at a local supermarket for minimal wage and all but lost all hope. Breaks my heart.

I was lucky to get a job pretty quickly though so there’s that.


Interesting, what race is your wife?


I see you’re getting downvoted but it’s unfortunatedly a relevant question. In her case, however, that’s not the issue. She’s white with an “European-sounding name” so that’s not it.

I don’t think it’s racism or even xenophobia per se. It’s just companies want the “Canadian experience” on your resume. I hear similar stories from other immigrants here. After the first job, everything goes well. It’s just that getting that foot in the door is really difficult.


If your wife is a woman and you too are a woman, this would be puzzling. If you are a man, it becomes a lot less puzzling. "Race/culture"still trumps gender.


Oh man, that sounds pretty bad. Why didn't she try consulting/remote work in the U.S.?


She’s a project manager. It’s tough to do remotely so not many jobs available. That said, she did a couple of freelancing gigs for foreign companies last year. Not very steady or stable though and they don’t help her with the “Canadian experience” requirement.

She’s now learning to code to try and get a job in that. Coding is very in demand here (which explains how I got my first job here within a week of arriving)


Wow, that's a tough one. I'm in Vancouver myself and I don't think you can get a PM job here without strong personal connections. The job is much more about trust, confidence and network, than any specific skills, and that's not transferable between locations.

That said, if she held similar positions in Fortune 500 companies, maybe she should try using her network from previous places to get her foot in the door.


> I met plenty of highly-qualified immigrants desperately looking for jobs

They maybe highly qualified but what about their communication skills?

There is a lot of competition as well too many immigrants chasing few jobs.


I'm seeing this now. I'm 48 and have applied to over 100 jobs. I have an MBA and have been well-qualified for every one of the jobs I've applied to, or else I wouldn't have wasted my time. I've had about 5 legitimate responses. I know it's not my resume, or much else. Age is just about the only answer, or not being able to afford me because I'm "over-qualified" which makes me wonder why they're advertising for the position, if they don't expect to hire a qualified candidate.


Is it possible they are inflating their needs in the expectation that applicants are inflating their resumes?

I am 22 and see this all the time for positions needing 1-2 years experience. Plus, it is a great way for them to offer you a wage towards the lower end of the salary range while applicants feel happy getting a title they might not deserve.


That, or a downstream effect of people applying for jobs for which they do not quite meet the stated qualifications. Putting up "5 years experience" starts being a really good way to get ambitious people who have two or three years of experience, and so employers start using the job description to grab those applicants rather than actually-meeting-qualification.

On second thought, though, it's more likely due to H1B employment requiring an "attempt" to hire a qualified domestic employee. So once an employer has an H1B they want to hire, they have to put out a job description and fail to find an acceptable candidate meeting the listed qualifications.


This. My company creates fraudulent postings to hire H1Bs. The Americans we interview (1 per position to follow the law) are switching industries or otherwise have absolutely no experience.


Not "this" - @musgrove said he/she's rejected as "overqualified", so it's not a matter of being selected for interview despite lacking the experience


Response rates are just low in general for cold opportunities. Like, 5% sounds great. Either use your network or send out many more applications even to marginal opportunities.


The problem with "using your network" for an older worker, is that in a severely ageist climate, your network has to be made up of those who are 10-20 years younger than you are. These kinds of connections across generations are difficult to forge in a way Dan Lyons illustrates better than I can. I have found that "network" as a resource is better explained as "knowing someone with CEO hiring power and strong desire to hire you in particular." If you are in your early to mid 40s, you may have built strong connections of this type, but many of those who are in powerful hiring positions don't want others around who can compete at their level, because they face the same thing comming for them. And many more who have this power these days are much younger than they used to be, which makes them less likely to hire someone they see as "mentor age". It feels awkward and unnatural--they want to hire those they can come up with, just like in any other time in history. I feel that this "get a job through your network" advice tends to become very thin at around age 35 and up, especially if you are a member of another protected class.


Is it really that bad in the USA?

I've just started looking for a new job this week, and I've applied for maybe 3 jobs, and my phone has been ringing off the hook.


It depends. If you figure that a company keeps a posting online until the candidate accepts an offer, the ratio of 'accepting applications' to 'we'll keep your resume around just in case' is like 2:1 -- 33 percent success rate.

Which is where recruiters come in. Companies paying people to talk to and find candidates is a real signal that they'll consider your application, rather than trying to meet some H1-B requirement or whatever other possible reasons they have for including a job on a website. I've submitted like 26 applications, and gotten about 10 calls from humans. 3 of those calls were from recruiters who reached out to me first.

There's also a stream of LinkedIn contacts who want to send me off to remote places for 3 month contracts for random 'Fortune 500 company', but if you're looking for a w2 employee gig with health insurance, relocation, and long term employment opportunity, these warm body shops are less helpful.


Yes. Where are you applying from?


Australia. It helps that ruby developers are rare as hens teeth here.


Try making your age completely ambiguous on your resume and see what the response is. E.g. remove college graduation date, replace specific dates of employment with 5 years, over 10 years etc.


It's obvious when applicants do this. There's no plausible deniability unless younger applicants start doing the same thing out of solidarity someday.


Also: discard experience from over X years ago.


With you. Applied to around 1000 jobs myself in anything squarely in my wheelhouse or just next to it. 47. Get very few responses. When interviews are offered, I'm getting same feedback as you. It's difficult to speak up about it, because if someone has not yet experienced it, (or if it has not yet happened enough to them that they are sure what it is now) they assume it has something to do with you socially or technically. I think this is because it is so outrageously hard to believe: the idea that its root causes are insecurities that otherwise ambitious, intelligent people would not allow to negatively affect their company or its professional edge. - especially in a time when the industry can't stop talking about its shortage of highly qualified workers. So if someone calls it out, others assume there is something wrong with them they aren't facing. It took me a full 7 years of self critique and experimentation before I was sure it was ageism.


