Pre-employment Predictors of Prejudice

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When you look at job descriptions, many times there are phrases and descriptions of prejudice that, apparently, are not recognized as prejudiced. Diversity is more than ethnicity, race or gender, but I will leave it to you to determine what other factors should be considered. But don’t take my word for it; the U.S. Congress said so in 1967, when the Gen-Xers and Millennials were just a gleam in their parents’ eyes.  The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 said the following:

SEC. 621. [Section 2]

(a) The Congress hereby finds and declares that-

(1) in the face of rising productivity and affluence, older workers find themselves disadvantaged in their efforts to retain employment, and especially to regain employment when displaced from jobs;

(2) the setting of arbitrary age limits regardless of potential for job performance has become a common practice, and certain otherwise desirable practices may work to the disadvantage of older persons;

(3) the incidence of unemployment, especially long-term unemployment with resultant deterioration of skill, morale, and employer acceptability is, relative to the younger ages, high among older workers; their numbers are great and growing; and their employment problems grave;

(4) the existence in industries affecting commerce, of arbitrary discrimination in employment because of age, burdens commerce and the free flow of goods in commerce.

(b) It is therefore the purpose of this chapter to promote employment of older persons based on their ability rather than age; to prohibit arbitrary age discrimination in employment; to help employers and workers find ways of meeting problems arising from the impact of age on employment.

 

I especially appreciate section 3, where Congress declares “their employment problems grave;” in recognition of a serious problem, way back in 1967. Flash forward to present day, when billionaire founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, said:  “Young people are just smarter,” he said in a speech to Y Combinator. “I want to stress the importance of being young and technical…. Why are most chess masters under 30?… I don’t know… Young people just have simpler lives. We may not own a car. We may not have family.” That statement is openly discriminatory, or so it would seem. Further, “Facebook vice president of ads Rob Goldman defended his company by saying that its age-targeted marketing was the industry norm.” While I can see advertisements as targeted, in such a manner that advertising lawn-care products to people who have lawns might make sense, deliberately targeting open positions to a select group of people does not seem to comply with the law, at least as I understand it.

 

It says a lot when the website “Recruiting Intelligence” reveals: “So even though an applicant actually meets the written qualifications, they may be later rejected (without their knowledge) because after they applied, the hiring manager finally decided that they actually wanted a significantly different set of qualifications.” This does not say much about the competence of the person writing the job description, now does it?

 

Let’s look at a few phrases.

 

An open position description: “Wanted, energetic, social media savvy, flexible, rockstar performers, recent college graduates encouraged.” “Energetic” couldn’t mean old people, now could it? “Social media savvy” leaves out old people, while the Facebook postings of young people partying is just an acceptable error, and a trait many young people might secretly find admirable. Old people aren’t “flexible” that’s for sure, even  if they have seen many more changes than young people could imagine. “Rockstar performers” aren’t old people as well, because, who ever heard of that band, “Pink who?” My favorite, “recent college graduates encouraged,” couldn’t get more discriminatory towards old people.

 

Sometimes old people win.  According to HR Magazine, (February, 2018) Brian Reid, (who was in his fifties) “an internet pioneer who helped develop Alta Vista, one of the first search engines” (actually, I can recall the search engine Alta Vista, from very early on the internet) was fired from Google in 2004 because he wasn’t a “cultural fit.” I love that one. Reid claimed age discrimination, and the California Supreme Court agreed with him, just so you know. My favorite memory of a never-given response to a manager who emphasized fitting into the “culture” of the organization was “If stealing ideas, back-stabbing and nepotism are what it takes to fit in ‘culturally,’ I will never fit in this organization, nor would I want to.”

