Are you not hiring me because of my age?

I'm looking for an honest answer here from founders looking to hire …

I'm nearing the end of my 30's. I have a lot of experience in both startups and the corporate world. I've been in the market for two months now, I've interviewed with probably 12 companies – all startups – for positions I'm more than qualified for. Still haven't landed a job. 

Maybe it's my own insecurities about my age, but I have to ask: Does age play into your decision at all? Are you worried that someone like me might not have the energy of someone younger? 

Skills/position aside, what concerns you about hiring someone my age (if anything)?  

It's illegal to age discriminate, so I don't expect to get a truthful answer outside of a forum like this. Just need some straight talk. 

  • It wouldn’t be an issue for me. I’m looking to hire people smarter than me, but if you’re not – no deal. Age has nothing to do with it.

  • It could be a few reasons but age would not be it – mainly because 30’s is still not considered “old” contrary to popular beliefs. If you were in your 50’s and coding I would say there might be a bias regarding your age in SV.

    I feel there’s a general slowdown in hiring in general these past few months. Being a freelance programmer I have a pulse on the market. I’m usually more than overbooked since I can’t replicate myself so I turn down quite a few projects.

    Recently I’ve had TWO projects cancel on me due to budget changes. Although its just my experience I have a feeling budgets are being curtailed at least for now, we’ll see what happens.

    So in general the market may be becoming tighter and you’re facing a lot more competition.

  • If the founders of the company that you’re interviewing for are guys in their early or mid-twenties then yes age might play a factor. Some people find it awkward to give orders to employees that are older than them.

    Also, sometimes companies are worried that older employees will likely have families to support and hence if they hire you it means that they have to pay not only for your health care costs but those of your spouse and children.

    Personally, I would hire you since to me experience is important and wealth worth the extra money spent on benefits, than trying to train someone fresh out of college.

  • Hmm… some founders and CEOs feel insecure to have more experienced folks on board and prefer young chicken who they can manipulate easily. It’s a fear of being better than them. Seen it with my own eyes, couldn’t believe it…but CEO just wanted calm sea and whoever told him he is not right, he didn’t like it…his ego exploded and ultimately those brave folks (including older me) were out.

    Try not to sound like a threat when interviewing.

  • Let me correct one thing. If you are a white male under the age of forty, then you are in the only unprotected class regarding employment. Don’t be discouraged (easier said than done, I know). It’s more than likely NOT your age. I am a founder who was in a position much like yours. Regardless of the dubious unemployment numbers, there are multitudes of qualified people out of work. Good people. Capable people.

    There are literally dozens or hundreds of people applying for the same job in my area. Take a breath and think. Is there an alternative to what you have been seeking? Another field? Maybe start a business yourself. That is exactly what I am doing. I put together a team that brought in all sorts of skills that no one person had alone. Think about that as an option.

    Listen, you are still young! Stay in shape and age won’t really be a factor til you 55ish. Think outside the box. Way outside if you need to. The thing is God has a plan for you, and you need to realize that. I was out of work for almost a year – with a large family! It sucked big time!

    The thing is NEVER EVER EVER give up, and NEVER EVER EVER let an unsuccessful interview define you or limit you. There is an answer that you’re moving towards. All of these interviews are just guiding you to where you should be. Think about what I said. Do not give up, brother. I had to reinvent myself at 48. You can do it.

  • Some things to think about… Are you asking for more money than a less-qualified applicant? Do you ever say “we tried that, but it didn’t work”? Are you dressing similarly to the people interviewing? No one will talk about it, but there are studies that show that as we age, our ideas ‘crystalize’ and we are less open to change. I’m in your same boat, and my #1 task for myself is to ensure I constantly stay up to date on tech, fashion, etc, so my dear old brain doesn’t have the chance to get old and crusty.

  • I look for experience, all the time. Shit the smarter and more experience you have all the better, and if you can take direction from someone younger without any issue then I have no problem.

    The sad truth for my company is that I can’t pay the salary people requested and at that age between family, health, and the general rise in cost in living its tough. So statically younger people are cheeper to employ. I would say though the freelance industry / on demand work market is on the rise so you may be better off forming your own company and become a contractor.

    Funny, statically speaking those who start a business past the age of ~ 30 tend to have on average more successful ventures.

    Stay positive!

  • Depending on the age of the founders (if they’re in their early/mid 20s) and the stage of the venture (early-ish), it’s entirely possible. We’ve rejected older candidates because they seemed less adaptable — talking about sales/BD hires here.

    Experience is not always a good thing, especially when it comes to bringing a new product to market. A lot of times, the “old” ways won’t work (if you haven’t sold at this deal size, at this stage in crossing the chasm) and even turn customers off. FWIW, we did hire two people with “experience” and neither worked out. We also hired two of our peers (same age) straight out of Ivies who did work out, and they’re continuing to kill it today. This is for sales, so the results are very quantitative (total revenue brought in, total revenue/lead). But it’s qualitative as well – from what I saw, they were able to grasp the strategic vision as well (thinking about what types of customers we want to bring in, not just any customer, and how we plan on growing and scaling going forward). This has helped us get to 1MM ARR, growing at >100%/year, in just over a year.

    I fully expect that we will bring in more experienced people later down on the growth chart, for senior positions. At that point, the process is going to be more defined and there will be a lot more structure, which they’ll help contribute to. Also, those senior people will be people that we would have to heavily recruit for, because they’ve done meaningful work previously and will be highly sought after.

