Job Hunting Tricks for Older Tech Workers

Is there any place in tech for a worker over age 50? Not according to a number of once-successful professionals who lost jobs before or during the recession and now find it all-but-impossible to return to work. However, career experts and rehired workers say reentry is possible, though the rules for making it happen have changed.

You may have seen the cartoon that shows one person saying to another: “We’re looking for someone with the wisdom of a 50-year-old, the experience of a 40-year-old, the drive of a 30-year-old and the pay scale of a 20-year-old.” One underemployed 50-something former IT executive notes that, “it seems to be true, especially the pay scale part.”

Older Job Seeker Interviewing“As soon as they see your resume and the recruiter gets an idea of how old I am, they never call back,” says Kevin Quinn, a 60-year-old programmer and QA engineer who has been doing contract work and sending out resumes for more than two years.

But the issue may not only be about age. Luther Jackson, a program manager and researcher at the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based employment and training agency NOVA, says many people send resumes that aren’t helping them get jobs. They’re relying on the old-fashioned chronological resume, which doesn’t always do the trick.

Jackson advises clients to take a “problem-solution-results” approach to selling their skills. “That’s what employers want to see,” he says. With the PSR approach, you describe problems you’ve encountered at previous positions, the solutions you implemented, and the positive impacts that resulted. While traditional resumes highlight specific skills, the PSR approach helps you focus on the benefits those skills have brought to employers, co-workers, customers or, ideally, all three.

Unfortunately, PSR resumes aren’t a magic bullet. In Quinn’s experience the approach has sparked interest, but once recruiters figure out his age, “interest dies,” he says.

Social Media

Another factor is that many older workers haven’t mastered the use of social networks, which has become a key job-hunting skill, Jackson says. He recommends that job seekers become active participants in online groups covering their areas of interest. Likewise, devoting at least one evening a month to attending networking and professional groups can expand the job seeker’s network.

“A large percentage of jobs are never posted,” Jackson observes. “Those jobs are discovered by word-of-mouth. The larger your professional circle, the better your chances of finding those hidden opportunities.”

Another way to network into a job is by getting involved with angel investor groups, suggests Deb McAlister, a Dallas marketing consultant. So is helping counsel startups at a technology incubator. That kind of work can offer access not just to startups, but their backers and others who may one day connect you with an employer. “Networking,” McAlister says, “is always a long-term investment.”

Older workers are sometimes thought of as relics of past programming languages and databases. That can turn into a plus, however, for those who find companies using technology that fresh college graduates know little about. Those jobs can sometimes be found through interest and alumni groups, though they may be few and far between, as Quinn has found.

Temp agencies may be another resource for older workers. Sometimes, you might find yourself with a full-time offer from a company you’ have temped for, Jackson says. Indeed, NOVA likes to place workers into temp jobs, where they have steady, if non-permanent, work while they continue their search. Some companies treat temps as inside applicants, also, allowing them to apply for openings before the jobs are posted to outsiders.

The bottom line is more experienced workers face extra obstacles in their job hunt, but they’re not insurmountable. Highlight your pertinent skills, demonstrate the results you have achieved and build a network of connections, and your next move can be well within reach.

87 Responses to “Job Hunting Tricks for Older Tech Workers”

  1. The biggest problem I see for older tech workers is that the better ones are typically horrible at sales, and resumes are sales pitches. Anything you can do to get a better resume will at least give you a chance for the interview. Of course, then you have to sell yourself again and overcome the implicit age discrimination factors.

    • Wilfred

      I don’t see what age has to do with it. I think the biggest problem is that as companies have hired cheaper IT workers, and saved more money by not verifying college degrees, or letting HR do the technical testing, we now have technically-weak IT workers screening out the technically-strong people, based on emotional reasons.

      This is the biggest problem! I’ve been screened out for using the word “um” during — because the person in charge of screening was not technical — she could just be some stay-at-home mom that doesn’t know the first thing about programming, but somehow she’s in charge of your resume submission to a Fortune 500 Company. And instead of logic, she uses emotions to think “If a person says ‘um’ before answering a question, then they must be lying”.

      There’s too many mindless people in charge. They think “old is not good”. If you ever feel unfairly screened out, post your experience on Glassdoor.

      • James Beatty

        Wilfred I not only felt discriminated against before but also not really wanted even though I new the subject matter. Heck the job I just got the guy who hired me stated in big bold letters ‘We need a couple of grey hairs around to right the ship’ . Now if that’s not discrimination I don’t know what is. To actually have the balls to say that without any expectation of reprisals or litigation you can’t tell me companies in this country are not balsy in their attitude and actions towards the american citizen. While I will have a couple of new permanent jobs the one that made that comment is truly arrogant especially in the fact that I already know what is wrong and really have no feeling of loyalty one way or the other. As a 47 yo computer science graduate I’m going back to school to study law. Should only take me a couple of year I’m thinking. oh yeah GET out of this field.

        • My BFF was a developer for the Kennedy Space Center & left it to become a tax attorney for billionaires (and me). 17 years later she is tired of scrabblling for a living as a tax atty (obviously a really good one) so I’m hiring her to be a sr. BA. She is in her 50s and also has a PhD in MATH.
          Attornies make diddly squat if they don’t work for the ‘big 4’ law firms.
          As for ME, I’m 66 years old and I work from home as a Global Head of a rather large tech company. My phone rings at least once a week with offers from other big companies. If you can’t find a job you must not be good at what you do. Age is DEFINITELY NOT a barrier in technology. In fact, it is a BLESSING because ‘a few gray hairs’ DO make the difference. If you think that was a discriminatory remark that is worth a lawsuit, I say ‘good riddance to you’, go ahead and become an ‘ambulance chaser’. Frankly I don’t hire KIDS. Why? BC they typically prove to have a limited attention span, and don’t know ANYTHING, but need to be handheld, all the time. They have not learned from their failures, because they are newbies and don’t understand the importance of that, or even that they WILL fail. Sue ME, why doncha.

          • Jim Reilly

            Nail on the head sir !

            If you excel at what you do the job offers will never be far from your door, regardless of age sex, color etc.

            As for hiring young bucks ! Waste of time. They spend half their day on Utube or talking sports.

            Problem today is that the guys who want young bucks around them are invariably young people themselves. After the age of sixty, self employment ought to be the goal for most of us.