I've applied to about 500 jobs. I'm 46 & returning to coding after years of absence. I get better response rates outside of engineering (e.g., teaching, program management). This year, I won a teaching job and a technical writing job and was denied both due to ageism.


Are you getting interviews? If not, consider revisting the resume aspect.. Keep it at a max of 2 pages and when listing your skills, focus on the most recent work and technology (not the breadth of tech you've worked with over your career but the depth of tech that you are looking to get a position doing).


It slows down over 40. There aren't as many openings that need what you have, but they still exist. It takes time to find them, though.

I start contacting headhunters (I keep a file of ones I think are decent, since the day will come when I'll need them). I don't know what other things to tell you to try - I haven't needed/wanted a new job in 8 years. (I was 47 then.)


Online applications in general are rarely successful. Pardon my directness, but if you've applied to 100+ jobs then you're likely doing it wrong. You are almost always better off finding a quality set of positions (10-15) and getting human referrals/connections to them. In job hunting, quality is much more important than quantity.


I'm about to start looking for a new job. How would you go about building connections to companies you're interested in, outside attending relevant meetups and conferences?


People hate it, but there are some really good recruiters on linkedin. With some digging, you can find out what recruting firm a company is using. You also have to weed out the junior recruiters trying to connect with everyone on there. Having contacts with a few good recruiters can really go a long way. How to identify? Usually, they will message you with a specific oppurtunity, and will respond with the actually job req when quiried. Caveate is; I say this as someone with a lot of years of experience, so someone who's entry level or green may not be targets of these people.


I don't think you can fight this with laws: We live in an age and society that prefers young over old, smart over wise, quick profits over steady growth - I could go on with the contrasts but you get the idea. This might change over time but don't hold your breath.

If some of the young developers reading this realize that the same might happen to them then my suggestion would be not to wait around hoping that new employment laws will save you in a few decades (which will pass faster than you think), but to start taking care of things now. This means, make sure that by the time you get to the age when someone won't hire you, you won't need or want to be hired. You can do this by either saving enough money by that age to do whatever you want (which could be a new venture doing what you love, whether it is developing software or not) or by slowly creating a business (maybe starting as a side project) which will end up with you on the hiring side (even if you only want to hire yourself).


When your date dumps you after the first date, the reason they give is never the truth. It's the same when they reject you for the job. There's not much of a percentage in stewing or arguing about it.


Agreed. I've heard candidates rejected as "overqualified" when they meant "not qualified or otherwise not interesting, but they seem to think a lot of themselves".


Exactly. Saying "You are overqualified and would be bored to work here" is the same as saying: "You are really nice, but let's just be friends". Nobody today is going to tell you straight: "You are too old, sorry, we probably won't be able to push and exploit you and we are afraid you will find a better job".


Employers constantly tell me "Your resume looks great, you have a lot of skills, so why is there a gap in those years? What were you doing? Don't you have any experience in technology X or Y? You might get bored here". I never get hired.


Next time this happens, I recommend trying to find the root cause. "I appreciate your concern - may I ask what experience has led you to believe someone with my qualifications would appear bored? From my perspective, I've only applied and kept in the hiring process to this point because I am interested in the long term."

It's very likely they've got some other reason, and you can then clarify when they give you the "real reason" or adjust your process/resume/story for future applications with that information.


You'd be surprised - depending on the type of employer, many will not indulge any questions about any hiring decisions.

Granted, if they are providing reasoning already up front (we think you may be bored), it's fair game to ask, but I don't think I've ever seen someone get a response when asking these types of questions.


I have asked these questions in interviews like these and truly -- I get straight-up blatantly illegal discriminatory answers based on age and experience level. It's as though these interviewers have no idea that we have laws against discrimination in the US, and I'm guessing because they are not properly trained in hiring practices/we just don't hold companies accountable for discrimination like we should. This has happened to me four times in the past year alone. Even worse, it has happened to my over 40, African American friend and colleague many more times than that in the past year even though he has a CS degree and experience in teaching code with modern languages. He can't get a dev job, despite his ability to code and teach it and document it well. He's a published writer to boot. They always ask him in interviews why he has not worked as a dev (outside his own projects) at a company... why has he only taught coding? Of course the unvoiced answer goes a little something like this: "well, because companies tend to hire devs according to what is more politely known as "culture-fit", and I just don't seem to "fit the current culture", if you know what I mean." He just needs a job, any job, working in his field or adjacent to it in any way. For three years, he has looked as though it was his more-than-full-time job. (of course then the question is-- what have you been doing outside these side-projects and the unspoken answer is: "interviewing, if I get lucky enough to get an interview, with anyone who will hire me every waking moment of the past three years, when I'm not doing side-projects to make it look like I'm doing something time-consuming and deep and meaningful for no money." He went through his savings doing side-projects and applying to jobs. He's about to be homeless. He recently went after technical writing positions instead of dev roles hoping the age and race thing would be less of an issue. It was ridiculous: he applied at a well-known hosting company for a tech writer job. They put him through his paces with a take home of ridiculous scope/length (for free, as you do). He politely and squarely nailed it. They wrote him back telling him he didn't get to advance because he made a mistake in his directions and they didn't do what he said they did. This was outrageously incorrect. It makes a person want to scream. Instead of being outraged and screaming out the window like in the movie Network, he wrote them back in the most gracious way possible and explained how he understood how their mistake can easily get made by anyone, (not really, but ok, he was being nice) and why his direction was in fact correct and that as a result, he hoped to meet them in person soon, as he was eager to discuss "how he could help over at XYZ" or similar. (this after two phone interviews with them worried he might be overqualified for an associate role there, during which he assured him that the pay would be great, and that he's be happy to write documentation at any level and help in any way he could--). Well, guess what? They wrote back to thank him for alerting them to their ridiculous error, stating that they would change the assignment for future candidates based upon his gracious and clear suggestions (pretty much the definition of his effective technical writing helping them at their company right there). They then explained that he didn't do some other piddling aspect of the writing that if it were an actual compaint, could be solved by a team conversation on preferences. (but the crit was actually untrue in a concrete way, just like the above) Anyway, they let him know that they would not be inviting him to the on-site.

