Are Tech Firms Targeting Only Younger Workers?

At the end of 2017, ProPublica and The New York Times published a report suggesting that Amazon, Verizon, Facebook, and other big firms aim their Facebook recruitment ads exclusively at younger workers.

Nor is the practice reportedly restricted to Facebook ads. “ProPublica bought job ads on Google and LinkedIn that excluded audiences older than 40—and the ads were instantly approved,” the organization wrote. “Google said it does not prevent advertisers from displaying ads based on the user’s age.” LinkedIn claims to have altered its system in the wake of the report.

Facebook gives advertisers the ability to micro-target potential audiences; for example, you could ensure an ad is only seen by Facebook users between the ages of 25 and 36. If age-based targeting is really endemic among employers, then older job hunters could spend all day on Facebook and never see an employment-related ad.

(In a statement to ProPublica, Facebook defended its system, stating: “Used responsibly, age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice and for good reason: it helps employers recruit and people of all ages find work.”)

Although federal civil rights laws protect workers over 40, fears of ageism are endemic within the tech industry. In October 2017, a survey by Indeed found that 43 percent of tech workers were worried about losing their jobs due to their age. Some 18 percent said the worry was constant, while 36 percent said colleagues don’t take them seriously because of their age. (And other surveys have produced similar results.)

Those concerns over ageism are transforming into court cases. On December 20, the Communication Workers of America (CWA) filed a lawsuit against T-Mobile, Amazon, and Cox Communications over age discrimination, citing the age-targeted ads on Facebook as a key factor. “Plaintiffs seek an injunction to stop America’s leading companies from engaging in unlawful age discrimination in employment,” the filing began, “as well as other forms of relief for older workers who have been denied job opportunities due to the unlawful and harmful practices described in this Complaint.”

Whether or not such lawsuits succeed, it’s clear that ageism will remain a point of hot debate into 2018. Will heightened publicity over this ad-targeting practice actually stop it?

55 Responses to “Are Tech Firms Targeting Only Younger Workers?”

  1. Anonymous Fool

    It’s no secret that IT departments discriminate based on age. There’s an old saying on tech-oriented message boards: “If you’re in IT and haven’t been promoted to management by age 50, your career is over.”

    When I was laid off, one of the conditions for receiving severance pay was that I agree not to file an age discrimination complaint. The documents provided by the company inexplicably harped on this point. When someone preemptively denies something they haven’t been accused of, it’s a sign of a guilty conscience.

    After being unemployed for 4 months and literally applying for every local job that I’m qualified for and receiving no calls, I read an article written by a recruiter that said indicating 20 years of experience at anything on your resume tells employers you’re over the hill or overqualified. It was immediately clear to me that my resume and cover letters were going straight into the round file.

    • “When someone preemptively denies something they haven’t been accused of, it’s a sign of a guilty conscience.”

      Or it could just be the sign of an over-litigious legal system.

    • Eliza Antkow

      I agree age 50 is a threshold. However, do we need more high tech from the oversees?
      Do we need to provide free tuition and scholarship from oversees students?
      Do we need hire the oversees interns?
      This is not a bias, this is not a discrimination, the older generation took any job to survive and provide for the household.
      Who is discriminating against the age, gender, and other facts?

      • Gary Nowakowski

        I believe it’s the millennial age group that coined the term ageism. Being over 50 and not worth employing with a number of excuses why not to hire that group. Many of the excuses being based on myth. It’s a fact that the working population is getting older. The millennial age group lives in fear of the baby boomers. Hard work and mutual self respect have gone out the window with other core values. It is a force that will continue to be an issue in 2018.

    • G.I. Joe

      I’m sorry to hear about the way the tech industry is heading. If you are still looking for a job I would recommend looking in the Government for a GS job. There they are always looking for experienced technicians, and start them on a much higher pay scale than the younger inexperienced people. The link to search for jobs is https://www.usajobs.gov/
      Hopefully you will find what you are looking for.

      • Michael Blake

        I actually got a nice offer back in October, but was not able to secure a clearance. I actually held a Secret ckearance in the 1980s and was even a CMS Custodian. Still trying…..