            Just imagine working to provide for you and your family alone, not some other jerks:
            family – relatives – friends – bar manager – masseur etc.

            And best of all ! you get up when you “wake up”

          • Max Chiodo

            If you really excel you’ll be ok, in any company, any country, at any age. But what if you are just good but do not excel? That’s where most people are, regardless of how they see themselves. An economy that only works for the best and brightest 1% is by definition a failure.

          • Frank Lauria

            Wow, Violet–was your argumentative tone really warranted in your response to James Beatty? As to whether the “grey hairs” remark was discriminatory, would you be as dismissive if the speaker had said “We need a couple of dark skins around to do the real work”? And your comment, “If you can’t find a job you must not be good at what you do” is patently insulting on the face of it. Your BFF is lucky that she has you to catch her; I wonder how successful she would be if she were out looking for a job like the rest of us.

          • Think again Violet…I don’t know where you have been all your life but age discrimination was a factor 40 years ago and now even worst. Hope you live long enough to see this country go down the drain super-fast. By the way, I am not looking for a job as I am retired but this is just a hobby for me…I like to read what people think about our economy with big disappointments.

        • Jonathan

          James — let me caution you — urgently — do not go to law school.

          Here’s my experience: I went to work as a computer programmer right out college, and a year later, started going to law school at nighit. It took me 5 years that way; I was 27 when I got out. I couldn’t find work on my terms (which, in retrospect, I think were pretty rigid), so I continued working as a programmer.

          Fast forward to 2003. I had lost my last programming job after the dot-com crash and couldn’t get another one. I decided to go back to law school for an advanced degree and then practice law.

          I got out in 2005, 55 years old, with an advanced law degree, a 3.8/4.0 GPA, and a license which entitled me to practice patent law anywhere in the country. And I couldn’t get a job practicing ANY kind of law, ANYWHERE. I couldn’t even get a real interview. I found that middle-aged lawyers are absolutely unemployable unless they have several years of experience, and preferably a “book” of established clients who may be expected to follow them from their previous job.

          If you go to law school now you’ll emerge at age 51 into the same situation as me, except that you won’t have the advanced degree or the patent law license, and you’ll be $90,000 in debt instead of $30,000 in debt. FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO DO.

        • Instead of becoming a lawyer become a politician; although you would be probably the only one with brains. If your major is Computer Science, definitely you are not a “crook” and “most” lawyers are as they have no ethics at all. The problem with “most” technical people is that they are probably the very few which have ethics as they strive for perfection in the work they do and benefitted by everybody. Just look around and realize that everything the eyes see is done by engineers and scientists (exclude doctors) and get nothing for their efforts and work. Just read about Tesla or any other scientist of his caliper and you will see it is true.

      • You are correct regarding “your thoughts about age” but that problem for older people has been with us since I can remember. While working in New England in the late 1980s and early 1990s a group of people over 40 sue a company in Boston for age discrimination and they won the litigation; that is a good example of age discrimination being with us for a very long time. You’re correct also regarding interviewers which are not technical and in fact some managers are not either; but, that is what companies want. Most people over 50 whom lost their job will probably never work in their technical field and that is reality. The time will come when companies won’t be able to find technical people and that is the road industry wants to take neglecting the fact that now days most young people are not going to college for several reasons; but instead, they get a certification in one month time but those people are not problem solvers.

  2. Glen Smith

    Getting the interview is easy and the only objection I have problems overcoming is one based in discrimination. Since we are talking about relatively high-paying jobs, I suspect that any reason to make a no-hire decision is preferred by the hiring manager.

    • Unca Alby

      Programming is not a relatively high-paying job.

      You want a relatively high-paying job, particularly relative to the education required, try law enforcement.

      My brother-in-law is a sergeant in a police force and pulls over $100K/year.

  3. James Beatty

    As an old crony on te original dice pages stated. GET OUT OF TE FIELD. See you may be able to get a job in this field but it seems corporate america has reversed the pay scale to before the crash of dot com in this country and then american government has been nothing but a shill for them ever since in that from what I can see no more american born recruiters exist now. Not tat I had any respect for any american born ones as the all tell a lie to survive in their field. Now tat field is really strange as I know for a fact you don’t need any of those h1b visas considering that all it is is a sales job. Now ow do you expect non citizens to provide citizens jobs considering how most often they’re not even in the country. Then you got a president and maybe even a soon to be president so gung ho in bringing more in.

  4. I do not see age as a disadvantage. If you are able to keep up with the latest technology, age has nothing to do with it. Also, you can go to ANY interview and find biases based on all kinds of things. You can go to ANY interview and say all the right things, even be the perfect fit for the job, and still get shot down . . . . it is just a matter of hitting the right company, the right interviewer, and having the right attitude. Failure is built into the recipe, but so is success. You just have to realize that one bad interview is meaningless as far as the big picture is concerned.

    • I agree with @Shawn Irwin. And I’ll add, it might be helpful to change one’s perspective and ask, “do I really want to work for an employer who undermines the business’ success by hiring people who have relatively little experience?” Personally, I want to work with businesses that choose to hire a job applicant based on whether s/he enables business success in achieving specific objectives. That could manifest in a range of possibilities from hiring a PhD w/ no work experience to someone w/ no degree and 30 years experience….

      On the other hand, in this slow-growth, not-so-post-recession economy, I’ve observed that the fear-factor is affecting all aspects of business–job applicants, employees, CEO’s and American business vitality. Wall Street’s dictum, “profit at ANY cost”, spurs BOD’s and CEO’s to exchange long-term profitability for short-term quick pseudo-profit lest they lose their jobs to profit-crazed sharks.

      Moreover, market demand is not high due to weak economic recovery. Clearly, corporations are generally not hiring (average of 3 applicants for every job opening). A business must generate increased sales revenues to support increasing the work force. But increased sales revenues accrue from increased market demand.

      Thus, pseudo-profits are surging at the expense of workers and American competitiveness in international markets. Pseudo profitability is the illusion of increasing profit margins garnered from selling-off corporate assets, cutting new development, eliminating research budgets, and squeezing each worker to do the work of 2 or 3 after laying-off 10% or more every 6 – 12 months, and outsourcing whatever they can—all without increasing revenues from innovation and lean-and-mean competitiveness.

      Imo, the real key to being hired is not one’s age, resume style, ad nauseam, but the return of our once strong economy, enabling American business vitality in international markets, and thereby increasing availability of good-paying jobs for everyone.