Neither one of us can get hired anywhere despite multiple degrees and experience in engineering and in other fields. We are both over 40 and unemployable. Can't get jobs at Trader Joe's bagging groceries (and other unskilled labor, yes- have tried very hard)... overqualified, you see. Maybe we should try for a job in neurosurgery? Neither one of us has experience in that field...


there are resume tactics you can use to obscure that missed time, and frankly, the older you are, the better it is to use them. not just because of age bias, but also because even a resume reader who has zero age bias is likely to skim the resume, and/or regard your most _recent_ accomplishment as your most _characteristic_ accomplishment as well. so you have to completely disregard chronological order if you want to present a summary of who you are and what you can do, unless you are the one person in the world whose career history has only ever had ups, and never downs.

my most recent job search went really slow until I scuttled my comprehensive, chronological resume and replaced it with something which is basically just a list of sales-y bullet points: lots of languages! did this! did that!

likewise, don’t bother listing everything you’re good at. list the stuff you’re best at, and list the newest, flashiest stuff, and summarize the rest. “skilled in numerous languages, including Hot New Shit A and Old Thing That I Happen To Be Great At B” is great.

if my resume showed every language that I’ve ever used, I’d be including a ton of languages that don’t even exist any more. people don’t see that and think, “wow, how diligent to include such a comprehensive list.” they think, “does this person expect to use that here? why are they wasting my time?”


Your resume shouldn't have gaps, even if your actual career do. Prospective employers are afraid, and they rely on you to demonstrate a spotless record. You need to asses what they want to hear, then say it. Unless you can afford to be picky yourself, honesty doesn't pay.

An employer once told me to my face he was glad my resume didn't have any gap. The real reason my resume doesn't have gaps is because I only write the years during which I've done each gig. You can hide up to 23 months of hiatus that way.


You can also stretch out 2 months of experience to be 2 years!


You could just lie about the gap.

And to do it without lying you can remain perpetually employed at the random consulting firm you coincidentally founded.

MANY OF YOUR EMPLOYED PEERS HAVE DONE THIS


If I find out later, you will be immediately dismissed. No exceptions.

I was honest with the employee and I demand the same in return. If you will lie to me about that, you will lie to me about other things or, worse, lie to coworkers or clients.

Dishonesty means your value to me is nothing and there is no reason to continue our relationship. Some forgiveness is fine for my personal relationships, but my business is staked on trust and dishonesty violates that.

Then again, I don't really care if there is a gap in your employment history. What you did is none of my concern. I care if you can do the job and if you're the most qualified I can reasonably find.


>>>If you will lie to me about that, you will lie to me about other things or, worse, lie to coworkers or clients.

This is not clearly the case and it's disingenuous to argue otherwise.

Resume gaps are just the ugly zit of people's career arc. Nearly everyone has had one, and they'd all rather not talk about it after the fact.

Trying to obscure it somehow by specific construction of the CV is more of a form of blemish concealer. Nothing more.

(NB: Your apparent enthusiasm for canning people is frightening. I wish I knew where you worked so I could never cross your path.)


  KGIII 1 day ago
  I'm retired but I am a scientist. I am technically a mathematician, but I still apply the method and use the philosophy of science in many areas of my life.
I'm not sure he actually employs anyone...


I've fired remarkably few people, but I do have high standards and hold myself to even higher standards. Dishonesty isn't acceptable in business. I can forgive in a personal relationship, but my reputation is attached to the outcome of the employees work.

A willingness to be dishonest is not acceptable. You can tell me you were in Colombia smoking crack, it's okay. Don't lie and say you were in Colombia handing out aid to indigenous people, unless you were.

There are some lines that I don't allow people to cross. That is one of them. My employee's actions reflect on me and my other employees. They can cause harm to me or my other employees by making the business look bad.

I'd be more concerned with acceptance of dishonesty than I would with a perception of my enthusiasm.

The reverse is also true. If someone client is dishonest with one of the employees, our relationship is over. I will not have an employee's reputation harmed by the acts of another.

I don't think honesty is too much to ask for.

As for your own views, you can take comfort in the fact that I've long since sold and retired.


I think you're making the classic mistake of attributing actions to character rather than circumstance.


Actions are character.

If you call in to work, don't tell me your dog died. Tell me you're going to stay home and get royally drunk - if that's the truth. I'll still make it a paid day off.

Your actions are your character. If they aren't, you have no character.

I'd invest a lot in an employee and do a great deal to protect an employee. Demanding honesty is a pretty low barrier and everyone knew my policy. Don't lie. It's not very difficult.

Lies in business has another name, fraud. Don't do that. Well, you can, you just can't do that and represent me.


This sounds good but in my experience does not reflect real people very well. Most people tell small lies all the time, and this has little correlation with real bad behavior--I've met honest scoundrels and dishonest saints. If you think people are being perfectly honest to you, well, you're probably wrong. A policy like yours only fires inexperienced liars.