    If I were you, I’d consider applying for later-stage startups where your experience will be praised and regarded as an asset. I noticed a lot of people have commented it’s also about the fact that more experienced people will have greater salary requirements — and a later-stage, well-funded startup should have no problem with that.

  • I’m 50, recently re-entered the job market in tech after shutting down my startup and I’ve had 3 job offers in 3 months. You can too but you have to find the right fit.

    Some background: I’ve mostly worked in startups and in my career I’ve hired hundreds of people so I’m looking for a company that fits my same criteria for how I hire. When I recruited, I didn’t discriminate based on age but I did discriminate based on whether the person is curious, insightful, determined and engaged. Lack of these attributes at any age is a non-starter for me. Do you keep your skills evergreen? Are you aware of the latest trends in technology? Is your curiosity insatiable? Do you love overcoming obstacles? Are you positive while tackling new challenges? Do you have an open mind? Are you active on LinkedIn, Twitter, etc? Do you blog? I’m looking for people who are constantly re-inventing themselves and adjusting their thinking because that is what tech requires.

    Finally, make sure you are a good fit. In my job hunt, I found a number of early stage startups but my skills and abilities have really progressed beyond where the companies were at this time.. So right area, wrong fit. Also, I’m a startup guy, so applying to large companies that just need someone to fill a role are probably not a good choice for me and probably not for you. Don’t apply to a job where you won’t be happy and your skills and abilities won’t be valued. In fact, someone who is a take charge kind of person is ill suited for most corporate jobs. On the flip side, if you are trying to join 4 guys in a incubator you just may be too experienced. Also, these are often guys living on little to no salary. At your age, it probably doesn’t make sense to join a company when you have bills to pay. No point in taking the risk until they are little more established. Lots of people joined Twitter and Facebook later on and did quite well. You can too.

    My advice: do an honest assessment of your skills, abilities and interests and review them with a trusted advisor. This advisor must be willing to give you a truthful critique and help you discover what is important to you. Then really focus on the companies where there is a great fit.

    Best of luck!

  • If you’re a woman (and I can’t find any indication that you’re not although I suspect most are assuming you’re not), I think your late 30s are a really tough time to get a break, both in startups and in corporations.

    If you’re already a mother it generally counts against you in a way in which it doesn’t if you’re a father. Don’t mention it, and your interviewers will probably assume the worst, given your age and gender. Mention it, and try to convince them that you have childcare entirely sorted and this won’t stand in your way, and it’ll come across as defensive and create doubts anyway. I’m not sure you can win.

    Even if you’re childless, there’s a suspicion that you’re probably going to have children really soon and that this will affect your commitment or ability to work hard. I have previously gone out of my way to say that I’m not planning to have children, but I’ve been aware that this comes across as ‘weird’. But I’ve felt it necessary to clear it up at first interview. They can’t ask this, so I feel it needs to be said.

    I have suffered from this age/gender discrimination (I believe) but also I’m aware of my own similar prejudices when hiring late 30s women (although I will also admit to having concerns about hiring fathers and those who seem like child-free commitment-phobes too, for different reasons).

    My advice? Be clear on your personal and family circumstances so nobody can make assumptions that aren’t true, and spell out how you’ll do a good job despite your commitments and maybe even because of them. Spell out the positives of your personal circumstances – eg if you’ve got a family tell the interviewers how this makes you much more of a stable candidate and how determined it’s made you to provide for them.

  • If you ask this question, your age is probably a problem to get hired. Just imagine yourself as an interviewer: you would definitely avoid hiring someone who looks “old”, regardless her birthdate. If you feel tired and slowed by your age, you won’t show dynamism and enthusiasm interviewers are looking for. It is not a question reserved to hiring interviews: in everyday’s life, you meet people who are energised or not, regardless their age. Every hiring manager would like to interview people with both 20’s energy and enthusiasm, and 60’s experience and maturity. This is what you should demonstrate, whether you are near 20 or 60, during hiring interviews. It is much easier if you are like that in real life, so maybe you could try to improve it ?

  • If the founders are under the age of 30 they won’t hire you. I founded a start-up at 30 and recruited a key hire 10 years older than me – it was a struggle (so I accept my advice below may not be not objective).

    In answering, I am going to assume the founders were indeed younger than you and the start-ups were all very early stage. In my view the key factors are:

    – Your experience will put them off. So much in a start-up is about learning that any hint of a fixed mind-set is death. Young founders want (and should be allowed) to make mistakes themselves. Unless you can convey a profound open-mindedness and a willingness to learn from the first moment of the interview, you are unlikely to progress.

    – An earlier post made has already noted the difficulties younger founders have in giving orders. It’s equally true that older hires have difficulty taking them. Are you sufficiently self-disciplined to suppress insubordination? Not simply in your direct actions, but also the passive-aggressive variety in conversations and body language. And can you convey this in an interview.

    – Having someone from a different generation will kill the culture in the company. If they have a university-feel, late-night, hardcore hacker culture, it’s unlikely they can visualize you fitting in.

    Stay positive. If you look back at the interviews you’ve had and they were with early stage companies and young founders, then the setbacks you’ve had may not be about your talents – it’s more about the founders. Reposition yourself and aim for slightly later stage companies.

    One final piece of advice: Founding a company is really about getting a group of smart people to pull in a common direction. That’s really a founder’s greatest achievement, so in the interview, emphasize that you want join to help the founders team achieve their goals. Be enthusiastic about their aims. They want validation as much as you do.

    Good luck.

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