Comments

Digress Added Mar 24, 2018 - 4:20pm
Jeff Jackson. Yes, this is the world we live in. Tradition, acquired wisdom, job knowledge, and experience are no longer valued. In my opinion, the reason is the new society has been taught that the traditional society is wrong about everything. The world is screwed up, and needs to be changed. Therefore, the old way has no value.
But what zuckerberg doesn't understand, is that there is knowledge to be gained from making mistakes. The new generation learns all the new methods of accomplishing a goal. The old generation knows why those new methods will fail!
A prime example is the current efforts in space. All those billions acquired from electronic media, are spent duplicating what NASA did in the 60"s. And the same failures are repeated. If Elon Musk, had any experience he would know that retrieving old rocket parts for reuse, is a waste of time and money. The stresses of launching a projectile into space, render it JUNK, as far as metallurgy is concerned, to the point it cannot be used again.
So wisdom acquired over trial and error goes to waste. Billions of dollars that could be spent providing for human needs, are wasted on collecting space junk.
Musk could have learned this from all the NASA public records. But he was determined to do it a new way, not build on past knowledge.
 
So this is the world we live in Jeff, where the technology leaders of today, reinvent the wheel. But it is collapsing. Perhaps even Journalism will make a comeback.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 24, 2018 - 4:36pm
Thanks Digress, and you are so right. One of the things the youngsters resent more than anything is telling them what will fail and watching it fail just as you advised them. Sometimes they will fire you, just so you can't say "told you so." Thanks again.
George N Romey Added Mar 24, 2018 - 4:51pm
I’ve been told in honest discussions with recruiters age discrimination massively outweighs any other type of discrimination. A big issue is that our economy is not producing enough good jobs. Therefore employers automatically throw out older workers and also younger workers that need further training and development. If we really did have full employment companies would be more open to hiring older workers or giving inexperienced workers a chance.
 
Legalized age discrimination comes in the form of limiting the experience range say from 3 to 7 years. Got 15 years? Too damn bad.
 
Finally as mentioned experience and wisdom are no longer valued. Just an Excel Spreadsheet and an app even though this had shown continual fail when taken alone. I’d like to say companies have gotten around to understanding data is not perfect but they seem to be doubling down.
 
Just look at the behavior of certain tech oriented firms like Uber. Often run by a bunch of drunken fraternity types. 
Digress Added Mar 24, 2018 - 5:04pm
 