That's fine on a personal level. Well, not fine but forgivable. In business, that's not acceptable. My reputation is impacted (was, technically, as I'm retired) by the acts of other people.

Lies, in business, is also known as fraud. That's not okay.

At the other end, I was very protective of my employees. If a client or vendor lied, our business dealing were over. More than once have I insisted we get someone else to work with and more than once have I terminated relationships with suppliers.

Dishonesty is forgivable in your friendships, even though it's still not very good. You can forgive someone you love. You can't as easily undo the damage caused by something like a vendor lying to an employee and the employee telling a client erroneous information based on that lie. I can't easily undo the damage done when an employee lies to a client.

It's not just about face, it's about minimizing harm to the business and doing what I can to keep everyone employed and making good money. My policy on honesty was well known and clearly vocalized.

You can call in and say you're going to go get drunk and play golf. It's still going to be a paid day off, so long as it isn't excessive. What you can't do is call in and claim your kid is sick when your kid goes to the same school mine goes to and hangs out with my kid. Just be honest.

Not to mention, I'm kind of baffled. Why would you want to work for someone that you can't be honest with?

Again, it's also okay to say its none of my business, that counts as honesty. Lies are willful and intended, by the way. Mistakes are absolutely forgivable, as is not knowing.

Maybe this will help? I employed a bit under 250 people directly. We had three offices on the eat coast and a satellite office in the Midwest. I never put out a help wanted ad, it wouldn't have done any good. The kinds of people I employed weren't looking for ads in help wanted sections. I often pulled people directly out of academia but many hires came from referrals and I'd make sure to provide any needed training.

That may explain the environment better. I'm not sure the policy works for others, but it worked for me. I sold and retired a decade ago. Even if it doesn't work for others, I'd not want to work for someone with whom I couldn't be honest.


... and methinks the man needs to brush up on his Victor Hugo.


Most employers are probably not like you in this regard. As a prospective employee, it’s more reasonable to adapt one’s behavior to the typical employer, not to you; they don’t know you yet. White lies are commonly accepted in today’s society. I am certain you don’t agree with this, and even the prospective employee might not agree, and might otherwise approve of your policy. But if they want any chance of being employed by anyone other than you, they can’t behave the way you want them to when being interviewed.

For this to be anywhere close to fair, you should have told interviewees about this policy of yours before the interview, so they have a chance to adapt. Otherwise, it just becomes a random “gotcha” years later.


It was a well known policy. It was clearly stated in plain language, just as I say it here.

I hired professionals, adults. I expect them to be adults.

I'll put up with a lot. Dishonesty is not on that list, however.


Why? Have you ever worked as incorporated consultant? You pay yourself salary, you are officially employed by your company, pay youy national insurance / healthcare, you have to hustle clients even in the off time between contracts/projects (and that is hard work itself).

If you have worked as consultant for 5 years and let's say you usually worked for 6-12 months for a single client and there is 2-3 months gap between contracts to get new client I'd put that on my CV as 5 continuous year of employment as consultant.

How is that dishonest? I was consulting 5 consecutive years, time off between clients is still work and I'd actually argue it's more difficult than time you spend doing actual tech work for clients because it involves negotiation & sales which is a completely different set of skills.

If you would then ask to talk about different projects during those 5 years then we can talk more details but splitting that up on a CV would just waste a lot of space and make the resume too complicated.


From your description, that's not lying. That's saying you were involved in those processes for that amount of time. If you were working directly for a client is immaterial, as you were still working during the downtime.

More importantly, the downtime shouldn't matter. You don't have to explain a few months. 'None of your damned business' is an acceptable answer, should you be pressed and not feel like answering.

The point is, don't attempt to deceive. Don't lie, there is no need to. If you have to lie, don't work for them.

I am so glad I'm retired. I find this worrying and the votes disturbing. I'm not mad, I'm disappointed. Fraud is never acceptable, not even small amounts. I treated employees with great respect and expected, and got, the same in return.

I hired adults, professionals, and helped them fill their needs. I'd train, pay for school, and put up with all sorts of quirks. However, dishonesty violates a very basic line of trust. It is disrespect and it can harm the reputations of others. It's not okay, it's not acceptable, and any circumstance that encourages it should be fixed.


Yeah you're right, I would lie to you about other things.

I would lie to you about the extent of the server problems I dealt with on a weekly basis, so you don't have to worry about what a rickety POS your technical stack is. I'll meet deadlines and you're going to be a great reference.

The bar? The bar is much lower. You are worried about employees that are going to make excuses like "their dog died"? See, those aren't the kinds of problems us perpetually employed people are trying to get around.

Us perpetually employed have clearly adapted. We move through whatever random screening you've made up, and work with integrity. That is mutually exclusive from honesty.

What does that makes us, sociopaths? Okay sure, all the employees that pass your random screenings are sociopaths making their way to the top with the other sociopaths. Comes with the territory.


Who the hell do you work for that treats you so poorly that you'd want to do that? Why would you want to work elsewhere when you're being paid well and treated like an adult?


Unless the gap was very recent, it would be weird for that to affect someone in software development. As a research scientist, sure (for better or worse), but if you have spent the past 5 years doing X then you are quite well qualified to do X somewhere else.


The only reason I've heard is that companies are worried that a gap may be due to time in prison.


Ha I didn't think of that.


In the end if don't want to hire you, they won't. Now, rather than being brutally honest, they invent ways around it.


They do it because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88–352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) is a landmark civil rights and US labor law in the United States[5] that outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Rights_Act_of_1964

And also the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (29 U.S.C. § 621 to 29 U.S.C. § 634) is a US labor law that forbids employment discrimination against anyone at least 40 years of age in the United States

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_Discrimination_in_Employme...