      • What you say is partially true; however, companies are hiring H1-B and L1 people mainly from India instead of hiring nationals. The government has a lot to blame also because Congress has approved 150,000/year new H1-B and L1 visas in response to the pressure from big companies. In a weak economy, the government should suspend H1-B and L1 visas not only to help our own people but also to improve the economy. The more U.S.A people working the better the economy will be; a matter of simple 101 Economy principles. One true fact: Companies can care a less about how bad the economy is; what they want is profits and that is something to consider also as companies move offshore where labor is cheaper. By the way, things will get worse for the working people.

    • Your ideals are written like someone who hasn’t yet experienced age discrimination; unfortunately, they’re wrong. Age is a HUGE disadvantage. According to the Bureau of Labor, the top two unemployed demographics are 45-54 and 18-24 year old workers.

      • My first experience with age discrimination was at age 22 when I was told by the employer that I wasn’t old enough to have enough experience (they only required 3 years experience, and, at that time, I already had 4 years experience as a programmer/analyst at U.C. Davis Computer Center and had programmed for a total of 8 years).

        After that, I decided I won’t work for/with a manager that doesn’t think, get the facts, and makes superficial decisions. I’m now 65, and you’re correct: since that first experience, have yet to experience another instance of age discrimination.

        I still say it’s the economy that’s the problem for most folks, not age, etc.

        • Economy is a factor and a big one in landing a job, but when the pool is in the millions looking for a job and there are only a few available…age discrimination is also a big factor. Now companies have the advantage to hire whatever they think is best for them and this has happen before such as in the late 80s and 90s when Russia collapsed and the government cancelled all defense projects. When you are 50+ age is a factor like it or not.

    • Unca Alby

      You can look like Justin Bieber, but when you fill out the application and tell the truth (as we are constantly advised to do), and you earned your Bachelor’s Degree when the hiring manager was still in diapers, you will be outed.

  5. Bruce Lustigs

    The advice offered in this article regarding the “PSR approach” sounds reasonable but from my experience is probably useless. Even though I have more than 20 years experience as a software developer including many fortune 100 corporations, I have rarely been asked any questions pertaining to my experience during most of my recent interviews. Instead I’ve been subjected to a barrage of tests and/or technical questions; my “problem-solution-result” experiences seem to be irrelevant. Sad but true.

  6. Thealct

    I am really at a loss if I fall in this category at age 46 ? My experience and resume seem stellar but can’t land an interview let alone a job.Am I now redundant by a 20 yr old out of Asia.

    • Jim Reilly

      North American businesses do not give a flying fig whether they hire an American or an Asian or an Alien for that matter. Just as long as the candidate is willing to work for less.

      You like thousands of other north Americans have been triumphed in the job department by a:
      Cheap Chinc” Simples !

      Start tearing down the stars and stripes or the maple leaf flag from all these so called American/ Canadian corporations. They are just using the embalm to give the impression that they actually
      care about communities in their respective countries. Not so.

      • India offers “cheap” workers. You generally get what you pay for. Companies resorting to this unpatriotic strategy are burdened with a workforce of unknown abilities. Some are very good. Most aren’t worth a fraction of their salaries and may inflict more harm than good. The Made in USA co-workers are often required to compensate for commonly inferior skills of their counterparts. This results in reduced overall productivity. So, where is the savings?
        And, yes. These companies pose as patriotic and community-based. Gag!

        • Unca Alby

          It’s a myth that Indian workers work for less. The fact of the matter is, companies do not have to pay Social Security, Medicare, Medical Insurance, Vacation and other benefits to H1B visa holders. On top of that, the visa holder is beholden to the employer for a couple of years. They *can not* switch to a different employer.

          But their actual rate of take-home pay will look pretty much the same as an American’s.

          If you’re having trouble with full-time employment, try going corp-to-corp so the company doesn’t need to pay any of that extra government-mandated stuff. It helps if your spouse is employed somewhere with medical insurance.

    • I’m in exactly the same boat as you THEALCT. After submitting a resume, sometimes the employer will call for a “pre-screen” and during the conversation we’ll end up discussing topics that identify my age. IF I do get a face-to-face interview, more times than not, it’s over before it even began. A few months ago, I interviewed for a position and during the interview the hiring manager asked me one question, “What matrices would you track?”. Throughout the short interview she did not look at me once, I realized I was significantly older than her, and I got the sense that she didn’t want to be there. Anyway, halfway through answering it she cut me off and said, “I don’t think you’re a good fit for the position.” So, I asked her what would’ve been a great response to the questions. She said, “There really wasn’t a great response.”

  7. I’ve been a contractor (SQL Server – entire product stack) for over 10 years. Age is definitely becoming more of a factor – but not as much of a factor as the selling out of american workers to low price (note not calling them low cost) H1B hacks. Vast majority of my work is going in and cleaning up the costly blunders commited by these low price H1B folks, Its the bean counters along with the poor management that has fostered the push to low skilled, poorly performing H1B workers and managers. What ever happened to doing it once – doing it right?

    • Very true. I worked at one place that purposely kept their code simplistic and inefficient because they wanted to be able to hire H1Bs to work on it. When I suggested some refactoring, they said it was cheaper to keep it bad and hire inexpensive H1Bs to work on it. Kind of sad, isn’t it?

  8. Joe Blocks

    Right, PSR resumes whatever aren’t what is needed. You have to network, not respond to the crooters – try to get to the hiring manager. And not compete with cheap labor, on or off shore. Most of those are no good at so called ‘soft skills’ (liking speaking good English)

    • Exactly! Avoid the recruiters as much as possible. Recruiters almost always post jobs without showing the company name. I can usually – honest guess, about 80% of the time – figure out the company the recruiters are working for and post directly to the company and/or hiring manager.

  9. I think I’ll try is to put more PSR statements
    inside my chronological resume items. I’ve also heard to not
    put down any jobs more than 15 years previous…employers
    don’t want a life history of your successes. Don’t give
    an employer ANY reason to disqualify you, that include
    family, health, hobbies and of course facebook. It seems
    with so many applicants that it’s easy to throw your
    resume in the “good, but what about this…” pile.

