Double Whammy for IT Job Seekers: Being Unemployed and Over 50

Don Tennant

In my recent post, "Job Candidates Disqualified Because They're Unemployed?," I asked readers to chime in with any experiences they'd had with the practice by some employers of limiting the field of candidates for job openings to only those who are currently employed. The response suggests that employers who engage in the practice may be using it to help weed out older candidates.


Here's an excerpt from an e-mail written by a reader who identified himself as being over 50 (edited for clarity):

I firmly believe that there has been big-time age and unemployed discrimination happening over the past several years.


I am an IT professional with 10 progressive years of experience and promotions under my belt. Then I was laid off in early 2009. The funny thing now that I think about it was about four months before the layoff, an experience and education survey was sent out to all employees. I was lacking current IT certs at that time. I am in the 50+ group as far as age is concerned. When I attended unemployment sessions, I did not see anyone there who was in their 20s or 30s.


While at a local professional networking group late last fall, a career coach gave a presentation to the group. It was suggested that the unemployed change their resume from "unemployed" to "company confidential" and list a title and job duties as if we were still employed. I thought it was wrong and I felt like I was lying. Before the end of the year several other group members announced that they landed jobs. Each indicated that they used this method. One member said that she was asked about this last job and she honestly told them why she listed a bogus job. She got the job anyway. The other two members said that they were never asked about this last "bogus" job and landed jobs. They all were unemployed for around two years when they used this method to land jobs. I finally gave in this year and listed a bogus position. I had pushed this updated resume out to several IT job boards and within a week or so started receiving e-mails from different recruiters. So, over the past two months, I received 15 recruiter e-mails [resulting in only one face-to-face interview, which didn't pan out].

This reader said he's convinced his age is a factor in his unemployment (edited for clarity):

Just wanted to let you know that a couple of months ago a recruiter in Greenville, S.C., told me, "No one will consider you because you have been out of work for over a year." I have 35 years experience in application development on IBM mainframe and midrange (iSeries) platforms using several languages, and have also done IMS/DB2 systems software support. I have worked for some of the largest corporations -- Rockwell International, Chrysler, General Motors/Electronic Data Systems, and Computer Sciences Corp. So I was shocked to think they would just dismiss all my experience.


I also have strong feelings (but could not prove) that my age is also a factor in getting immediately dropped from consideration for jobs for which I feel I am otherwise qualified.

I was unable to confirm the next reader's story, but if there's any truth to it at all, it's pretty stunning. So I'm including it here for you to make of it what you will (edited for clarity):

No matter what your education level or experience, it is standard practice to not hire anyone who has been out of work for over a year. In addition, because legal action is currently so high for older executives being let go recently, companies now say, "We are making significant changes. You need to now re-interview for your job. You will be replaced by a worker with 5 to 8 years of experience, and who is younger. You will be told that we need different skill sets now because we are headed in a new direction."


Another trend is to lay U.S. people off so a company can hire employees from India. These workers are after the Green Card, not salary. They will work for much less than an American citizen. So get used to food stamps and the street. If you want to see how many highly qualified people are homeless right now for lack of work, check out the parking lots at your local health clubs. People sleep in their cars (they get a Sears portable battery and electric space heater for winter). They keep their health club membership because they can go in anytime and sleep on a couch or take a shower. In the Chicago suburbs, these are the new refugee camps. I'm sorry if I seem negative. I am not. I am just truthful. Remember the health club tip. It is a place where you can shower and you can sleep in your car in the club parking lot without the police arresting you for vagrancy (which is a new version of debtors prison). [From] Allen, contacting you from my health club. Unemployed executive and MBA who has brought 48 new products to market. See you in the parking lot.

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Mar 1, 2011 11:11 AM twins.fan twins.fan  says:

The best job interview question that I have ever had happened recently, in which an HR person from Google contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in working for Google, I answered with a yes. The HR guy set me up with a technical screen with someone from Google who is not fluent in English, who communicated with me via a telephone speaker phone from hell.

Instead of the highly technical interview that I expected, the interviewer asked some run of the mill questions and asked me to code a routine on the spot.  I answered all of the questions thoroughly and correctly, but I am not sure if the interviewer actually understood the answers because of his difficulty understanding English.  He is from Communist China and repeatedly interrupted me several times asking me to repeat myself.  He could have avoided using the speaker phone from hell but he did not want to have to hold the telephone handset during the interview.

