Ageism has become such a persistent issue in the tech industry that some CEOs don’t even bother to lie about it.
If you’re an older tech professional, and frustrated with charting a career path, why not focus your job search on companies that have a track record of valuing tenured professionals? Here are some ways to identify those firms that have demonstrated a commitment to hiring professionals regardless of age.
Although many companies include a boilerplate EEO statement in job postings (and sometimes the career section of their website), that’s not always an indicator of commitment to unbiased hiring when it comes to candidates’ age. Companies that are more serious about hiring older professionals usually publish a longer, more meaningful diversity statement that mentions age as well gender, race, national origin and so forth. (For example, this one is from IBM.)
While a lengthy statement won’t necessarily negate age bias during the hiring process, evaluating a company’s public position is definitely a good place to start. Once you’ve identified a potential contender, study job advertisements and the profiles of employees on LinkedIn and GitHub to see if their hiring practices and workforce match their advertised diversity policies, advised Toby Haberkorn, job search coach and co-author of “Best Job Search Tips for Age 60-Plus: A Practical Work Options Resource For Baby Boomers.”
For example, instead of specifying “0 to 3 years of work experience” in every job posting, age-neutral employers align senior-level job descriptions with appropriate job titles and requirements. They also avoid exclusionary adjectives in job postings such as “energetic,” “high potential,” “ninja” or “digital native.”
“Companies that are more progressive are often welcoming to older workers,” explained Tim Driver, CEO of RetirementJobs.com.
For instance, research shows that companies that have diverse workforces are often more innovative. A company that has a track record of sustained growth, social responsibility and industry leadership suggests much about the types of employees it hires.
Who is the Company Trying to Attract?
Candidates can tell a lot about a company’s hiring strategy by its employment brand, which is designed to attract and retain employees with specific skills, values and career goals.
Does the company feature one or two senior-level employees in recruiting videos, or is the focus on attracting Millennials to entry-level jobs? If a company touts itself as a stepping stone where newbies can acquire skills and experience that will help them in the future, or a place where employees hang together outside the office, there’s a good chance that it is targeting younger tech workers.
The Proof is in the (Data) Pudding
Companies that are truly striving for impartiality in hiring and employment publish workforce demographics with lots of data. This is an important benchmark, because very few companies are fully transparent about the composition of their workforces.
Moreover, research shows that multigenerational workforces are more productive and have less turnover than those without age diversity. “Generally speaking, companies that have turnover issues hire younger workers, while companies that brag about a lack of turnover have more diverse workforces,” Driver noted.
A company’s tenure and turnover rate can indicate how it treats older employees, as well as its willingness to consider candidates older than 40. For instance, this list from Payscale compares the tenure and average age of employees in the Fortune 500; for comparison’s sake, check out the tenure rates and the average age of employees at some of the major tech firms.
“If you really want to find companies that appreciate and hire older tech workers, broaden your search beyond the tech industry,” Haberkorn advised. Healthcare, education, airlines, business IT services, government and defense are just a few of the industries where workforces tend to skew older.
To give you a hand, here is the median age of workers by occupation and industry, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And here’s a list of over 460 employers that have signed the AARP Employer Pledge publicly stating that they value experienced workers.
Request Feedback from Colleagues
If you’re wondering whether a company is open to considering older job hunters, get a sense of what employees and applicants are saying about their experiences by reading online reviews and asking questions. For example, company review site kununu scans thousands of reviews to come up with a list of companies where workers ages 45+ feel most appreciated.
“Talk to people who were rejected to see how they were treated,” Haberkorn said. “Being over 40 is not the end of the road. In some industries, professionals with 10 to 15 years’ experience are really just getting started in their careers.”