  10. 2old4this

    I worked at Motorola for 15 years, and the week that I turned 50 I was called into the Directors office and told that my postion was being eliminated. I was the only manager my age, no one else was laid off, and I was assured that there were no performance issues. I had been moved into that position less than a year prior and the person who got my old job was half my age.

    At the same time Motorola had two CEOs, both making obscene amounts of money, but they couldn’t afford to keep me around anymore.

    • Bob Johnson

      I worked at a company as a contractor and watched them go through three rounds of employee layoffs. Sole criteria? If you were within 6 months of turning 50, or older, you got the boot. To this day, I have no idea why they weren’t called out for age discrimination.

      • My father, now in his 80’s was laid off while working for a large us corporation. he was fortunate that he had a written contract (part of his overseas assignment). He was also fortunate that he also managed to get his hands on some very incriminating emails which really outlined very clearly that AGE was the reason. Armed with that – and an experienced lawyer he filed suit. Even with this slam dunk of a case this dragged on for years. He finally settled out of court for numbers much less than he may have been able to get – not out of bitterness but out of a simple desire to move on. He didnt need the money. Knowing the steps this company took to outlast him – I can tell you – if you are in a desperate situation – your not likely to see to many people succeed. Don’t forget – Corporations are people too. Only ‘minor’ difference is they have infinate time on their hands, infinite patience to outlast you and infinate life space – other than that they are just like you and I.

  11. Steven Shepard

    The best job hunting trick I have found is start my own business and not put up with any crap from a 25 year old female corporate HR worker. I told the last one, “Honey, take your background, credit, drug and certification tests and shove them up your ass.” Click.

    • My number one rule with ALL employers and ALL agencies – NO Written evaluation tests. I just won’t do it. Show me ANY TEST that can evaluate my lifetime of experience and I’ll throw in the towel. I also refuse to sign Credit background check authorizations and drug testing. Its cost me some jobs but I have to have a few personal liberties I stand up for.

      • These are the latest fads, these days. In 20+ years of contracting, it’s only been the last 2-3 years where the drug testing thing has become a standard. Before that, it was only the Defense gigs with security clearance requirements that demanded drug screening.

        Also, the whole whiteboarding/coding on demand thing is recent, too. Used to be I could just go into an interview and talk about my experience and answer some technical questions. Now, they insist you write code while being watched, which is unnerving and makes me flub everything. I’m an engineer, not a performer, and trying to work in front of an audience simply doesn’t show me at my best. It has nothing to do with being able to work under pressure or deal with an unexpected challenges – both of which I’m quite good at doing. I simply don’t function as well with eyeballs on my every move. It’s the same reason I take horrible photographs and dislike those “open collaborative workspaces” that are all the rage these days.

        I used to get offers on 90% of the interviews I took. Now, I’m lucky if that reaches 20%. I’m 47 and didn’t really look it until I gained a little weight because of medication. Weight is a bigger issue when you’re female. Most of those doing the interviewing in the last couple of years have been a lot younger and I know a few jobs have been lost because of age. When they’re trying to sell you on a job by talking about weekly foozball tournaments and beer bashes, it’s kind of hard to fit when you’re 47 and aren’t looking to work in a frat house.

        • Tula – you are 100% correct. I was laid off in May, did in by 2 little 30 yr olds and even though I have 10+ years of Microsoft .Net experience, I can’t get a job offer. When I was laid off, the HR guy said that he sees plenty of C# jobs out there so I should have no problem getting a job. What is it about the testing these days? On one of my recent interviews, there were 5 people shouting out coding samples that I should create. No pressure at all. Or, another fun interview was where I was asked to take control of the interviewer’s PC and write a code sample. Again, no pressure. What does that prove? Is that how they want you to code, seat of the pants coding? It doesn’t matter how good it is, just that it is completed fast. If they want that, they can just offshore all their work and have people here in America to clean up the mistakes. I am 57, I guess I should throw in the towel as my experience seems useless to the companies that I interviewing with. At this point, it’s too late to start a new career.

  12. Nerdette

    I’m almost 61and still working in tech. I stay in school, keep adding certs (resume botox) and I decided to go blonde with age instead of gray (it helps that I was blonde when young so it looks natural). I work on my enthusiasm and energy level too, constantly. (ubiquinol and NADH helps) and I stay active (though I’m no athlete). Embrace the 21st century and it might just hug you back. Of course, luck is a factor in this economy too.

  13. Mark Fling

    Its all about the networking and more networking. Carve out some time to volunteer doing the stuff your like (career related) to make more connections and demonstrate/sharpen those skills. Older workers have a variety of skill sets and sometimes come off a bit intimidating to interviewers if they manage to get an interview. I always had better talks with VPs and CEOs than department managers who look at you as more competition to take their job than how valuable you could be for company moving forward.

  14. Steve K

    Forget the dye job, the web has made it very difficult to obscure age. Just google your address and it will tell you the age of those living there. The only thing that saves most of us is that the recruiters are too lazy to do their research. It isn’t until we get a face to face or a diligent hirer that we get the cold shoulder.

    The PSR resume does work, I have been getting a lot interest on it, just haven’t been able to close the sale. Too expensive or too gray, not sure which is driving the game.

    I do know that the H1B crowd is making it harder. One outfit in NJ which consists of about 3 or 4 H1B’s themselves has a website that solicits H1B’s and shows their track record in bringing them into the country. The number was just under a 1000. Multiply that by the number of outfits in the NY metroplex and you have a good idea why we are having issues. The H1B visa was never meant for staffing agencies.

  15. A. Horse

    When you buy a HORSE, you must check its teeth in order to verify the age. It is exactly the same thing with old Tech Workers like myself. With the age of 53 and 30 experience I don’t feel old, I still have entusiasm and passion for my profession, I do have as much as energy as a 30 years old professional, I am up to date with my knowledge and experience, but the HRs don’t believe that I’m still a good HORSE to shoulders the projects and duties. By the way, I am great on sales. It doesn’t matter for them.

  16. Consultant

    I have been in IT consulting 23 years. I’ve seen these things the past couple years:
    1. Certain companies believe they can get more offshore by dropping the hourly rate then when stating Americans are not available and they need to bring in offshore.
    2. H1-Bs making dreadful errors, not having experience claimed or preferential treatment to other H1-Bs.
    3. Lack of public knowledge about the above practices. Business news agencies don’t discuss it.
    4. Fake interviews to gain skill. I’ve had a couple companies call me in and have other people in the company tell me they never had budget for a senior person in the role.