During the last question, he asked me to read the routine to him over the phone.  Needless to say, he never understood my program, because he repeatedly interrupted me here too asking me to repeat myself several times per word.  I repeatedly asked the interviewer to use the "chat" software that the HR person instructed me to install on my computer to communicate with the interviewer, but the interviewer refused.  I repeatedly asked the interviewer to allow me to email the program to him. Again, the interviewer refused.  The interviewer obviously had no interest in evaluating my technical qualifications.

I complained to the Google HR person after the interview, but nothing was ever done.  This interview with Google was obviously a fake interview, and extension of the policy of posting jobs that do not exist.  I realized that I am one of countless US STEM workers who are just warm bodies to march through fake interviews so that Google can claim that US STEM workers are not qualified to work at Google.  I realized that this sham interview was just a choreographed snow job used to justify Google's continuing age discrimination and discrimination against US STEM workers.

Mar 1, 2011 12:06 PM Warior Warior  says:

Don ! Don't you act like colonel Gadhafi "My people love me, they will die for me"  !! You know clearly how many people responded to your posts in negative way about you point of view support the cheat guest worker program and you just act yourself like you don't even know "just check this and that" .. What an ignorance sore looser person like you and you think people here complain the issues are bunch of liars or what ?? If you are not believing why don't you go to the gym next to your place to check them out.

Mar 1, 2011 12:12 PM Warior Warior  says: in response to twins.fan

@twins.fan I hear you man.. I got the same problem couple of year ago back. I passed 49 questions out of 50 from an Indian interviewer but I still got reject by the Indian manager. Later on I got hired at the same company by an American manager, I witnessed all the programmers under the Indian manager rejected me were all Indians and most of them are beginner or rookie programmers. I just wonder how those rookies passed his 50 technical questions !!!

Mar 1, 2011 12:37 PM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to Warior

Here's a friendly suggestion for you. Try to understand that the vast majority of people who read this blog couldn't possibly take you seriously because of the way you express yourself. If you have a point of view that you feel strongly about and you wish to contribute something meaningful to the discussion, try your best to do it in a way that articulates your viewpoint in an intelligent manner. Anything of any value that you might have to contribute is lost in the pointless personal attacks, the unsavory language you use, and your careless writing style. You're more than welcome to contribute -- I highly value the mix of differing opinions -- but I would strongly encourage you to present yourself in a more reasoned, sensible manner, and to take the time to proofread your comment before posting it.

Mar 2, 2011 9:53 AM Prashant nayak Prashant nayak  says: in response to Don Tennant

I agree on this article also im strong in to  H1b abuse i like to abuse H1b because you cannot love hooker only abuse

Mar 2, 2011 12:41 PM Drunken Economist Drunken Economist  says:

Awwwwwwwww, the poor little Boomersters, years ago they laid off their compatriots, slashed budgets and offshored EVERYTHING. Or clamored for H1Bs.

Now they have been replaced. By "skilled" labor.

Confidential whoopsie to Mumbai Don: s/skilled r/cheap

There, fixed that for you- if you really want to tell the truth of the matter about a 'glut of cheap labor'...


Mar 2, 2011 5:49 PM Dolores Dolores  says: in response to Don Tennant

Do you think there might be a connection between the phenomenon you're discussing here and the practice over the last decade of pumping our economy chock full of millions of younger foreign workers? What you are observing in this blog entry is yet another sign of a gigantic glut of skilled labor in America.

Mar 2, 2011 6:04 PM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to Dolores

There's clearly a glut of skilled labor, but the question is whether there's a glut or shortage of the particular skills that companies want. I wish it were the case that more older workers with outdated skills could be retrained rather than cast aside, but unfortunately companies seem to prefer to hire younger workers who already have the needed skills.

Mar 2, 2011 6:35 PM Dolores Dolores  says: in response to Don Tennant

No, many of the younger workers do NOT have the needed skills. Lying among H-1Bs is rampant and well known. So is the practice of desi staffing companies hiring 'freshers' and putting them through mock projects and rapid jargon training, then editing their resumes to show the training as if it were actual business experience.

I actually have ITIL v3 Foundation, Project, Security and a recent Master's from a respected local univeristy in Technology Management. Out of date? Office 2010? Windows 7? Recent Project and Program managment experience (successful)?