      • Jennifer Lacy

        I’d love to look in the government. I live just minutes from WPAFB. However, every job that I am qualified for or appeals to me requires an existing Secret Clearance. Even then, SAIC was advertising for techs for a huge pc refresh project for months and months and months. No clearance needed. I applied every month and never heard a word. It’s very discouraging. And yes, I am over 50 and will probably never work in management. Right now my goal is to make more than the minimum hourly wage in some states.

        • Michael Blake

          I feel your pain there and I even weote the DoL several times. That hiring practice ought to be illegal…you cannot obtain a clearance — contractors must pay for them, so…you and I are effectively prohibited from even applying.

          Also, WPAFB would be a great place to work. Hang in there, I think it might be getting better soon.

  2. “Whether or not such lawsuits succeed, it’s clear that ageism will remain a point of hot debate into 2018. Will heightened publicity over this ad-targeting practice actually stop it?”

    Nope.

  3. I’m not sure why this comment was summarily deleted. I don’t believe I’ve said anything offensive in it.

    It’s no secret that IT departments discriminate based on age. There’s an old saying on tech-oriented message boards: “If you’re in IT and haven’t been promoted to management by age 50, your career is over.”

    When I was laid off, one of the conditions for receiving severance pay was that I agree not to file an age discrimination complaint. The documents provided by the company inexplicably harped on this point. When someone preemptively denies something they haven’t been accused of, it’s a sign of a guilty conscience.

    After being unemployed for 4 months and literally applying for every local job that I’m qualified for and receiving no calls, I read an article written by a recruiter that said indicating 20 years of experience at anything on your resume tells employers you’re over the hill or overqualified. It was immediately clear to me that my resume and cover letters were going straight into the round file.

  4. Kent Christensen

    I have felt AGE Related discrimination…! Especially in the Technology field that I work within. I was pursuing/targeting jobs in 6 figures, now the only thing I can get to respond to my talents are in the mid range 5 figures. I think that Facebook is the worst offender… However, they are not the only ones Toyota, Raytheon, and Texas Instruments are companies that are letting the brain trust of older employees go as well… Look for me, at Walmart I’ll be the greater at the door…!

    • All true, ageism in the tech industry is rampant. However, the laws of supply demand are still in force.

      I was hired at age 70 as a Field Service Representative for an overseas (Middle East) position because of my satellite communications experience and previous experience working in the middle east. (The area was also a conflict zone which discouraged most of the applicants).

      I am still working from my home at age 77 as a remote contract technical writer.

    • Fred Doe

      First you have to learn how to spell greeter but doesn’t matter, the greeters have been replaced by security guards in most Tardmart stores and they are currently testing robots that will replace the security guards. Robots are currently being tested as security guards, no kidding. Remains to be seen if they will carry protection as to date thieves simply turn the robots over or vandalize them, covering up the video cameras which pretty much renders them useless, just like the greeters and unarmed security guards. Amazon will soon render Tardmart useless as headless delivery trucks bring goods to your door but they will get ripped off. Start studying for riding shotgun on headless vehicles. :<)

  5. Bob Pulaczewski

    Agreed. I see it happening. It happened to me twice. Once at Ford. 50 year old white male, made to much money. Good bye. Last time at Progressive Insurance. Old technology is no longer supported. Change for the sake of change. Look out Flo, your getting to old. Lots of contracting work though.

  6. What really gets me angry is the seeming lack of concern by the EEOC about the ageism problem and the total lack of teeth in the laws that are supposed to protect workers from it. It’s all well and good to tell workers that the government has your back and then set the bar so high for proving age discrimination that cases cannot realistically even be initiated against offending companies.

    Then another branch of government publicly discusses the potential for increasing the retirement age to 70.

    • Michael Blake

      It is a reality…I have been personally affected by it for years, now. Currently employed, but feeling a push out the door. Still providing high quality code, but that is not helping at all.

    • Garry Plesha

      Agreed , the tech industry is bad about this, I was let go at 60 and I fought for every interview I could get. I would write to them, even talk over the phone and things were great; then when I went in for the interview they saw how old I was and it didn’t matter how good I was, or what I knew, age was the determining factor, and I could not get a job anywhere. When unemployment ran out, I still wasn’t working, but I had a claim in for my disabilities, and after 14 months my claim was finally approved, that was my salvation. Tech industries do not, and will not hire you if your over 50, I was just lucky I lasted as long as I did. And anyone over 50 will tell you the same, you better hang on to what you have, and do whatever you can to keep your job, because you won’t get another one.

