Ageism and Bias in Hiring is Real; Rampant If Unchecked

Robert Merrill
Aug 16, 2019 · 3 min read
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

A colleague of mine who runs a career management tool for job seekers called Jibber Jobber recently expressed exasperation of being singled out for being older than everyone else in his company. That’s not only uncool, it’s probably illegal, but still can be rampant in the tech industry and smaller, hyper-growth companies overall.

I may be biting the hand in a post like this about the companies I often recruit for, but I am often hired because of the way I can help companies break down biases like these from within, not because I just push the status quo hoping to get a placement or two and kick the can.

Here were my comments on his post about this. You can also join in the conversation on linkedin as well.

The result is discrimination, though it usually starts as an unconscious bias issue, and where this gets egregious is, we’re all blind to it when we are in it. YOU and I are, right now doing it somehow or another.

Do you think that executive thought they were being discriminatory when they said those things to you? Obviously not or they would not have said them. (Although it’s 2019 and saying terrible things seems to be the new normal in the US anymore)

Of course, it starts with who is leading. I’ve found repeatedly that people who are more experienced tend to hire people who are more experienced. Likewise, leaders who are black or female or come from an otherwise under-represented minority group have a tendency to bring more people like that into the team. Interestingly, in my armchair experience, people from non-white backgrounds, and especially US immigrants, tend to be much more fair to both younger, older and middle-aged candidates as well as allowing for a broad range of candidates (including white men) from a very diverse pool. They have been through and had to fight against that bias that can be pervasive, so they put measures in place to fight them–such as structured interviews, “blind” panels or assessments that do no reveal the gender, identity or background of the candidate (written assessments or coding challenges can help with this).

Sadly, for most companies, until there’s a financial incentive to change (ahem, losing money or your investors hate you) there’s NO real change. If the people at the top are primarily privileged, young and particularly born/bred American white men, you are likely going to have some challenges. This is not true everywhere, but we are rarely hearing about companies with diverse leadership are having problems like this. How long did it take Uber to oust king-of-the-better-than-you-pretty-boys Travis Kalanick even after it was exceedingly well known that about everything he did was probably terrible, discriminatory, perhaps illegal or worse. I’m just saying, if the executive staff looks like yearbook photos from a Yale Frat house, buyer beware.

I recently saw a linkedin post for another Utah company’s “new hire” class. A whole gang of white, male 20-somethings, and I thought, “too bad. I would have expected better” and kept scrolling.

Thoughts on this? Join the conversation on the Jibber Jobber blog or linkedin or comment, below.

Curious about this topic? Friend of mine Scott Johnsen, firefighter turned engineering manager @ User Testing spoke on this a few months back at the SmartRecruiters Hire Conference


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Robert Merrill

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Helps you hire smarter, faster, and better. Let’s get to work.; Twitter: @AskRobMerrill; People First Leadership:


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