In the last column, we looked at the last ”acceptable” bias in business: age discrimination that persists more than a half-century after it was outlawed, especially in startups and in tech companies. Now let’s look at some simple, proven strategies for older tech workers seeking jobs.
5 Ways to Beat Age Discrimination in Tech Hiring
- Update your tech skills, resume and image.
- Emphasize soft skills and your work ethic.
- Don’t forget real people.
- Target companies that pledge to hire older workers.
- Be realistic.
1. Update Your Tech Skills, Resume and Image
As I’ve talked about before, many companies are moving towards skills-based hiring. There’s no better way to confidently approach a prospective employer than with coursework, badges and certifications on the latest in-demand technical skills and knowledge. Hands-on labs and practice equip you to ace the exercises and project training that more employers are using now during the hiring process.
Whether or not you’ve got a degree, now’s a great time to break into the booming world of AI. Start by learning how AI is transforming your part of the world (development, networking, cybersecurity, auditing, etc.). Getting a working grasp of generative AI like ChatGPT, GitHub CoPilot and others will help boost your productivity right now and set you on the path to learning more about lucrative and hard-to-fill emerging roles like AI prompt engineer.
And even though this is tech, your image and personal brand count. A little time online (including this site) will yield tons of material about how to update your resume and spiff up your online profile and personal image. Seems superficial, I know. But have you met people?
And don’t wait til you’re RIFfed! Start now.
2. Emphasize Soft Skills and Your Work Ethic
Having current tech chops is table stakes. Any job seeker, and especially a mature one, who can demonstrate strong in-person communication skills, teamwork, listening, problem-solving and creativity, compassion, patience, customer service and resilience will stand out. And you can learn all these soft skills.
And, as a recent Wall Street Journal headline noted, ”Bosses Want Hard Workers — So They’re Hiring Older People.” The employers interviewed say they value mature workers because of their dedication, their promptness, and the fact that they don’t spend endless time on social feeds or feel entitled to rapid promotions. Many hiring managers likewise value the persistence of seasoned workers who’ve weathered downturns and crises.
3. Don’t Forget Real People
As noted above, most employers use online systems to efficiently streamline the application process. More are trying one-way interviews in which you record a video interview that’s later reviewed by HR or, increasingly, AI. These are necessary first steps, but you don’t have to stop there. Using both your real-life and online networks, including and especially second- and third-degree connections, is a smart way to locate and communicate with hiring managers and find new opportunities. This may be Job Hunting 101, but it’s effective.
4. Target Companies That Pledge to Hire Older Workers
More than a thousand companies have signed AARP’s pledge to promote equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age. These include Apple, Unisys, Cap Gemini, and a host of smaller consultancies and businesses both in and outside the tech industry, including CVS and ad giant BBDO. It’s no guarantee, but definitely a big step toward a level playing field. Federal, state, and local governments are also good bets for older workers.
5. Be Realistic
As a mature worker, landing a job in a tech startup is a long shot. Your odds are better at a tech company, even better at a small or midsize one or a non-tech company that needs experienced tech help. You may not get your dream job or the pay you commanded in your prime. But getting an engaging, decent-paying job in tech after 40 is possible. It takes focus, patience, shrewdness and resilience, which are all the things you’ll bring to your next role. Good luck!