  7. Michael Suibielski

    Fully agree with everyone. Was let go March 2016 as PCB Designer/Librarian. Have years of experience with several electronic and mechanical CAD systems. With over 200 resumes sent and only one face to face I believe there is massive age discrimination. My librarian job is being done by someone in India. There salary is probably 1/3 of mine. We need to shut that door Mr. Trump then maybe they will hopefully start looking in the US.

  8. You want to know where its most prevalent on age discrimination is states with right work laws. They use this law against the employee for the benefit of the employer. AZ is one the worst affenders. The labor laws here are so bad for the protection for employees from age discrimination that we have over 350 companies from other states put their call centers here because they can pay people less here at the bottom of the scale and higher management employed in the the corporate office state location. I have applied to over 200 positions over the last seven months in state of AZ,and 90% of these companies will not respond to me or call me back. I have background in the sales and marketing side of IT. You would think that an IT company would want more business from individual that has “hunter” mentality with over 15 years of experience. I’m single Father of two 11 year twin girls and I’m over 50. During the recession 2009, I lost my home, forced into an apartment, forced into divorce I didn’t want, been on food stamps, unemployment, LOST unemployment during an extended period of time, are paying my bills with my ROTH IRA, take my kids to school, need the fulltime
    job with benefits, degreed background and certs. Know all IT world well from cyber to CRMs and yet cant get hired….Iknow its age discrimination. What am I suppose to do?…throw my kids away…sorry kids no healthcare if take some partime job with no benefits, gee I guess after all my retirement is gone and used up should I just go and commit suicide so don’t have live with the pain and agony of homeless on the streets because no one with hire me

    • Steve, I too am older and live in AZ. You are not alone. It’s a statistical fact that unemployment can lead to divorce. I recommend an unemployment support group. Several Valley churches have unemployment support groups, notably Catholic, and you don’t have to be Catholic to join. Maricopa Workforce Development Center, operated by the County of Maricopa, has a support group. Suicide is not the answer. Have you thought of changing careers? Teaching those younger workers? Options include becoming a private Math and Science tutor or working for a tutoring agency, substitute teaching (In this state, you only need a Bachelors in any subject to obtain a substitute teaching certificate), teaching at a community college, working for Pearson Education (Google them, they hire older workers making the AARP list), obtaining your regular high school teaching license (in this state, a Bachelor’s, 1 semester of student teaching, and a year at Rio Salado with experience in your teaching field will suffice). Another option, moving to another state, and visiting your children as often as you can, and flying them out to visit you. Good Luck! In my prayers!

    • Fred Doe

      A union could help older workers but it provides barriers to entry for younger workers which can be viewed as not fair to them. Right to work simply provides for an open market. Doesn’t bar workers from organizing if they wish.

  9. I also had to sign “I agree not to file an age discrimination complaint”. I dont think I was layed off for age, I think it was a side effect. When you received 1%, 2%, 3% every year and there is no salary cap, at some point it is more effective to remove that one source than to to remove two. Then you are stuck with having to accept a significantly lower amount. IF you can find an offer! The end result is the same.

  10. Frank S Corlett

    I’m almost old enough to retire, but the biggest factors influencing my job choices and availability of positions are the same as always;
    -What skills do I have?
    -How willing/able am I to learn new things?
    -Am I a team player?
    I agree with the author that the Facebooks of the world, and other companies trying to appeal to young audiences want to hire young employees. But there are lots of other organizations, not on the cutting edge, which need good employees with up to date skills and a willingness to be a team player. Sometimes that means supporting a legacy system, sometimes that means working for support instead of being part of new/cool projects.
    BTW-I know PeopleSoft/Oracle is old stuff, but I took a job 8 years ago and learned enough that I’m valued as an employee, and have been frequently solicited for contract positions. If a ‘has-been’ like me can do it, so can you.