    Remember all this when it’s time to Vote. Immigration reform is another joke that takes away jobs. Vote out Republicans and Democrats until they fix system.

  17. Greg Hill

    The existence of articles such as this (and the things they say) show that there is a systemic problem that needs to be addressed. Asking older workers to compete with younger workers directly using rules of the game that favor the young doesn’t work any more than in athletics: When was the last time a 60 year old ran a sub-4 minute mile? I’m not saying that older workers shouldn’t be expected to be fruitful and productive, but (my opinion) they will perform best in job situations that take account of the realities of aging. Speaking for myself only, my goal is stability, doing something interesting, feeling appreciated, and not being forced into the fast lane. I’d gladly trade a big paycheck if I could have those things. But my experience in tech is that only aggressive ambitiousness makes it. There are a few older workers that can do that, but I know that I am not one of them. I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing in the young either. Some will find that out when they themselves experience aging.

  18. Thanks David for bringing up this topic. Recently I had a chat with a friend of mine who has been doing a lot of recruiting in the tech space. Nothing is confidential, just want to share some general observations here:

    1. The 20 something year old HR can indeed be the gatekeeper and block out many qualified and “experienced” candidates.
    2. PSR approach should help to get passed the HR or the hiring manager, but at the end, the candidate still needs to go through series of on-site technical programming and algorithmic exercises with a strict time limit. Knowing the subject matter is one thing, but being able to keep our brain sharp as we get older is equally important.
    3. Depending on if the hiring manager is open-minded or not, sometimes, very qualified and experienced candidates can be seen as a threat and got turn down for that very reason.

    Overall, as we get older, and if we don’t have enough for retirement yet, we have to work much harder to keep ourselves competitive. That’s just the brutal truth of life, particular in the tech space. Starting our own business takes out quite a bit of those age related job hunting obstacles, but that’s a totally separate topic on its own.

  19. Proud-of-50

    I read an article a couple years ago that talked all about being a “Free Agent”…it basically lent credibility to how I’d seen my career up to that point – many years, many jobs, many experiences, and none lasting too long!

    Being a Contractor ON PURPOSE and staying that way does have its challenges, of course, such as health insurance – that’s a biggie, but the freedom to go from contract to contract, each with a different experience can be rather uplifting.

    Yeah, I color my grays…..and yeah, I cover up my extra weight for the interviews. But there’s something about going into a 20-something recruiters office and stating that all you’re interested in is contract work – nothing permanent. Sort of makes you feel somehow more ‘hard to get’ or ‘worthy’, and that’s exactly what these young snotty recruiters DON’T expect in this job market! I think it takes them aback in a way…..and they seem to want me all the more!

    Contracting feels right to me….it may or may not feel right to you, but if you live in a larger city area and you’re willing to “lean in” to the obvious reality out there that too many jobs ARE contract jobs, then you’re simply ACCEPTING rather than fighting something you cannot control.

    • I’m with you. I’ve been contracting since 1992. Most of my friends still think I’m crazy, but I really prefer it to working as a captive employee. There are a lot of recruiters who seem amazed when I tell them I don’t want to go permanent. Many seem to view contracting as only a stepping-stone to a perm job when many of us simply prefer to contract.

      Getting health insurance isn’t so hard. I maintain a business – just a sole proprietorship – for the occasional freelance 1099 gig and get a small group plan through that. You can be a “small group of 1”, at least here in Mass. Also, most staffing firms offer some sort of health insurance these days. I prefer to have my own policy, though, because of some ongoing, chronic health concerns.

      For me, the best part of contracting is having control of my hours and career path. I don’t have to work unpaid overtime and I can control the direction of my career. It’s very freeing to not have to depend on an employer for these things.

      Age is less of an issue with contracting, since they’re paying for experience and are not having to cough up for health benefits (which are more costly for older folks). There’s also no issue of an older person retiring and making the money invested in them go to waste, which is another excuse I’ve heard against hiring older workers in perm jobs.

      Working on contract also forces you to keep up your interviewing and technical skills. When you have to interview every 6-12 months, you get more skilled at it. Contracting also allows you to experience a lot of different work environments and technologies and gives you the opportunity to learn from a wide variety of people. I haven’t yet had a contract where I haven’t learned something new and useful.

      Besides, no job is “permanent” any more, anyway.

      • best thing aboit contracting. No career landminds. If i stand my ground or push my recommendations I dont have to worry about some moron getting even years or months down the road. And like you said. No such thing as a perm job.

      • Unca Alby

        I’m starting to like this idea more and more.

        The biggest impediment right now is cost. To be a corporation in California is no less than $800/year, and with taxes could be much more (we’re not too business-friendly here on the Left Coast). But it might be worth it in the long run.

  20. Most IT professionals make the mistake of thinking that their hard technical skills are going to be the main thing that recruiters and hiring managers are looking for. While mastery of a specific language, platform, or applications is certainly important, it usually doesn’t end up being the primary differentiator amongst candidates. What makes a candidate stand out to those making the hiring decisions is their ability to add value to a project team, consistently come up with solutions that can save time and/or money, and make a positive contribution to the company culture, regardless of age.

    • Mauricio Leventer

      Dear IT Headhunter, I agree 100% with you.
      At 20’s or 50’s the professional must add value to the team, bring solutions, and save time and money. But HRs and companies in general do not see future in old people. You know why?
      The truth is that “certain corporate environments can be very harmful to your health”. If you hire a senior professional and put him in the wild, chances are that he get a heart attack and die.
      This happened with a friend of mine. He didn’t survive to a unrealistic project schedule. He left children and spouse.

      • People in general get panicked when they lose their job especially if they have a family. Hence, those people should be realistic that 50 or older is not the same as 20 or even 30. Also, supervisors and managers are to blame in some respects abusing elderly people with work load; the way they think, erroneously, is that if the person has good to excellent knowledge and experience then they should do more work as compared to younger inexperienced workers. Teamwork does not mean being abusive but instead work load should be the same for all workers in a team. Overworking a worker is not only inhumane but abusive and simply stupid. One thing is to help inexperience workers and another is to be abusive and stupid.

