Businesses across Australia love to scream their inclusion policies from rooftops but a quick look at their workforce will show it’s little more than lip service.
That’s according to Richard Jones, co-founder of specialist job-matching service PrimeL, who says workers over 40 are in the minority and discrimination is rife.
“Landing a new job at the ripe old age of 40 is difficult,” he says.
“And for every decade after that, the task becomes considerably harder.”
The people doing the hiring: Human Resources (HR).
In fact, Jones, 57, owes his entire business to HR, having set up PrimeL to get older tech workers into jobs when he discovered first-hand that 20-something recruiters wanted tech professionals with experience – but didn’t want to hire “old” people.
He says Australian businesses have a much greater resistance to hiring older workers than other countries.
“We have placed tech workers into jobs around the world – Mauritius, Vietnam, Kuwait,” Jones said.
“These are growth countries and we are meeting their needs.
“But we cannot get past HR in Australia.
“We constantly get knocked back when we approach companies about hiring older workers.”
PrimeL co-founder Grant Ure, 61, says they have hundreds of candidates on their books but the opportunities in Australia are not there.
“Overseas markets are more respectful of the experience in older workers,” Jones adds.
“They want the experience, they value it. Once a market matures, countries go back to hiring youngsters.”
A case in point
When looking for a tech consulting job recently, ACS member Graham Plowman, 52, found it difficult to secure an interview, and says the subsequent interview process was laborious.
“I have come across interviewers who demonstrated a lack of training and ability to conduct an interview and didn't understand the role they were interviewing for,” he said.
“Then there are interviewers who are simply being smart arses by trying to enlarge their own egos by making themselves look bigger and more indispensable than the candidates."
Plowman said more experienced interviewers make for a more pleasant experience.
“What I do find is that the older the interviewer, the less of a threat they see me as and the better the interview," he said.
“I also find that when I get into an environment where there are older people, the whole thing is a lot more mature, people work well together and people have grown out of their younger egos and trying to prove points.”
A key problem with hiring for tech jobs, Plowman said, is that the interviewer is often not very experienced and doesn’t know what questions to ask or how to test for certain skills.
“There are organisations giving out 'university style' tests which are just completely irrelevant to those of us with 32 years of experience,” he said.
“In my case, using online sites as a means of screening candidates is simply inappropriate and proves nothing.”
Such sites are generally competition-style scenarios where people write code in a way to succeed in a competition, Plowman said, which bears no reality to the “organised, planned and architected solutions which one delivers in the real business world.”
But the first step to an interview is being able to talk your way into one.
And the document that does the talking is your resume.
One thing Plowman did to get his foot in the door for more interviews was a minor tweak to his CV.
“I used to have my date of birth on my CV,” he said.
“Since I took it off, I seemed to get more people contacting me and more interviews.
“So, my general advice would be: don't put your DOB on your CV.”
Are you 40yrs+? We'd love to hear about your experience in dealing with HR in the comments below.