  11. Robert F

    I currently work in the Bay Area. I’m 42 yr software Engineer. I have interviewed at Facebook, LinkedIn and many others. I did well in the final rounds of interviews. I have good relevant experience. I have an outgoing, likeable personality. I did not get an offer.

    After being on campus, I can say that majority of engineers at both these companies are in their 20s. Almost everyone that interviewed me was younger than me.

    Sadly, Ageism is very real in the Bay Area. Startups seem to want more experienced workers. Like many, I love what I do. I love to code and build things. I do worry my age will prevent me from getting top offers.

  12. I’ve had several excellent phone interviews where the interviewer indicated interest in bringing me in for a face to face meeting. Those meetings never materialized even when I followed up. The follow up was a resounding silence. Why? Because I’m almost 60 and the general attitude in America has been that anyone over the age of about 35 is too old, too experienced and therefore too costly. I wonder if this country understands the disservice it does to its citizens when it allows this sort of discrimination by businesses and refuses to allow us to retire earlier with full SSI benefits. I wonder as well if employers understand that not investing in their employees, firing or refusing to hire experienced people, and using temps way past a few months alienates employees and makes for a bad attitude.

    Of course if enough of us wind up homeless, poverty stricken, etc., perhaps the next generation will be treated better. Or not because they haven’t yet experienced what those of us born in the 50s and 60s are going through.

    • HiTechInSiliconValley

      Exactly my experience. Phone interview with manager ends with “You seem to have exactly what we need, we’ll call you back tomorrow to set the date.” call back the next day then asks:
      ” By the way, do you have a chronological resume [with dates of previous employment]. And when exactly did you get your Ph.D.?”
      And that’s the last you hear of it (or you hear from recruiter or HR: It was decided that you are not a good fit.) In one case, I know the person who got hired; he’s good, but half my age. From him I heard that his first project was closer related to my experience than his. But company probably got away with paying him less.–
      In a previous lay-off, the paper to sign to obtain separation benefits also said that I’d have to instantly repay the benefits if I ever participate in a law suit against the company, even as a witness.
      (Probably difficult to enforce, if subpoenaed, but still…) Laws against age discrimination, like other labor law, seems to be there just for show, not to help people (and is even less likely to be enforced with a Republican administration and Republican-appointed judges).

  13. Greg Thompson

    Hey there, my fellow gray beards. As one 51 year old gray beard software developer to another, please allow me to share with you my thoughts.

    First off, why would you want to be a full-time salaried employee at one of these big tech firms, anyhow? Sure, the money can be good, but you have to deal with so much political BS in order to bring home the bacon. In addition, you’re shackled to whatever crummy desk, in whatever shared open space, in whatever expensive, crowded city, they stuff you in. Ok yes, there is also health benefits, but there you have options, also. At our age, with our level of maturity and experience, we should have much better options, and we do!

    Second, being totally financially reliant on a single company and paycheck is not where you want to be, in this day and age. You need to be diversifying your income streams. Just like your investment advisor keeps telling you, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

    Here is my 2 bits of advice. Try to achieve some sort of financial independence. I did it by cashing out of my Seattle condo and moving to central Oregon, where the cost of living is a fraction of what it is in Seattle. Next, with whatever money you have available, start investing in yourself, perhaps in property, the market, angel fund a startup, etc. Diversify, diversify.

    The most important one is to invest in yourself. Use whatever free time you have to learn new technologies and skills. I’ve been up to me ears in machine learning, iOS swift programming, drone software, I’m even learning graphical design. Next, forget the full-time salaried positions. Most of them suck, anyhow. Go after the hourly contracts. If you’re willing to be flexible on your hourly rate, chances are you’ll be able to work remote. Working remote, combined with my cheap cost of living, has been quite lucrative for me. Now, I have even more money to invest in other projects.

    Ok then. I’ve rambled on long enough. The world is your bull. Grab it by the horns! And, to hell with Zuckerberg and his frat house!

    • Cindy K.

      Hi Greg! You indicated that you invested on yourself by learning new technologies. I’m assuming that when you do get work, you work as a consultant. Are you getting a lot of offers?

      The reason why I’m asking this is that even though you’re learning something new, it’s still in IT.