  21. I just turned 41. All of a sudden I noticed I have white (not gray) streaks on the side of my head and I had one attack of gout last month. I’ve been a manager the last 6 years and haven’t been able to get to the next level because of reorganizations. So, its like I get a new job every 2 years and have to rebuild my credibility, even though I’m still in the same company. I haven’t wrote a single SQL Statement or line of code in 6 years! Am I going to fall into ‘this too old to hire’ category soon? I was thinking of quitting and getting a similar job elsewhere, or to pick up some new tech skills, such as big data, salesforce crm, or etl tools like informatica or datastage and start consulting and taking in the big bucks before I get discriminated against. All of this is going to be hard. What do you guys think?

    • You need Creds to contract and make the bucks. You also need the skills. Best advice.. Get some new skills and dont ever stop getting new skills. new languages and new tools plus experience are

    • Unca Alby

      Look for management positions, and consider getting a Program Manager certificate. That plus experience ought to really help. You say you’re 41? DO IT NOW. The longer you wait, the harder it’ll be.

  22. The only issue I have with older workers is that they complain a lot about everything and reminisce about their glory days too much. Their complaints are valid, rubs off in a bad way on younger guys. My advice to older workers (I’ll be heading there soon) is to focus on the present. When you do that, people forget your older.

  23. It is a sad fact that as long as there are far more qualified candidates than quality jobs available, companies will use all sorts of irrelevant factors to weed out ‘undesirables’. Speaking from personal experience, there are things that can be done to mitigate against bias against not-young applicants.

    Start with the resume. They say that nobody looks at a resume for more than 30 seconds, and decide after the first six seconds whether to give the other 24. So make sure that you have a positioning statement at the very top, and use words like ‘experienced’ instead of ‘over 20 years of experience’.

    Next, have a keyword section. This can be titled ‘Skills’ or something like that. There is a good chance that your resume will be picked out by an automated system, and keywords near the top have the most weight. Make sure that you don’t have anything that would reveal your age here. If you were once a Cobol programmer but are looking for aJjava job, don’t list ‘Cobol’ or ‘VSAM’ in your keywords.

    If you had been with your last employer for a long time, break it up into several sub jobs. For the company, just say XYZ Corp, City, St., with no dates. Then list your positions within the company, ideally with different job titles (i.e. Sr. Developer, Systems Engineer, Pgmr/Analyst), and give the start and end dates for each one. These should spill over to the 2nd page. Within the 30 seconds, nobody will be able to add everything up.

    For any employer more than 10-12 years ago, just have a list of Previous Employers’, with no other information.

    For education, just mention the school, location, and degree, without the graduation date. leave out ancient certifications.

    Once you get to the interview, you should try to figure out what type of ‘soft’ skills they are short on. This can be stuff like project management, processes, documentation, etc. The kind of things nobody has time for any more, and younger staff may not have even heard of. Without criticizing them, show how you can add value to the position beyond your technical skills.

    The last point got me my current position, and I’m the oldest one in my unit by almost 20 years.

    • You got to get some retraining. Don’t pigeon hole yourself as an expert or specialist no matter what you do – or the world leaves you behind. Thats not age, thats obsolesence. Heck there was a day when I was a very accomplished Novell Engineer. I saw the writing on the wall and forced myself to learn NT4. Now I’m a SQL Server consultant. Keep changing your hats. That will always make you the preference in hiring.

  24. Steve K.

    The problem with contracting is that you are one person, competing with other people and the deck is stacked against you by the corporation. Since the 70’s the corporations have been systemically dividing workers and making it impossible for them to work in a collective scenario. The Right to Work laws have eviscerated the unions.

    All of us have been convinced that unions and guilds are bad things. We should all be Bob Cratchit and take our abuse. The middle class was built by the unions and as the unions disappear, so is the middle class.

    Until we learn to collectively deal with the corporations, we will continue to see ourselves marginalized and thrown away. Contracting is just a way of subsisting until we run out of options. A few will prosper, but the bulk of us will just hang in there. This thread and the many like it, just keep proving the point.

  25. Mauricio Leventer

    There are huge problems to solve in the IT Industry, as follows:
    a)Software engineering did not evolve as hardware engineering did — so software development takes time (money);
    b)Globalization have caused increase of competition on wages — some time ago India was blamed, now the H1Bs are blamed;
    c)Increasing complexity of systems and lack of common understanding of the business needs by IT workers still a problem — software still have many bugs;
    d)Companies wants to pay less for IT at the same time they rely on IT to operate;
    e)People over 50 like me are essential and disposable at the same time — companies need us, but they don’t want us around.

    • Who told you that hardware engineering does not take time and money? If you study the history of engineering, you will find out that it dates back before the Roman empire…it evolved just as another sciences have evolved. Then, the computer came about, thanks to engineers and not programmers, and with it programming but the funny thing is that engineers were the ones doing the programming as well as the hardware design. The computer has been evolving also and will continue to do so. As far as software is concerned, one person can program and all he/she needs is a computer; however, the engineer needs a lab with lots of expensive equipment to do the development and testing. Take for instance the invention of the transistor; it took 3 Ph. Ds working for the Bell Labs to accomplish it and with it lots of money and time. All a programmer needs is an idea and a computer to do the programming, development and testing.

      As far as job seeking now days, a country must look after her citizens first and companies (The industry in general) should do the same but what they want is profits, period, at the cost of economic disaster but at the end the industry will also suffer because of the lack of professionals in the technical fields and this I have seen it taking place.

      For more than 10 years I have been writing regarding the problems we are having now such as massive unemployment and in spite of that, companies continue to ship in H1-B visa holders placing foreigners in first place and nationals in second or third. The migration of big companies to other countries has been happening for the last 40 years also and will continue to do so. For instance: HP laid off 30,000 people here in the USA last year and non in India and a few days ago I read an article that HP is laying off 5,000 people here in the USA. Less work…less jobs.

      If your over 50, forget about working in your field, programming I guess, and look for something else in the area of services and probably you might get lucky.

  26. I was forced by career ending injury at the age of 46 from unon cetified carpenter to construction managment, I had 33 credits CM from montgomery college(rehabilatation). I am now 63 with white hair still competeing with the new age supers. I have upgraded computer wise but there is still AGE descrimation in my business with the high college requirements BA and BS to be a construction super to filter most men my age. My years of experience don’t seem to carry as much weight as that sheep skin.

