A Question of Age (Am I too Old) Do Recruiters Prefer the Young?

At the time of this writing, I am 36 years old.
As of late, I have felt discouraged to find out (from many sources) that seem to point to the fact that recruiters and even team members of existing companies tend to want to hire younger programmers. I’ve come to ask the Codecademy community what their experience was regarding age and if what I’ve heard holds any truth.

The main reason I’ve heard is that recruiters tend to think that older people don’t have up-to-date knowledge of the field. But even with the up-to-date coding knowledge, I’ve heard of people in their 40s having more difficulty getting offers.

What are your thoughts?

In my industry, the older you are, the more valuable you seem to be because of your life experience and maturity.

I wish that were the norm in tech. But, from what I’ve experienced and seen, it’s not. (I’m older than you). Ageism in hiring is illegal (check the EEOC’s website), yet difficult to prove if one feels they’ve been on the brunt end of it. Unfortunately, there is an inherent bias in recruiters and hiring managers that needs to be corrected (by them).

36 isn’t old. Keep learning, keep creating projects for your portfolio, keep making connections and keep applying to positions that interest you. You never know what might happen or who you will meet.

Also, it doesn’t hurt to have your resume professionally revised/written. A basic google search will locate companies that will do that for you. It is definitely money well spent.

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There is definitely an age bias in recruiting. Not just in tech, but in general. HR as an industry is not really the most professional or bias-balanced of fields, and that gets reflected throughout the entire HR process from recruiting to promotion and benefits management.

Do recruiters prefer younger candidates? Yes, for many reasons. Younger candidates lack career experience, making opening salary negotiations easier on the recruiter (they rarely have an understanding of benefits beyond base pay, and they often undervalue themselves in negotiations). They also don’t come with “baggage” from prior work experience, which makes the onboarding experience smoother: older candidates tend to have a mentality of “well, my old job did it this way” which can have a negative effect on team cohesion.

With that being said, do internal HR managers prefer older/more traditional employees for promotion and enhancement? Yes, also for many reasons. Older employees tend to have a better sense of loyalty, making them less of a flight risk. They tend to have seniority at the company, meaning they have a better understanding of its operations, and they tend to have mindsets that lend well to leadership roles. Having older leaders in charge of groups of younger employees also creates a natural hierarchy, which strengthens the leader’s authority.

Do these trends mean you shouldn’t pursue a career change? ■■■■ no. I’m not in my 30s yet, but I’m old enough that in my industry, I’m considered too old for most jobs. I applied for literally several hundred open positions last year (around 20-30 applications per week from March 2020 to May 2021, barring around 4 months where I had a temporary job), and got a total of three interviews. I was told multiple times through rejection emails and in the job postings themselves that companies are looking for fresh out of college graduates with little to no work experience. They don’t outright exclude other candidates, but they use a combination of AI and personality screening to pre-select candidates, with the bias integrated into the systems. But after diligently trying, I got the job I have now. I went from being a truck driver at the end of 2019 to being a senior accountant at a multi-billion dollar international manufacturing company, with only two in-between jobs as a call center manager and accounting clerk for a construction company. The right job is out there, and you will find it, but if you decide its not worth the effort and stop pursuing your education, that “right job” will always be out of your reach.

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