You see, they aren't passing on you based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or age; it's because you are overqualified, or not a cultural fit. It's like the "IT'S COMING RIGHT FOR US!" loophole in South Park.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3RJUMm-hd0

Discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or age is very difficult to prove in a court of law.


I'm not sure that's true. If they don't want to hire you, they're less likely to, but at some point it might not be worth the effort to come up with an excuse. And, importantly for an organization, "they" might be a subset of people. If I have a biased coworker (where "biased" can be anything, but let's go with age for now) who doesn't want to hire someone, but can't communicate their dislike in email without putting animus towards a protected class in writing, and the rest of the team is mildly positive, the fact that they couldn't be brutally honest is probably enough to go from a no-hire (via the coworker's veto) to a hire.


It is, in my experience, absolutely correct.

About a decade back, I applied for a job in Dunedin. The manager of it met me, read my resume and loved it - I had plenty of experience where the other applicant he was interviewing didn't have any, he said, and queried what I knew about this and that, so on. He couldn't have been more positive.

Then he asked if I had any medical problems, I told him I have a disability.

The red started at his collar and worked his way up to his face. He made a point of going back to my resume, and loudly shouted at me for not having any relevant experience, how I'd fking wasted his time and he was going to bill me for it, that he was going to lay a formal complaint with the employment agency I had gone through. He lied through is teeth about their work for the city council, that he "ran the computer systems for them, all the servers," and that he didn't have time to teach me how computers worked, that I only had an academic qualification with no real world experience. (I knew a guy who was loosely involved with ITS for the DCC at the time, and he told me the interviewer is a liar, most of their IT support was in-house or specialist software support.)

The interviewer also told me that I should get "real world experience running a corporate network," and he told me I could do that by stealing old computers and pirating Windows ("Well, there are ways to get Windows.")

A few years later, I ran into a friend of mine from university who, it turned out, had got the job I missed out on. He was just out of university when they hired him, and actually had no experience in any roles of any sort.

tl;dr: The interviewer lied to my face. It hindsight, it was obvious that he did, but at the time I didn't get it. (Part of the disability, I'm very easily lied to.) He made up every excuse under the sun to not hire me, or even continue with the interview. It would have been much less obvious (to an outsider) if he'd just concluded the interview normally, without any further comments on the disability and I wouldn't have been any the wiser, but he was too stupid and self-righteous for that.

(Further thought, when I found out about it, I mentioned it to a friend of mine who immediately told me that the employer had every right to discriminate against me on the basis of my disability, and nothing could convince him otherwise - not even the government, who stated that had I found out sooner and been able to prove it, I would have likely received a large cash settlement.)


I think I phrased that wrongly - for individual people, having laws may or may not actually help you. (If I'm understanding you right, the law could have helped you, had you been advised correctly about it, but you weren't.) But for society as a whole, having the law means some people are going to be helped by it. Many aren't. But a social change always starts small.


This is why you don't mention you have a disability...


well, the reality is being honest can get you sued. that's very expensive. to me it's understandable from a risk aversion angle.


Majority of managers do not want people that see through their bs. After all they need to manage. Someone who sees through their bs is not as pliable as an inexperienced hire. They want the naivety because it is exploitable just like ignorance. Remember most managers are trying to move up and if you pose a risk, they won’t have that. This is also part of the reason why there exist so many collaboration tools. If we placed collaboration above competition just maybe the company would be a better place to work. Instead of this competitive minefield where everyone is just looking for the next opportunity to step up at the expense of others and at the expense of collaboration.


These types are the easiest to game though. Just tell them what they want to hear, and deliver something occasionally. Then you're considered to be a star. Rinse, repeat.


It's ironic seeing this hosted at Facebook, the land of "young people are just smarter".*

*The infamous quote from Zuckerberg


Well, Zuckerberg employs Beck, so he must have seen a sliver of the light at some point!


I misread that as "silver light" and thought it was quite a clever pun on silver haired programmers... :)


I received some advice to omit the first 5-ish years positions from my resume and “reword” the line referring to my 20 years of industry experience. I'm older than my boss and it's definitely a bit scary. YMMV


I did this recently. I removed the details of older experience and replaced them with a section “Other projects” where I quickly listed interesting and relevant things I did before but with no dates. I also removed the dates of my degrees.

Coincidence or not, I started receiving more contacts from recruiters and recently got a great new job.


As someone who does a lot of resume screening and interviewing, I will say I don't really care when you got your degree, so that's fine with me.

Though I can only really speak for myself.


I recently created a custom resume for a recruiter who wanted me to remove my pre-2006 experience from my resume before he would submit me for a contract. Boasting wide and deep experience in this industry is a liability for an employee, not an asset.


This is funny to me because it means 10 years of experience is the maximum any candidate should have.


Yep, I did some “filtering” as well


What was the relationship between you and the person who gave that advice?


I was laid off and one of the severance benefits was a job placement / interview coaching service


This person has wonderful skills and experience. They must have an extensive network of people they've worked with and for. Yet here they are in front of me not making any use of that network. Why?

Meet that head on because one possibility that goes through the mind of those making the hiring decision is "Is it because this person is horrible?"

"I'm here and not using my own network to get hired because (they've all retired rich the lucky bastards|the network went a bit cold while I did 15 years in xyz co.|I'm not comfortable using a network because I've always been able to get hired on my talent, skills and work ethic and that's really important to me|whatever the reason is).

Also when mentioning previous stuff you've done. "Did that with Jill and Amesh, great people, would work with them again in a heartbeat." "This one I did with Kar-Wai, talented guy, I liked working with him."

Hiring is an investment decision you have to live with every day. Fear and greed the same as any other, allay the fears, stoke the greed.