  27. Those of us who are from the US have one advantage over others – communications. But all my guys still focus on hard core tech skills. I keep telling them not to compete for the grunt work with offshore, because you can’t win. I’m trying to convert them all to System Analysts – reading the requirements, analyzing the impact to the current systems, writing functional specs and send to offshore. Then do some testing of the code and pass it on to QA. Regardless of age, none of my guys understand this is the future and continue to want to code only. I use the analogy of the lawn mower man. You don’t want to be the lown mower man, you want to be the man who tells which yard to mow, how to mow, and the one who sets the schedule, and collects the pay.

    • Max, you’re right on! Analysts follow in the category of services which I advised to one of the guys here whom is over 50. Being a programmer is easy to follow into the Analyst job; however, a decent background is needed in the OS s and specially UNIX. I did work with analyst people and the job is not to demanding. However, companies still look at age as a discriminant factor. Also, get some know how in databases specially Oracle and SQL.

      As of myself I am retired but I try to advice people which are still in the working force. In this day and age, the individual must have at least 5 different hats in order to survive and programming along won’t cut the mustard; still, migration of jobs to Asia will continue more heavily than ever.

  28. Back in the 80’s EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) called me and asked me if I had filed an employment application between such and such dates. I said yes that I had. EEOC said they were suing the company for age discrimination and asked me if I wanted to be part of the class action suit. They said it would cost me nothing to be part of the class action. The company never admitted to age discrimination but they paid a huge fine to the EEOC and the EEOC distributed money to everyone that was part of the class action suite.

    I went to a job interview a couple of months ago. Before the interview started the guy from personal asked me for my Social Security Number, Date of Birth, Martial Status, and number of kids I had.

    Do you really want to work for an employer that asks illegal questions before an interview?

    Today age discrimination is even a bigger obstacle than it was in the last decade because of web sites like the White Pages that publish on line your name, addresses, age, marital status, number of divorces, number of kids, and a lot of other personal information that will scare the heck out of you.

    Have you ever tried to get your personal information removed from a web site? Good luck. They say all that personal information about you they publish on the web for everyone to see is public information and legal.

    Is it accurate information about you? Some of it is.

    Just like the credit reporting companies that have errors about your credit report.

    Have you ever tried to correct your credit report? Good luck.

    I would get at least one phone call a week from employers a week when I was looking for work. I would always hear from employers “you have a strong resume, education and successful related work experience.” But it always came down to one question during the interview. “How much money do you need?” Salary requirement stopped them in their tracks.

    I had a U.S. government high lever security clearance with high level information access and several years of program and project management experience. Not that many people have that clearance level but I still couldn’t get a job that required the same level of clearance I had.

    My resume is exactly the kind of resume that Mr. Jackson mentions.

    I used to belong to Linkedin and participated but I kept getting these anonymous views of my profile. Who was viewing my profile? Was it my previous employer or future employer? Why are they hiding?

    My advice is to stay away from these social media networks.

    If you’re a college graduate network with your university alumni network web site or a professional network that requires a professional license.

  29. I look more like Jay Leno than Jimmy Fallon, so when I interview at 50, HR looks at me like a medical-cost ticking time bomb. Google “medical cost vs age”–the exponential rise occurs around 50. It isn’t just the paid sick time we use, many companies self-insure their medical costs so they pay for the whole heart attack plus a percentage for the insurance card and handling the bills. The truth is, my 30-year-old psyche is disgusted by the reality of my 50-year-old body, so it doesn’t surprise me that others would feel the same way and want to avoid it. (It’s time for me to put some of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s “Eat to Live” practices into effect.)

    As for tips–

    (1) yes, tighten up the resume.

    (2) This is a sales job. My neighbor sells for a living and he stops me and says “Look, nobody really cares what you did. If you’re at the interview, they must think you can solve some new problem. Look forward, not back.”

    (3) Can’t afford a master’s degree? & & Khan Academy

    (4) Want to learn a new technical skill? Volunteer. Buy a Synology NAS box and play with all the web services. Download open source software or trial software–whatever suits your fancy and give it a go! Then when you get a contract job, you might turn it into something more.

    (5) Use LinkedIn. Find old colleagues and endorse their skills.

    (6) Researchers got about an 11% call-back rate to fake on-line applications in a study I learned about on Dice. This was after they added up to two certifications or skills to meet the minimum posting requirements. So don’t get discouraged when you send ten resumes to jobs that are perfect for you and don’t hear anything. It’s not age discrimination. It’s just a low-return activity. Unfortunately, we have to talk to other people to get a new job. I know it stinks, but I’m pretty sure that’s how the program works.

    (7) Read “Company Confidential”. HR today is just one quick process of selection and elimination, described in gory detail by an HR professional.

    (8) No shame in contracting. Blame Obamacare, the weak economy, the sniveling incompetents that snuck into IT during Y2K as PMs or BAs and used their superior social skills and lack of integrity to reach middle management and are afraid you will expose their ignorance–tell yourself anything that keeps up your spirits. 🙂 Staffing firms are booming and full-time hiring is flat. Take a short-term contract and treat it like a 3-month interview.

    (9) If you’re new to contracting as I am, consider keeping your mouth shut. I’ve blown more than one contracting interview by explaining how things should be done before I got the job. I think contracting is about being manageable and adequately competent. At 50, you’re probably used to being exceptionally competent and a bit of a challenge to manage. You cared about your company and wanted it to prosper. They loved you back–until they dumped you. That relationship is not coming back. Your client has too much to do–they need to conserve their precious management time, effort and attention. Your great ideas require them to allocate those constrained resources on something new and entails risk. So unless something is exceptionally stupid or lives are at stake, consider keeping your mouth shut. Find out why stupid is tolerated. Then move on or take the full-time offer and fix it.

    (10) Out of work? Follow a routine. It wasn’t until I got up every morning, took my SQL Server tome to the McDonald’s at 8 AM each day, ordered the oatmeal and an egg white and sat there reading for two hours while the mayor held court and retirees came and went that whatever I have that kicks butt technically turned its surly attention to the problem of seizing a job from this miserable economy. It’s just a contract, but I’m learning new things. Good luck!

  30. Today age discrimination is even a bigger obstacle for seasoned experienced and educated workers looking for work than it was in the last three decades because of people search websites that publish on their websites your name, addresses, age, marital status, number of divorces, number of kids, and a lot of other personal and private information that will scare the heck out of you.