Good point George! Older workers make more money, than entry level or beginning positions.
Digress Added Mar 24, 2018 - 5:11pm
Jeff. I worked for a company in 1970, that wanted a SKILLS RETENTION PLAN! They wanted me to bid jobs at a LOSS, just to keep our vital employees on the payroll. Skilled machinists were hard to find, back then. They knew we couldn't bid and win lucrative contracts with out skilled workers.
That concept would be laughable today. They made parts for the space shuttle.
Michael B. Added Mar 24, 2018 - 6:12pm
The place I worked at last, I said to someone one day, "Anyone over 30 has a very bright target painted on at least six sides of them, lol." It was no joke! I got laid off eventually, but lasted much longer and got a bigger severance package than most, so I feel OK about it. In my current job, I routinely have to slap down obnoxious youngsters who are full of energy and cum and not much else, lol.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 24, 2018 - 7:18pm
George, as the older worker gets older, the prospects get dimmer and dimmer. Certainly, the lack of jobs is a big reason. Unemployment is seriously underestimated, and it seems almost no one is willing to admit it. Thanks gor your comments.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 24, 2018 - 7:21pm
Digress, it seems the only people who corporations want to keep are the CEOs, and everyone else is expendable. Thanks for your comments,
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 24, 2018 - 7:25pm
Michael, be careful, every now and again they get it right, but, then again, not a lot to worry about. Thanks for your comments.
Doug Plumb Added Mar 25, 2018 - 9:26am
Google and Facebook don't want wise people who may see into their actions a little bit more and have a longer term outlook so they want young blood. Young blood is smart, in some cases, but never ever  wise. Wisdom threatens their existence.
  Other companies follow the Google and Facebook example because they are successful.
George N Romey Added Mar 25, 2018 - 12:18pm
Yet the “quants” have had severe fails. Still, CEOs want the magic bullet that makes the decision. They can always defend a disaster by blaming it on the “data.” 
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 25, 2018 - 1:10pm
Thanks Doug. It appears that after the hacking and all the data that was compromised by Facebook, there is a problem. Some people have left, the stock is falling, and the government is investigating. The genius of Mr. Zuckerberg might not be all it was cracked up to be. And I, for one, will certainly not accept any excuses about him being "young and inexperienced."
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 25, 2018 - 1:14pm
Yes George, the answers are in the numbers. Any insight from experience is not needed, or so they say. I can't count how many times my bosses and I looked at numbers and saw completely different things. Thanks again.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 26, 2018 - 7:21am
Thanks for the clarification Neelon. I'm not sure about technologically savvy, as, from my experience, there were a lot of things about technology that my much younger classmates were not aware of, and this was in their senior year of college. As far as tech-savvy, Facebook's recent behavior is not any kind of an indication of savvy, being hacked as they were. Thanks for the comments Neelon.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 26, 2018 - 10:09am
Apparently my understanding of the law is mistaken. I was under the impression that, in the eyes of the law, your intentions were a consideration of what you did. In other words, I strike another car with my car, but the law recognizes, and makes the crime, if I intended, or deliberately struck the car, or if it was an accident. While I could be cited for disobeying a traffic law, if I just deliberately pushed down on the accelerator, steered into and struck another car, the penalties would be much greater, because I intentionally struck the car. Intention to cause harm versus untended are two different things in the eyes of the law, as I understand it.
The fact is, and the managers at Facebook freely admit, that they intentionally post advertisements to draw, and discriminate, against older workers. As I understand it, intention is a major factor in law. The same could be said if I advertised positions in magazines, or websites, for that matter, that were read by a certain groups and excluded others. Deliberately excluding groups, denying opportunity, with intention, as I understand the law, is a violation of the law.  While companies might be, and certainly are, free to advertise positions to attract potential employees, to do so with the direct intention to discriminate would be a violation of the law, or so it would seem.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 26, 2018 - 10:50am
Jeff, I just finished reading the Lewis and Clark journals. At least we don't do quite what the Plains Indians did to some of their tribal elders. For those who migrated to follow the animal herds, once someone was unable to ride or walk with the migration, they provided them with a blanket and some dried buffalo meat and wished them luck as they went to their next hunting ground.
 
I loved the comment about fitting into a culture that was more about personal aggrandizement and fitting knives into ribcages than working for a purpose. I was able to keep a sense of purpose for a very long time in my career. It was only in the last few years when our function was not viewed as integral to the manufacturing and selling process, and was commoditized as a skill that could be outsourced, before I realized there was no future left for me in the company I started my career in.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 26, 2018 - 5:25pm
Thank you for your comments, Even.  Ah, that "future" thing, the thing I went to college for. And then went to college again, And again. And again. That thing I have been tested and earned professional credentials for, that thing called a "future," that never seems to arrive in my life. Perhaps it's my non-backstabbing demeanor that is creating all of the problems for me. Thanks for your comment Even.
George N Romey Added Mar 26, 2018 - 5:33pm
If I had to do it all over again I would have ignored by parents and got a job driving a truck. It would have provided me a much better living at least for the first 25 to 30 years. A college degree even an advanced degree is vastly over rated.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 26, 2018 - 8:03pm
Yes George, same here, I would have become a plumber or such, as they make good a living. But the reality was that when I graduated the first time, blue-collar wages were stuck, and they remained stuck until just recently.
Everyone knew that the blue-collar jobs were not steady, as in construction work, or such things, the market goes up and down and when it goes down there's no money. Blue-collar wages were stuck at around, or topping out at $ 15.00 (at least where I was) an hour- and I have friends that still don't make much more than that after doing it for thirty years!-From staying the same from the eighties until recently in the twenty-first century and only recently have blue-collar wages gone up, because the majority of young men wanted a good-paying, stable job, and even college didn't help much with that, at least for me. College was the ticket, but then, maybe not, at least not really much for me, too much up and down economy, layoffs and downsizing.
Rusty Smith Added Mar 27, 2018 - 11:21am
Age discrimination is not legal but most application forms demand the date on your degrees.  Why other than for discrimination, no company verifies that stuff before the first interview.  The first cut is always a review of applications that came in online, and rejected applicants never hear back, so the discrimination is silent and effective.  It's little more than a toothless law.
 