Note this is not "The Answer" my best to all doing it a bit tough in the job market. It's just one thing to consider if you haven't already, get the box next to it ticked.


Over-qualified people are seen as a threat. The managers who hire, unless they are the owners, do not want to deal with the office politics of someone who truly knows more than they do.

If you are over-qualified for a position there is nothing wrong with playing down your resume. Writing code is a new career for me and I don't mention my previous management positions at all because I'm applying for subordinate positions framing my resume accordingly.


I had a suggestion from a friend that I should just cut off everything from my résumé that happened before 7 years ago. I have not yet tried this, but my friend just started getting calls for interviews having done this. Do you have any more advice?


I only put on my resume things that provide value to the potential employer. I was a chef in restaurants and on a yacht for 17 years before coding but on my resume, which is only one page, all that experience is included in 2 lines at the bottom because it doesn't show anything of value beyond my coding experience for the type of positions I was applying for. If I apply for a management position, my executive chef experience will take up a second page.


This is what I was told as well. I'm 52, I have huge resume of experience at some great companies (even my own company I built), the reality is, you get 10 years in, the person thinks you're his or her "Dad"... it's a little shitty, but the advice I got was to do exactly this and I started getting more responses.


Thank you for confirming this. I'll start using this tactic immediately. I do think if we are forced to retire at 40 or even before, the younger folks in the industry should get hip now, and demand much much higher salaries like the athletes in professional sports do. And if it is collectively decided that no one wants to start a union, engineers (and even those in other professions now) should get agents just like the pro athletes do, because those negotiations will require some seriously professional legal and negotiation skill. People don't have time to become both Grace Hopper AND Jerry Maguire. Imagine if sportsers had to negotiate their own contracts... those folks would be abused and dumped.


How old are you?


"you're overqualified" and "we only hire the best" is a bit of a contradiction, isn't it?


It's true that if you always do the same kind of programming work, you might get bored and this can negatively affect productivity (in terms of raw speed)... But on the plus side; your code will likely be of very high quality and will almost definitely save the company a ton of money in the medium and long term.

So yeah I think that calling someone 'overqualified' is a poor excuse.

Startups love code monkeys that can churn out features quickly; they're often willing to sacrifice huge medium-term benefits for small short-term benefits but that's idiotic. From my experience, it only takes about 3 to 6 months for technical debt to become a major problem so unless you expect your startup to have an exit in the next 3 months then you really should not accept any short term solutions at all.


Appearance matters so much in this discussion.

There are 40 year-olds who are obviously 40 year-olds, complete with greying beards, burgeoning bellies, and a wardrobe consisting of nothing but polo shirts acquired from years of conference attendance.

And then there are 40 year-olds who could pass for 30.

My intuition is that the likelihood of ageism being subconsciously or otherwise invoked in the former case is vastly larger.

In this sense, it is a lot like racism or sexism in the case of "culture" fitting. The desire to appear young and nimble, as a company, is a significant part of whatever demographic they are shooting for, outwardly.


Lol I am in my hem hem 50's some of my colleges though I was in my 30's recently :-)


Part of the issue is that programming is largely seen today as a process of problem solving using an "agile" hack it 'till it works approach. Quick thinking to put out a fire or implement a quick feature using some new technology easily learned is most valued, along with the ability to be "flexible" when it comes to quality of work and workplace demands.

Given this, one might as well look to recruit some smart, cheap and enthusiastic graduate. Sadly industry experience and lessons learned don't seem so important.


Now that I'm in a position of hiring technical people, this seems crazier than ever to me. It's hard to hire talented software engineers because they're so in demand. I would be glad to consider eager and talented prospective employees who I don't have to compete hard for.


i was unemployed for a while, and got a number of 'overqualified' rejections. eventually i ran out of money to pay the bills, and was a few weeks from being kicked out onto the streets... when i finally managed to land something. it was a fucking brutal roller coaster. sure is nice to have a roof over my head.


I've never liked being an employee. And I liked it less and less, as I got older. I also started getting rejected for being overqualified (plus having a bad attitude).

My solution was consulting. And eventually, consulting as a testimonial expert. Being older and overqualified helps in intimidating opposing counsel, and impressing judges and juries.


I like this route, too, so far, though it's new for me.

I did meet a 60-year-old programmer the other night who said he can't find consulting work anymore. I do sort of worry about one day not being able to keep up with contemporary techniques, but it seems like that day is far off, for now.


I worked with a testimonial expert in his 80s, and he was getting ~1000 USD/hr.


So there could be a few more possibilities why an overqualified person is willing to accept the job. Maybe a burnout if very high pace high pressure work, could nsulting including. Perhaps chilling at the slower paced company is perfect for him or her. If so why would he leave? I have known plenty of folks who a really really want to mentor and contribute their experience from decades of consulting, but not necessarily go back to doing it. Why not take advantage of the fact. Also, from the employer's perspective give him or her opportunity to do something else when the jobbia done and there's time to spare. Opensource contribution on the clock, presales tasks maybe,speaking at conferences, mentorship. Who cares as long as his job is done, he feels needed and can find other things to do to not be bored. Does not take a lot to manage a self starter.


This is fascinating to see.

I'm pushing 28, so every day I worry if the development job I have now will be my last. I'm a hard, dedicated, loyal worker who has never left a company, only swapping jobs when my old employers laid me off or themselves collapsed. Unfortunately, I suffer from strong social anxiety so management certainly isn't an option.

When I was 22, finding a job was easy. But once you have the portfolio they say they were looking for in the first place, no one wants you anymore because they're too afraid you'll jump to the next job paying $1k a year more or whatever. Its dumb.