    Google yourself and find out what is out there about you before you start your job search or after you start your job search. The information about you for all to view on the internet may be preventing you from getting a job

    My recommendation is to stay away from all social networking websites because they do not moderate or verify information. Most social networking websites let people view your profile anonymously. How does this benefit you looking for a job?

    Do not post your resume on job search websites unless you make your resume private. I found my resume posted on a people search website that I did not give them permission to republish that came from a job search website I had posted my resume on.

    If you’re a college graduate or technical graduate network with your university alumni network or a professional network that requires a professional license or certification. They verify that you are an alumnus or hold the professional license or certification required.

  31. The Sage

    I am 62 this year and just left a job last Aug after 20 months of trying to fit in. Some of the reasons were self inflicted but to a larger extent the challenges of fitting in with a younger group can be very difficult. The first thing you realize, your peers don’t really care to hear you career stories regarding ways to improve the work environment. They may be respectful (hopefully) when you are talking but you see it in their eyes…. boring. Their way is the fine and they are not interested since its not broke (or so they think)…So the job becomes just a job, daily grind with paycheck and benefits. In the end, I decided to end it and left. I have never walked away from a job in my life till then but it seemed the right thing to do — move on and i did. Its been 5 months now on UE and only a few bites. I am now considering contracting and temp work (if I can get it) to bridge me till retirement (4-5 more years) since I still have one kid in college and another coming up behind him. To the larger picture now that I have been unemployed twice in the last 4 years (fully employed 34 years before that) here are some observations;

    Employment is really a supply and demand situation. Since the crash in 2008, companies scaled back considerably since business tanked so badly. Given the job numbers since then, its been a slow climb out of the hole. With this scarcity of jobs, age factors negatively since there are so many candidates that are younger and the perception they have more up to date skills. Also new job seekers continue to come out of the college/universities while this lull is occurring which swells the available candidates even more. In this kind of situation, experience becomes less valued since there is so many candidates to choose from. The analogy that I use its like looking for a used car. When you are out looking for one, you tend to look at the newer cars even though some of the older cars might a better buy but the perception is its going to cost more to maintain it (benefits), less reliable (we’re slower or do we tend to think about the big picture more), and it doesn’t have all of the latest gizmos (certifications seem to prevail over work experience). None of these are that true but perception is a hard thing to counter. Its cultural and I did it too when I was younger. I guess its my turn to experience this now. My dad went through something similar and ended up calling it quits at 64 even though he wanted to continue to work. I will mush my way through this but my advice to my kids, plan your life around retiring earlier then 60. Get your kids raised and through college before that. Social Security may not be there so make sure you take responsibility for you own financial future and start investing now. If I had done that, my situation would probably be different.

    • At this stage of the game, it is to late for advice as you called it quits but there is always comments for people to learn from mistakes others do. I have always believed to mind my own business not only at work but as a rule everywhere and not to be too social as it may back fire on you. Also, never be a volunteer for anything and mind your own business especially at work and keep the advice to yourself unless asked for an opinion. It has been my observation, that there are no friends in fact and those whom you believe are your friends sooner or later will stab you on the back…this I know.

      I believe that just because you felt out of place among younger co-workers was not a good reason to quit your job, especially at 62 but instead you should have stick to your job and keep up with new technology researching on your own and keep it a secret for later on if you need it – knowledge is the best weapon against discrimination of any kind and this I also know.

      I don’t know what type of job you did or what is your background but whatever it is jobs now are scarce for everybody. As an example of how our economy is doping, doctors and nurses are being laid off now, as I type this message, and there are more people on welfare than working full time (I have the statistics to prove it) – who could imagine that health care people would be laid off!

      What you say about supply and demand is correct but the problem with that theory is that there are other variables in the equation such as companies off-shoring jobs and bring in people from other countries instead of hiring people here looking for a job – hence the demand might be there but companies rather employ foreigners and off-shore available jobs. We have now a deficit of brains and it will get worst; so, prepare for the outcome.

    • Orthoducks

      All of that is consistent with my experience except the part about certifications. I’ve done certifications, and they made no difference at all.

      When employers choose between two younger and presumably qualified candidates, they may give preference to the one with the best certifications. When they choose between an older candidate and another younger candidate (or no other candidate at all), having a certification will not get the older candidate in the door.

  32. For those who believe there is no job discrimination in this country, for whatever reason, here is a darn good example which proves otherwise.

    Oracle Sued Over Discriminatory Practices
    by Susan Hall

    A former Oracle sales manager is suing the company, alleging he was fired for complaining about orders to pay an Indian worker less than a U.S. employee in the same position.

    You can read the full article at

  33. Thank you everyone who has replied here about sex and age bias in tech. I have experienced it since 1993, turning 40 yrs old and being told by my female manager, that since I had no chance of becoming an executive by age 40, that I was NOT PROMOTABLE. Even thought I had built an incredible project team for the first OS/2 speech recognition products – now known as WATSON and excellent support by many executives. I should have sued then but I didn’t want to lose my focus on doing a great job.

  34. Given the date that this article came out, I suspect the author hadn’t yet been aware of the dreaded ATS that forces candidates into writing a resume using a chronological format. You can write an outstanding resume in any format you like, wow the hiring manager that you worked like a dog to discover through your internal contacts, and still be shot down when the manager tells you that you’re the kind of employee he’s looking for but you have to go through the ATS for him to be able to consider you for an in-person interview. So you do and never hear from the company again.

  35. The more you know may be hurting you in the long run. I recently got the pink only after having just been promoted and moved on the companies most visible project. Low and behold the survivors all had children and were at the bottom end of the IQ test. My director was clueless when it came to making IT decisions and was clearly intimidated by serious thinkers.

  36. I know it can be hard. I am going through the same thing. BUT…I am glad I have 30+ years of experiences as a software and firmware engineer in a wide variety of areas. So, instead of being nitpicked and working more for someone, I started to create my own products. Takes a lot of time and a lot of encouraging but I keep going at it.

    Getting an engineering job nowadays has to do with a LOT of luck. If you met a jerky interviewer or someone who does NOT know how to interview, it’s likely you’re dead in the water.

    Then even you have passed the interview, say, after the 3rd round (the final round), you would be subjected to opinions of what the interviewers, a.k.a., team (both managers and engineers) think of you, and this is where they are going to nitpick you in comparing to other finalists.

    Of course, cheap is much better than expensive! Companies will do anything to save costs!