The companies are being completely fooled by the H-1B, and the language barrier seems to make it hard to figure out they've been conned. The word is out on the street, and massive outsourcing failures have appeared in the news from time to time (heavy H-1B involvment, I mean to say).

America is going to become a third world mess if we don't get Americans back to work in America. If it's not already.

Mar 2, 2011 7:08 PM Warior Warior  says:

Don ! You should know better than that Don  When you have gut stepping into the ring, hold both your fists up and punch straight in the faces  of million hard American workers out there, of course you expect to get some punches back at your own face.  So be it, don't complain here. I am nice enough to tell you better give up with your crazy stance as an Indian NASSCOM shill and siding with the Cheaters. The day hard working American rise up like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya will be near,  Wisconsin is the first one and many states will be followed soon Don  We better fix this Guest Worker crap otherwise we will never recover from this mess.  Thousand and thousand of unemployed college grads out there are looking for job and you seat right in your own office throwing out all the garbage Indian propaganda news and blogs  is not good for you Don. When everything is over we will never forgive you Don, you better clean your act and turn away from stance that is all I can say, nothing is too late ..

I am asking reader here, if yours don't like my writing I will quit !! Let take a vote then ...

Mar 2, 2011 8:00 PM Dolores Dolores  says: in response to Dolores

And why pick on Warior? I understood him just fine. We already put up with marble-mouthed Indian techs and absolutely inarticulate Chinese folks, and are called 'racist' if we object to them working here. But Americans all have to be Shakespeare?

Mar 2, 2011 8:29 PM sarvesh kumar dharayan sarvesh kumar dharayan  says: in response to Dolores

my name is sarvesh kumar dharayan and i own Apex technology group and we are best IT company in new jersey.  we only hire young indian h-1bs because they listen and work hard. sorry but many americans is fat an lazy especially older one.

Mar 2, 2011 8:36 PM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to Dolores

I'll have to plead not guilty to picking on anybody, Dolores. You've been reading this blog long enough to know better.

Mar 2, 2011 8:42 PM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to sarvesh kumar dharayan

I suspect this is bogus, written by someone to fan the hate flames. I replied to the e-mail address that was ostensibly used to post it, and it bounced.

Mar 2, 2011 8:53 PM Dolores Dolores  says: in response to Don Tennant

Maybe they're just reposting what they've seen elsewhere. I lurk on H-1B sites sometimes and I've seen shocking sentiments expressed towards American workers. Here's one (and I think I could find the url if I looked): an Indian woman H-1B is insulting her neighbor: an American woman who "lives in a palace" and is looking for work. How can she be qualified (H-1B wonders) if she is always just looking for work?

I wondered if the neighbor was formerly working in a field impacted by H-1Bs. Not just IT, but banking, medicine, academics.....

Another time they were thinking out loud that America would go to the dogs without them. America just doesn't have the people, they said, to do the work they were doing. These were run of the mill IT H-1Bs.

And there was the time, a few years back, in Economic Times where they got the news that the call center jobs were coming back to the US, and someone asked in the comments whether we had people in America who could do that type of work?

Mar 3, 2011 3:20 PM Wakjob Wakjob  says: in response to twins.fan

When I go for a job interview, I take control. If they want me to take a skills test I tell them I require a written test and 1 hour to comolete it. If they balk I get up and walk out. No one sets me up for a fake interview just to disqualify me. Many Asians in this country are jealous of what Americans have created and they WANT to see us unemployed.

Mar 3, 2011 3:28 PM Wakjob Wakjob  says: in response to Don Tennant

Let's see Don... I've got 16 years of C/C++ and 10 years of Objective-C under my belt as well as many sucessful products. I am 42 and can't find a job. Don't tell me I don't have the particular skills that are in demand.

Does anyone remember that recuruiter who got caught a few years back with the "> 6 years == garbage can" job posting? Illegal age discrimination is rampant.

What's funny is these recruiters think only young people can do these jobs. They even go so far as to hire marble-mouthed retards from the you know what subcontinent before they will hire the same older Americans who created the 90s boom.

Mar 6, 2011 11:27 AM mataj mataj  says:

twenty nine, past my prime

i feel so behind the times


Mar 7, 2011 7:05 PM Beresford Davidson Beresford Davidson  says:

"Double Whammy for IT Job Seekers: Being Unemployed and Over 50," is true it seems, for I am wearing the same shoe as those mentioned above. What we dealing with is disingenuousness, ignorance and arrogance populating management and not to forget this "patriot act," and "at will," rearrangements are turning executive decisions into financial cannibals. Cash-crash has turn decency into victim of decision making indecency. The unemployed need to do an Egypt on those oil-companies raising prices for no other reason other than forming the glee club for extortionist.