I've never seen anyone reject a 28 year old as "overqualified". There's probably something else going on here, though I can't really help you with what it is. I suggest taking some of your technical friends out for some beverages of their choice and asking for some constructive criticism.


Most of the people I know in tech feel like they're aging out of the market. Small web/marketing agencies--the only development jobs available around here--want fresh grads for junior positions. Most of the time those are the only ones available, as there is rarely more than 1 or 2 lead/senior developers within the company.

I've never heard "you're overqualified" specifically, but I lost count of how many times I heard "we can't pay what someone with your skillset is worth and don't think you'll stick around because of it" when I was unemployed between jobs #3 and my current one for 5 months, desperately applying to any and all positions that got posted, like 'website maintenance assistant', 'adwords manager', 'forms developer' and 'frontend developer'.

Eventually two weeks before my unemployment would have run out, a senior java ecommerce developer position opened up, to which I currently cling with dear life. :)

This might just be regional/bad job market thing, I don't know. Never lived anywhere else but Maine.


Sorry to hear all that.

Unfortunately, ability to relocate might be essential in some circumstances. At least until employers are more willing to hire remote workers, assuming that happens eventually.


As an overqualified employee, I think you should simply delete parts of your resume to appear less skilled. A job is better than no job. I wonder why more people don't do that.


Let me reframe this for you: Your resume should effectively communicate why you are qualified for this job. If you are essentially talking about being qualified to be in charge of the person with this job, you aren't really effectively communicating why they should hire you to fill this role.

Both framings may result in the resume being edited down some, but the end result and positioning will likely be somewhat different. You aren't trying to downplay or hide anything. You just are trying to effectively communicate the information they need about you, no more and no less.


Gaps in your employment record probably look even worse, so that means carefully underselling yourself in each position. That seems tricky, at the very least.

Also, selection bias might keep those stories from being told.


Not necessarily delete jobs you had. You can simplify the actual responsibilities and achievements you had. You trade potential higher salary for a higher chance of becoming employed. Later, you can ask for a rise.

Disclaimer: I'm currently unemployed.


And people wonder why everyone goes for the startup lottery ticket


Not sure why you were down voted here, but this is my EXACT rationale at the moment. I am a 50 year old programmer who sold his software consulting business a couple of years back. I figure the ONLY way I can stay actively programming these days is to buy a ticket in the good old "startup lottery".

I've created 5 SaaS apps and around 10 mobile apps in the 3 years since I sold my business. Almost all the early ones struggled or failed completely. My current SaaS seems to be doing well, and I expect that it will see me through retirement. I guess I finally got lucky on a winning ticket :) I would expect a lot more players in this game as people age out of the software development world over the next few years.


I generally get voted down for anything I say negative. Hackernews just knows to vote down the surly.


it's not 6 figure, but you can go from 5 figure to 5 figure jobs with no hassle.


Now i just need to figure out how to work from somewhere cheap enough I guess?


I had several interviews where the chief interviewer said I worry you won't want to keep doing just frontend, and I was like but if there are tickets on other parts of the stack I can do why wouldn't I - and anyway if I know parts of the backend and the data layer that means I know where a ticket should be fixed - most things can be fixed in the frontend but not everything should be.

I didn't get those jobs though.


What is results in is an organization without a focus on hiring the best people. Do this for long enough and your company will die.


I'm currently working at a startup where we have a few developer in their 40's or maybe 50's (not sure how old some of them are really), but what I see is that the market and investors are rewarding us for "moving fast with broken things". For example, we have no plan for handling unicode, and when things break people just try random mixes of encoding, decoding, dropping characters, etc, until the thing works this one time. Subtle issues like this go deep in our system, and yet it apparently looks good to our investors and customers. We get out the features they need quickly, but people will be cursing our names for decades because of the technical debt we create.

Maybe this is just because of my current situation, but it seems like the market rewards energetic programmers who can hack something together and constantly monitor and fix little bugs by hand any hour day or night. If this is what the market is rewarding then it seems legitimate to hire a bunch of cheap, young, energetic developers instead of more experienced developers.


Don't you think the amount of time spent fixing it properly is less than the sum of the time spent making a hacky solution and then playing whack-a-mole repeatedly with the bugs?


It's not about thinking, it's about feeling. If half-baked but apparently working features inspire confidence and are perceived as progress by clients and investors, then that perception will drive the rewards and thus the process. The phrase around 1999 was "who cares if it crashes randomly, the user will just reload the page." Shortly afterwards, amount of bugs fixed becomes an additional metric of success, so delivering less features that also come with less bugs means hitting your success metric twice.

Sad, but remember that many startups never deliver profits, AKA actual tangible value, before they exit.


The population mostly is what it is, so there ought to be companies and jobs designed for people who aren't elite. McDonald's doesn't focus on hiring the best possible worker, they focus on hiring conscientious workers who are at the appropriate point in their career/life that it's a good fit.


The problem is that many interviewers don't know how to suss out a good engineer. So they just ask questions that Google and Amazon ask. And that's why you spend half of your interview pre-optimizing contrived algorithms down to O(n) when the probability of the startup ever running code at scale is very small.


McDonald's grade tech is going to impact our brains the same as MsDonald's food is impacting our physical health.


If you are interested in an alternative perspective, you should go read the "E-Myth" by Michael Gerber. It is ostensibly about entrepreneurship, but all his points apply equally to those in all types of leadership roles.

An organization shouldnt hire the "best" people because they are the most expensive and can easily lead to situations where your organisation is relying on an individual too much (e.g. they are the only person who understands a particular code base). The organization should focus instead on creating processes that take mediocre people and turn them into great at their job. That will be the most profitable solution long term.


