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Conversation With A Minneapolis Java Developer: Ageism In Tech


Ageism In

Last week I had a conversation with a late 50 year old Java Developer here in Minneapolis. He was looking for some career and job search advice. I had not yet seen his resume and not looked him up online so I had no “bias” leading up to our conversation.

We spoke a bit about his skill set, experience and what he wants to be working on. I was thinking:

Dang, I don’t get why this guy is needing advice. He’s really good.

About halfway into our chat he asked:

Why can’t us grey haired folks find a job? I am not too old to code.

He then went in to some examples of how some recruiters and hiring managers half his age seem to question his skill set, is he up to speed on technology and how fast does he pick up new things.

Note: I don’t hear this in Minneapolis as often as I do on the West Coast.

This fella clearly is a really good senior developer, has reasonable salary expectations and has A LOT of good still to write in his career.

I gave him some advice on how to handle the situation including this nugget that could be overly aggressive and confrontational:

Ask the person interviewing you how long they plan to work at the company

The idea being if a 20 or 30 something year old is concerned about how long until you retire it’s fair to ask them how long they will be there too.

I had a chat with a recruiter friend yesterday and I was talking about being in my mid 40’s. That I don’t look nor act my age. But I do think now and then about the next 20 years and how do I stay “viable” as a tech recruiter and leader in this town.

NOTE: bring it on… I have it figured out

After that conversation I was out on a jog and came up with another idea.

I knew this guy had a 2nd interview this morning so I sent him a note saying:

Get the names of all the folks you are interviewing with and hop on LinkedIn. Pay close attention to their work history particularly their time spent at previous employers.

He asked why.

I said because you can reply back with this and know that it is very direct, maybe crosses the line and I would only use this if you feel you have to:

I see on LinkedIn your average time at a company is 2.5 years and you have already been here for 3. Am I to assume you will be moving on soon… how much longer with you be here?

Received this email:

Paul,

I’ll give you the longer version next week at the meetup. I did the research as you suggested and happy I did.

The late 20 something year old recruiter was starting to beat around the bush about my age. She then asked what my career plan was and I told her. I then asked her if it would be too forward of me to ask her what her plans were. She asked why. I said that I am trying to understand the tenure of the average employee, do people like working there and is this where I want to be. That I noticed on her LinkedIn profile she hops around every couple of years and as she is wondering how long I will be there I am wondering the same about her.

Her body posture and tone changed. It changed how she spoke to me and the rest of the interview went really well including her setting me up with a group interview next week. I don’t know if my answer made a difference or not but it felt like it changed the conversation.

Look… I don’t if this is something most people should say or not. But under some circumstances I think it can be a fair question to ask.

Use with discretion.

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