      • Greg Thompson

        Hi Cindy. Yes, I’m doing pretty good for offers. With that being said, you really do have to sell yourself. Most of my offers come about by going to dev user group meetings ( check out Meetup.com ), and just chatting with people. Many companies really need good developers, but you have to get out there and chat with them. Also, if you have your own projects that you can show them, as a demonstration of your skills, that really helps. I work in the iOS mobile app space, so I’ve got a handful of mobile apps that I show them. I don’t even do the stupid standard white board questions anymore. I bring my laptop, iPhone, and drone, and demo to them my latest drone control iOS app. I then walk them through my design and code.

        Think of yourself as a company, and your skills as a sellable product. Get out there and market your product.

        One more thing, companies really are in dire need of tech professionals that can communicate. Especially, writing skills. Many of the youngsters suck at communicating, and couldn’t write a grammatically-correct paragraph if their life depended on it. Consider creating a blog. You can find mine here. Granted, it has nothing to do with tech, but it shows I can write!

        https://www.gregoriust.com

      • Michael Blake

        Pardon me, Cindy…let me add my two cents. I have done a couple of things that have helped. First….Pluralsight is $30 and one of the best learning sites in my opinion. Certified Ethical Hacking is a good avenue for consultants in the near future. The other thing I did was purchase a domain, have it hosted and write lots of code and content.

    • Dave Thompson

      This. I’m 59 and now prefer contracting to the bondage-agreement of FT-salaried. No longer required to hang around the kook-aid bowl, I’m getting interesting work, paid as well as ever and control my time and location. One big ask from clients after project completion is training. There is a huge need in all those youngsters for filling the whitespace in their practical knowledge. Indeed, they have the fail-fast thing going for them, but they also lack insights to learn from those failures. You have to be the antithesis of ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach’. You have to embrace both. And you can lead without being called ‘manager’. I passed on that dead-end (management) many times and have no regrets. I keep a close eye on the value I deliver and work comes to me.

  14. Margaret W

    I recently was let go from an IT manager job I held for 25 years. My company is undergoing an expense savings initiative. So, i find myself in the job market pursuing IT and project manager jobs. I am also near 60. I have experience and the skill set to do many of the jobs I see posted. I have always had good working relationships and feel i can contribute to a business. I hope I can find something with a company that will hire the seasoned professional. Cant afford to retire….. who can these days?

    • Michael Blake

      I wish you well, Margaret. In the group I work in…two are my age or older (I am 55), one is about ten years younger and the remaining 4 are 30 or under. Those four were all hired while I was still a contractor — and, if not for my skills in VB.NET, I would not be there, either. What is worse is that I could mentor the junior programmers, but — there seems to be a wall, there. I fix the legacy code and they are bury sticking Metro interfaces on VB6 code. It is literally insanity, but — it is the way of things now.

  15. Jeff Young

    Once you hit 50, you are marked for elimination. And sure enough, I along with many of my over 50 colleagues bore the brunt of the layoffs when the company decided to slim down. Then you find out that nobody wants to hire you, can’t even get interviews. After 6 months, you are getting told that you’ve been out of work too long and are considered stale and unemployable. And you in the meantime take classes and study the latest technologies to show you’re still relevant. However, it’s now a year and even contract jobs are not an option anymore as the feedback is that you’ve been out of work for over a year and not even worth considering for a low paying contract.

  16. I agree with all these comments, age discrimination exists and is rampant in the industry. I just turned 60 and it took me 18 months to find a 6 month contract in the medical IT sector If I don’t get extended I’m changing careers and driving truck.

  17. Fred Dietz

    I you’re an employer why hire a >40 worker when half of India will do anything for just about any pay to stay in US once here and no one seems interested in enforcing immigration statutes to deport them once their temporary visa runs out. BIG STAFFING and US corporations have decided they don’t need or want >40 workers when there is a unlimited supply available just a H10-B visa away. If you’re >50 in IT you better get used to taking a lot less and doing work well below your capabilities. I hear Home Depot is hiring…

  18. Fred Dietz

    The most frustrating thing for me is hearing all the phony lip service BIG STAFFING AND corporate HR departments shovel out. They all claim they can’t find experienced talent and poo-poo the idea they discriminate against older IT workers but it is a crock. I get contacted by a dozen tier 1 recruiters a day based on my profile but when they get my resume I never hear from them again. Further, once you have been out of work for 6 months they all must figure you’re a sot or suffering Alzheimers as they seem shocked you haven’t been working for a few months. You might as well have Ebola as you aren’t getting an interview much less an offer. I recommend you start your own business as you can waste months looking for a job >50. Life is too short trying to get BIG STAFFING or corporate America to live up to their claims of non discrimination against older workers.

