Busted – Age Discrimination Revealed

Anyone that has read the discussions in our Linkedin Job Search Networking Group knows that I am not a big believer in age discrimination. That doesn’t mean I think it doesn’t happen. What it does mean is that I don’t think it happens as frequently as many candidates do. In fact, I believe it is far more rare than most.

Well I am wrong. Age discrimination is alive, living, and doing very well. My last two executive searches prove that I’m wrong and it definitely exists.

I have been retained to fill a CFO and VP Manufacturing search. Both positions are very senior level spots and in two different companies. In a normal search, we will present 4 or 5 candidates to the client before they hire one of them. These two were a little different. I had presented my normal 5 candidates and the client was interested in, but not sold on, a couple of the candidates. They still wanted to see a few more. (By the way as a side journey, in today’s market that is very common. Clients seem to always want to see a few more. After all, there are so many candidates on the market.)

The candidates they liked were all 7 or 8’s on a scale of 1 – 10. They all had 15-20 years of experience and judging from when they graduated from college, ranged in age from late 30’s to mid-40’s. Both of these jobs were very senior, and due to the nature of the challenges facing the companies required a real depth of experience and not just the normal depth one gets in 15-20 years. These candidates just weren’t “mature or experienced” enough were the words the clients used.

As the client requested, I presented 2 more candidates to each company. These last 4 candidates all had no less than 30 years of experience, and all had graduated from college in the late 70’s and early 80’s. You can do the math on their ages. My guess is mid to late 50’s and possibly even 60. To no real surprise my clients each hired one of these 4. The comment the client made to me at some point during the hiring process was, “If I can get a good 3-5 years from them, that is all one can expect in today’s world, and I’m more than fine with that. Hell, I may not even be here in 5 years.”

WOW, a clear case of age discrimination if I ever saw one. The first group was clearly discriminated against due to their age.

Again, before you write me a nasty comment, I agree age discrimination exists. But it works both ways. I also don’t believe every time a person doesn’t get a position, especially more senior candidates, it is age discrimination. Often they are just plain over-qualified for the job, just as these candidates were under-qualified for these jobs.

Part 2 on this topic will be more in-depth as to some other contributing factors that helped the second group win the job. There is hope, and by following the suggestions in part 2, you can avoid age discrimination on either side of the equation.

We provide a large repository of free tools and resources (CLICK HERE FOR LISTING) for candidates of all ages to help you significantly reduce your time in search. Every day of lost wages costs you hundreds of dollars and stress. I personally want to encourage you to spend some time reviewing these. There are audio files (CLICK HERE to enter the audio library), templates, assessments, and articles. The topics cover just about every aspect of the search process, networking, branding, resumes, interviewing, common mistakes, leveraging social networks, etc.

Our bi-weekly Candidate Open Forums are available to all who want to participate. You can speak directly with myself or Barry on the conference calls. Our homepage list the upcoming forums. CLICK HERE FOR LIST.

We are committed to assisting you in your search as best we can. These free resources are the best we can do for now. We have even more ideas coming and all will be free.


About the Author

Brad Remillard is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Brad is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.


  • By Gary, September 18, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

    Age discrimination is alive and well and is rampant for the over 50 crowd. I have recently seen another reason for not hiring gray hairs and this is.. “Scared They will take my Job” and ” I can’t present this candidate he/she is more qualified than the interviewer”. Hence we have very experienced people not being hired or interviewed and its getting worse each day!

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, September 18, 2009 @ 7:17 pm

    I think you valid the point. If you have more experience than the interviewer or your potential boss then I don’t think this is age discrimination. It sounds to me like you are over qualified for the position.
    Having too much experience isn’t any different than having too little experience. Neither is based on age it is based correctly on experience.

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, September 18, 2009 @ 8:35 pm

    I think this makes the point. If you have more experience than the interviewer or your potential boss, this is a case of being overqualified. Just because you have the experience to do a job doesn’t make you qualified. You can be over qualified, in the same way one can be under qualified. Neither is age discrimination. They are both of function of qualifications or having too much or too little experience.

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