Kratell, that new hire at Kaazing, is 45 years old. "I applied to Facebook, and my friends laughed and says I was told old," he says. Despite a strong résumé and nibbles from employers like Google, Facebook didn't even give him an interview. Ageism? Kratell thinks it may have been, but there's no way to know for sure, and he says he's delighted with his new position.
Other job seekers tell similar stories and worry that complaining will make it even harder to find work. Gayle (she asked we withhold her name to protect her), a former manager in Hewlett-Packard's storage division, put it this way: "There is not much tolerance for age in this business. Older does not mean wiser in tech. It just means older."
Along with the anecdotes, there is some hard evidence that age discrimination really does exist in tech. The Bureau of Labor Statistics looked at the issue in a study released in early 2011 that shows that older IT workers have higher rates of unemployment than both younger IT workers and older workers in other professions.
In the category of computer and mathematical occupations, the overall unemployment rate for people 55 and over jumped from 6 percent to 8.4 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to the data. For those 25- to 54-year-olds in that job category, the unemployment rate fell from 5.1 percent in 2009 to 4.5 percent in the same period.
Those figures are particularly striking when compared to the overall population, where 55-plus workers had lower unemployment rates (7 percent) than the 25- to 54-year-olds (8.5 percent) in 2010.
There is, though, a growing recognition in the tech industry that older workers bring something valuable to the table. "People who have made the shift from, say, Cobol to C+ and then to Ruby and Java are very valuable," says Salesforce.com's Martin. "They have seen change and adapted to it."
Indeed, youth -- or at least the inexperience that comes with it -- can be a drawback, says David Bianco, a database analyst at entertainment ticket distributor TicketNetwork, who found that until he approached fours years of experience it was difficult to find work. "A lot of companies really want seven years or more," he adds.
Small companies often do not have the time to bring younger workers up to speed. "We want seasoned pros. There is no time for us to train," says Eric Hansen, CTO of FluxxLabs, a firm that's developing a platform to access business data in the cloud.
What do employers really want from tech employees? You've heard it all before, and InfoWorld heard it again as we interviewed employers about their needs and desires when hiring: They will tell you they want team players, self-starters, people with enthusiasm, and so on. Although those are all clichés, employers probably mean it, so don't think you'll cruise through the interview process simply on the strength of your schooling and your charm.
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