Author: Employers Care About Impact, Not Age

Mixed Ages Team

IT has taken on the aura of a young person’s game, but is age really so important to employers when they’re weighing a candidate’s value? Not necessarily, says Rick Gillis, an author and career expert. “It’s about being able to demonstrate your accomplishments,” he told CIO’s Sharon Florentine. “Most IT firms want to know one of two things: Can you make them money or can you save them money? Then they’ll want to hire you, regardless of your age.”

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Indeed, that’s something of a consensus among tech recruiters and hiring managers: They want candidates to show them how their work will benefit the bottom line. Consequently, it’s important for candidates of any age to know the business impact of their work.

For example, Gillis spoke of a former client who’d written nearly 10,000 lines of code for a bank, but couldn’t quantify the results of his work. Spurred to dig, he discovered the code fixed some major security flaws with the bank’s ATMs, eliminating the need for expensive service calls. As a result, the firm saved more than $500,000 per year. That’s the kind of result that gets employers’ attention.

Keeping up to date is also critical. Many experienced tech professionals deride new technologies as “flavors of the month,” but taking that attitude risks tripping yourself up. Companies want their employees to be adaptable and willing to learn new things. “If you’ve been looking for a job for six months, you have to realize how much has happened in that time—learn about emerging technology. Know the terminology,” Gillis said. “Be able to show that you’ve added to your knowledge and your skills.”

Mike Capone, CIO at ADP, agreed. “Age, in and of itself, doesn’t matter, but adaptability does,” he told Florentine. “That’s not always a skill you’re born with, but it can be learned.”

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Image: Rido/Shutterstock.com

Comments

  1. BY Rob S says:

    A few points:
    “Most IT firms want to know one of two things: Can you make them money or can you save them money? Then they’ll want to hire you, regardless of your age.”
    In my experience, this is not correct, and the broad term of “most” seems arbitrary.
    In my experience, at least in IT roles, the managers don’t care about the bottom line much because they are not directly impacted. Their job is to ensure that things *appear* to be flowing through the IT department. If the department shows that it is producing things (regardless of cost) then it’s a success. If it costs an extra $5 million, who cares (in the IT groups.) (And, of course, this is not necessarily good for the company, but what I’ve seen over and over.)

    “As a result, the firm saved more than $500,000 per year.”
    Per YEAR? And how much did this person get as a reward for this major savings? Probably a “thank you” at best while the upper management reaps the rewards.

    “Keeping up to date is also critical. Many experienced tech professionals deride new technologies as “flavors of the month,” but taking that attitude risks tripping yourself up.”
    Agreed. I’ve seen too many senior folks assume that the technology they learned 25 years ago is always the best way to go and refuse to learn new skills to keep up. This can only hurt your career. Of course, finding out which things are NOT “flavor of the month” is the challenge.

    And don’t forget: although Age is not necessarily a discrimination factor, the implication that age brings higher salaries and more expectations turns off a lot of companies who prefer lower salary rather than more knowledge and efficiency.

    • BY Mike Buie says:

      Rob you are 1000 percent correct. The issue is not age but experience and experience can be expensive if you are company that does not want to invest in quality senior IT pros.

  2. BY SteveG says:

    It is an interesting article which I can understand the 10,00 mile view would appear to be obvious. The challenge is companies do not hire employees their employees do. Thus regardless of age great hires are rejected for all the wrong reasons.
    1) I don’t hire people smarter than I am. A crazy statement but one I heard from a Senior Director of IT.
    2) The projection of your personal objectives onto the candidates. You have a great and ideal background but we are not going to move forward because we know you’ll be bored and want to mover on within a year or two.
    3) The impossible dream hire is one where the company is living in the past and has failed to adapt. In an interview many months ago the Director of HR told me the current Director of IT had been with the company for 35 years and would retire in 3 years. The candidate they wanted to replace him would be expected to stay as long or longer in the post. When I asked if this meant they were seeking a seasoned IT Director of less than 27 the interview was halted.
    4) Age carries a hidden sting which means HR will pas you by. Large companies lay-off older workers without fear of age discrimination on the basis of the financial impact. Older employees with a family need expensive medical coverage.
    5) False economy calculations also hit home. I was talking with a graphic designer who was coding mobile applications for his retail store company. In the interview I was able to demonstrate the impact I would bring by solving an existing challenge. I was not hired because the young UX designer who had made the product which I “fixed” refused to interview me and instead left in a tantrum. In the end the graphic designer informed me I was too good and they had decided to hire two new STEM graduates from India because they would use pair programming to make these two inexperienced but cheap coders become one good one!

    You say there is “a consensus among tech recruiters and hiring managers: They want candidates to show them how their work will benefit the bottom line.” The challenge they are using different methods of measuring this. When you add in the company’s management they have other metrics at work on this.

    In all of the above examples I had proved I could positively impact their bottom line. The fact is age and adaptability means you arrive as a multifaceted gem when HR is looking for an exact square peg. The challenge is the square peg HR seeks is probably not the same one the team needs which results in the cries of us having a shortage of IT talent.

    No matter what the law says about age discrimination, the company says it does, the hiring manager says they need and the HR team report – ageism is alive and well in IT, because companies do not hire employees their employees do.

    • BY SteveG says:

      I have to say I love Scott Adams take on the IT industry. If you have not seen today’s Dilbert, July 16th 2014, Dilbert attempts to show how he might impact the company’s bottom line; it says what I was attempting to say in the original posting in a way only Adams’ Dilbert can.

    • BY LarryD says:

      Bottom line is people hire people that look and think like them. Hence, the lack of women, people of color, and anyone of a certain age.

  3. BY Stimpy says:

    No age discrimination in hiring? How about when it comes to shoving the greybeards out the door?
    Maybe the author could explain why, after almost 30 years with the company, they made life so unbearable for me that I had to retire (you know, falsified reviews, no raises or bonuses). Now I do the same work for the same company as a contractor — no medical benefits of course. I guess the laugh is on them — I had two somewhat expensive surgeries in the last few years I was there and now I am good to go. Also collecting a modest pension and earning a paycheck (indirectly) from them too. Just don’t tell me age discrimination isn’t alive and well. BTW, I am feeling much better and more confident in my abilities since leaving that bullying and abuse behind.

    • BY Stimpy says:

      …oh, and now any OT I work is paid. No more of that “you’re a salaried employee”. Show me the money.

    • BY LarryD says:

      So Stimpy… Ever hear of Affordable Care Act? Better yet get involved in a group that is trying to make Single Payer a reality in this country.

      • BY Joe says:

        LarryD, ever live in a country with single payer? I have. Believe me, it’s a disaster.

  4. BY Joe says:

    I have only this to say about this commentary by this alleged “career expert”.

    Male.
    Bovine.
    Excrement.

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