Two things come to mind:

1) Roman Hruska's comment about "there are a lot of mediocre judges and people ... They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance?"

2) Robert Jordan sued and lost because his approximately 125 IQ was considered too high by the police department he applied to, and this was ruled legal and "rational" discrimination.


I want to buy a bag, just to hold my stuff, my budget is $100 for it, now the store has a few luxury bags for sale, but they are all above $200 price tag, what should I do? do I have to buy them? or I can decide to keep looking for better performance/price ratio?

isn't over-qualify the same as too-inexperienced, that many companies are reluctant to hire? bias is part of the real world, while I'm not young anymore, I firmly support that the company has the right to hire who they want to hire, after all, it's its private money, its decision and we're not reaching communism just yet. It's the competition made USA USA.


I'm 52, I recently got a "pass" on a job that matched that I was told in person that I would get an offer in writing while at my 4th and final interview with the COO/HR person (not the hiring manager). I walked out of that place thinking I had the job only to get an email from the hiring manager (CTO) telling me that "if the job was a Venn Diagram, you fit 80% of the role, I just think the other 20%, you wouldn't be happy and probably not challenged enough." I was stunned. Venn Diagram?? come on man... Seriously? And email, call and talk to me. Be an adult.

At first I was like "ok, not a fit." Then I had to realize I was probably 25 years older than he was and what he was really saying was "you're too old to be working here." The tone of his email was exactly as this blog. "You're just too experienced" -- in so many words.

Sucks being old... But I replied in email that he was probably right, that the role itself was a little below my level (truth) and that it was probably something I would have had to work with him on. I also identified that this guy (great guy, I liked him), was immature on the management side and every co-worker that interviewed with me confirmed it by telling me how much "he needed someone under him to do be the leader, be the buffer -- keep him focused on vision", so they needed me -- or the younger me. So I felt confident this was going to work. But he clearly felt I was too old...

It's a bummer. Had they offered me the job, I would have taken it and worked through the issues and grown with them. The reality is, I was perfect for the job and they actually needed my experience and my level of software domain knowledge in this space -- they were young, struggling with execution and accountability. I came to the realization that my age was both a benefit (to the company), but a threat to the CTO (founder) as being too experienced under you which would give him a lot of insecurity, but also having a guy that was old enough to be your Dad work under you -- he couldn't handle that (probably). Personally, for me, I would have had a blast. I love working with younger people and I love the energy and I'm someone who can relate to people half my age in many ways. Not to mention, I have all the modern stack experience they needed and I'm a pretty fucking great guy for their culture.

So as a 52 year old developer, I never thought I'd say this, but I'm a dinosaur and I might have to end up being a consultant or building another company (again) -- which I did when I was in my 30's and young.


When thinking about reasons for ageism you should account for consulting, which do not have this problem (or at least it is less pronounced). The cause is hidden in the overhead of full-time employment.


My previous company was rejecting 95% of overqualified applications, sometimes because of their age, sometime because of number of their certifications in their CVs. There was once a time, the company was offering totally average daily wage for a contractor job, and we got a CV from a guy with almost every possible Java certification from last 15 years. We knew we can't hire him, he would be bored here and soon ask for more money, which the company didn't have.


> We knew we can't hire him, he would be bored here and soon ask for more money, which the company didn't have.

I recommend giving anyone who appears minimally qualified the benefit of the doubt & see what they have to say before denying them a shot at meaningful employment.

I used to run a recruiting company, and I couldn't afford to pay very much. For example, I hired my first assistant as $15/hour USD when I was paying myself $12/hour USD. This was in San Francisco, CA where a that kind of money doesn't go very far.

Almost everyone I hired was overqualified, but that never seemed to matter. Before I hired anyone, I said something like...

"Look, I can only afford to pay you $X, and you'll duties will be A, B, & C. You look like someone who could get a job that's half as hard & pays twice as much. Why do you really want THIS job?"

If they gave what sounded like a sincere answer, I'd hire them. It was as simple as that.

One of my applicants had an MBA from a fancy school and had worked in sales at a prestigious investment bank. When asked why the heck someone with that kind of background would want to do entry level office work that doesn't pay very well, the applicant plainly said, "My partner is starting a hedge fund, I help my partner with in bootstrapping the fund, I'm looking for a little extra money at a job with flexible hours, and I enjoy this kind of work." That "overqualified" applicant was hired, and turned out to be one of my best workers.

When you pre-judge an applicant based on the appearance of too much experience & too many certifications, you are denying that applicant & yourself the opportunity to explore what could be an amazing employment relationship for both sides.


I've been rejected from jobs because I was over-qualified. Then I got accepted to one, which turned out later that I was over-qualified for that one too. I did get bored, I felt like the job wasn't a good match for my skills, and I went looking for a new job.

So the concern is indeed very real and can cause unneeded churn for a company.


Reminds me somewhat of the Gervais principle. https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/the-gervais-principle-...


At my last interview, they reject me because "I'll not proper integrate with the team"


Maybe you should look in places that management is based in evidences: https://hbr.org/2010/12/the-myth-of-the-overqualified-worker


This is fascinating to see.

I'm only two years away from the cliff (30), so every day I worry if the development job I have now will be my last. I'm a hard, dedicated, loyal worker who has never left a company, only swapping jobs when my old employers laid me off or themselves collapsed. Unfortunately, I suffer from strong social anxiety so management certainly isn't an option.

When I was 22, finding a job was easy. But once you have the portfolio they say they were looking for in the first place, no one wants you anymore because they're too afraid you'll jump to the next job paying $1k a year more or whatever. Its dumb.


Can someone share a non-Facebook link please?


ageism was the first ism I had to deal with personally, said the old white guy. It is bad in every industry and job sector.




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