Many companies openly discuss succession plans where they outline their need to have young people backing up the senior members of their staff so that when they retire, those left behind will still be around for a long time.  They can't do that without intentionally discriminating against older job applicants.
mark henry smith Added Mar 27, 2018 - 2:47pm
The need for employees with ethics is becoming a major problem for many companies. Older workers who have the ability to perform the necessary physical and mental duties, maybe at a slightly slower pace, but show up on time, willing to do the job without causing problems with a surly attitude, are becoming more desired everyday. 
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 27, 2018 - 3:51pm
Thanks Rusty. In Japan, (and the Japanese economy was good until relatively recently) the older employees are mentors, who train the younger employees; that and the Japanese respect older people, a trait not found much in the U.S. I once saw the career track for a Japanese bank executive, and he was, through his career, exposed to many different departments before he went to the higher echelons of the organization.
I recently applied online for a position, where I went through every qualification and demonstrated my experience in them. Instead of getting a rejection email, I just never heard back from them. Not receiving an acknowledgement from a qualified candidate, was, in my opinion, not an admirable business practice. Thanks for your comments Rusty.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 27, 2018 - 3:54pm
Thanks for your comments Mark. I hear that the labor shortage that so many firms are complaining about is being addressed by considering older workers, but I am not seeing much of that in my experience. Thanks for your comments.
George N Romey Added Mar 27, 2018 - 5:31pm
The lack of professionalism is recruiting professionals is astounding. Instead of being treated like someone that wants to add value to the prospective company your treated like a beggar from the streets. And CEOs don’t care about the way that looks.
Leroy Added Apr 2, 2018 - 12:06pm
Let's face it; if you had your own company, would you wanted it populated by dinosaurs?   Unless it is a consulting firm where experience and the ability to sell are paramount, you probably want the majority to be young and dynamic, if you care about the future of your company.  Sure, experience counts too, but it is not everything.  Older employees can be a pain in the derriere, especially when the company wants to change direction.  I have had the unfortunate situation of working with returning retirees.  No matter how much you guide them in the direction you want to go, they will go their direction and sabotage your plan.  I can think of only one where I had a pleasant experience, and even he did whatever he wanted.  Our views were more aligned and he was truly the world expert.
George N Romey Added Apr 2, 2018 - 12:52pm
I’ve also had to deal with whinny millennials that bitch because their jobs take them away from their kids, expect everyone to make an exception to them because they have children, complain about long hours, unable to write complete sentences and think their phone is more important than anything else.
Jeff Jackson Added Apr 2, 2018 - 1:03pm
Leroy/George, from what I have experienced, the millennials aren't the people who are willing to stay late until the job gets done. They seem more willing to have a "work-life balance" even if that means neglecting work and leaving whether the job is done or not. Leroy, I have seen those that refuse to accept any changes, and they are as you describe. Those of us who had the experience of watching programs come and go, (where did Wordperfect go, what happened to the search engine Alta Vista?) are, almost unbelievably, more accustomed to change than one might think. I have experienced a coworker, nearing retirement, who argued voraciously about any changes at all, even the most minute ones. I've seen that, I'm not there, I know better. Thanks for your comments.
George N Romey Added Apr 2, 2018 - 1:13pm
I think it’s person specific. The person that taught we Excel years ago was near 65 but had Internet access in his home by 1994.