  19. Bill E.

    Yes it is frustrating! My wife is an RN. I always joke that she can go anywhere in the known universe and get a job. But she does not understand why I can not get a job. In the realm of IT and telecom — No, uh-uh, it ain’t happening! I have had several contract jobs where I out performed expectations. And everyone of them told me: “I sure which we had a full time opening for you.” But it is not to be. I have head hunters calling me for openings with Comcast, Nordstrom, Dish etc. I tell them to forget it. I have interviewed with each them over 4 times. Why go through the mental gymnastics and the pain? I am applying to be a TSA agent. The TSA pays a whopping $16 per hour. I started as a radio station assistant engineer at $18 per hour in 1982. Go figure.

  20. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” that’s prevailing wisdom at HR.
    I am 70 and so far managed to keep my job by learning new tricks, but pretty sure wouldn’t be able to find a new one.
    Eventually that will change when employers realize that it is better to have smart old dog than a dumb puppy

  21. John Perkins

    I’ve been unemployed for over a year. I went through a program at my unemployment office that trained me in resume writing, interview skills etc. I was told to limit my work history on my resume to 10 years maximum otherwise I’d be disregarded due to age discrimination.

  22. Keith P

    I worked for a tech company where the top manager ordered middle management to rescind a promotion I had been granted, citing my age. He then promoted someone much younger with no professional experience in the work we were doing. I lost at least $40,000 in diverted wages. This is a serious problem.

  23. Cathy Bariao

    I agree that ageism is alive and well in the tech industry. When I’m talking to some recruiters they want to know exactly what year I graduated from college. Comcast doesn’t even consider anyone with more than 7 years of total work experience. They say that there are so many available jobs in tech and the US can’t fill them so they seek candidates from other countries. At the same time, these companies are only looking at candidates that are 40 years or younger. There are hundreds of thousands of people in the 40-60 age range who could do those jobs if ageism wasn’t a deciding factor.

  24. Amazon was BLACKLISTED by mean as of about a year ago. They engage in rampant age discrimination in their hiring practice for their distribution centers, specifically asking your age and if you are 40 or older as part of their “initial assessment”, the mysteriously you ‘score too low’ to move forward to an interview. I attempted to get a lawyer to sue but no one wants to take on the richest man in the world.

    BTW, I have applied at Amazon on the corporate level as well as a developer but was not taken seriously. I use to have a software architect title until I was forced to leave my last company due to a toxic work environment.

    I will say this – and Mr Bezos if you are reading this somehow it is directed at you – Amazon is BLACKLISTED. You will never see a dime of my money EVER again, not as a customer OR as an investor and you will NEVER get one SECOND of my time and expertise as an employee.

    • So you blacklisted them, yippiee. One person putting them on a personal blacklist does …… nothing. Maybe if you were an organization it would mean something, but as an individual it means nothing to them. That sounds like a 5 year old yelling at someone, it has no bite or meaning. If you wanted to really be heard, you have to do it in a much more public fashion, you have to draw attention to the public appeal and how it effects many, not just one person that got turned down for a job. I could go into where to start, but you seem a lot happier pouting and throwing you temper tantrum here, to a captive crowd. Try another place, and when they turn you down, go try another, you have to keep trying. And if you get no where, it’s time to change what you do for a living.

  25. not to point out each one, but for sure several bias exists while hiring. To overcome at least to a certain level and to leave hiring managers without an option and to protect local resources to be employed, USCIS should allow students from abroad only on merit basis and that too only for few recognized universities(without an option to transfer to fake or cheap universities later) after checking availability for admissions. Also USCIS must act equally to stop visas regardless of company size and type of business(profit or non profit) to protect local resources.