Mar 9, 2011 4:35 PM Uasknow Uasknow  says:

Fascinating post I've been checking your blog out for a while and I truly like what you have achieved with it.

Mar 11, 2011 11:00 AM REOjim REOjim  says:

I know I've seen older workers who take their time, maybe don't work as hard as some of their younger colleagues.  I've also seen younger people who work slowly, take their time, are rude to customers, and do only what's necessary to keep their position.  On the flip side, I've seen both old and young who take pride in their work, seek to learn, and put in 150% +.  I've worked all night long on difficult problems, slept on concrete floors so I'd be avail in case of an alarm.  I've worked 72 hours straight and I didn't understand when my co-worker asked me to slow down and save some work for tomorrow.  Still, I was let go and the younger, lower paid, were retained... worse yet, 2 new techs were hired to replace me... 1/2 price and no benefits.  Perhaps that is the reason.  Employers may not be willing to pay for their experience and don't care about their work ethic. 

Apr 22, 2011 10:37 AM American-American American-American  says: in response to Wakjob

Don, you should take a look at the Michael Dell article in Mother Jones.  Dell is a pretty good example of how american workers are being treated by these corporations.  Michael basically states there is a, 'lack of skilled workers' available in america.'  The article exposes his 'sociopathic' personality.    However, I also experienced age discrimination while searching for employment.  One employer, Sony, went so far as to suggest that 'I must have done something wrong' in order to be laid off.  I was managing a construction company in Las Vegas..... HELLO!   First mistake is to list more than 10 years of experience on your resume.  Agreeing with others, don't let them know you are unemployed.  I did finally find a job at 1/2 salary.  Sadly, Sony and Dell's attitude is prevelent.  Remember, the babyboomers are still the largest US population.  I don't buy Sony or Dell products any longer and I'm doing my part.  How about you?

Apr 22, 2011 5:44 PM Swheat Swheat  says:

It's about time this subject was seriously explored.  I am a senior citizen with over 12 years IT experience.  I am not presently financially able to stop working and probably will never be unless I win a lottery.  I've been laid-off twice in the last 3 years, but have managed through networking to find another job within a matter of weeks.  In August 2009 I was hired as the Help Desk Coordinator for an up and coming electronic data discovery company.  A great job that did not t require lifting, moving, crawling around and/or installing equipment.  In May 2010 however I lost that job due to, I'm firmly convinced, my age.  For if it was not the direct cause, it was most definitely a contributing factor when it came to deciding who would go and who would stay.

At any rate, I've become extremely self-conscious about my age.  Of course, prospective employers would never let on that age was a consideration in their hiring process, but nevertheless it is. 

When I chose a career in Information Technology, it was with the idea that my skills set and years of experience would be assets allowing me to continue working as long as I liked.  There are organizations such a NOWCC and AARP, which offer older workers employment opportunities.  However, these jobs take advantage of a workers years of on-job experience paying little more than minimum wage.  The practice of hiring highly qualified professionals to do job requiring highly qualified professionals and paying pennies on the dollar is, in my judgment, discriminatory.   And guess who is the worst offender - the U.S. Government. 

It helps to know there are other seniors who aren't ready to be led quietly to pasture.

I have received several calls from different Tech Recruiters.  I'm not at all sure how to proceed, especially as to the matter of why I'm still working.

Apr 23, 2011 12:17 PM Susan Susan  says:


I empathize with the contributors who are frustrated with employers hiring practices, but I also understand the difficult position of employers who advertise openings. I am 55 years old, a woman, an retired Army career-veteran, and I have over 35 years of experience in computer systems analysis and workforce management. You have the knowledge, skills, and work ethics that every employer seeks in candidates, so I thought. 

I became unemployed in April 2010, and quickly realized that I had to options available to me if I wanted to return to work. I could draw on my years of leadership and management experience and develop an effective marketing campaign that made the product I had to offer attractive to my target market;or I could abandon my ethics and values and push a product that was shinny on the outside and empty on the inside. I was the product I was marketing, and I refused to sell myself short. I took a month off to go through the 5 stages of grief, and when I was done licking my wounds, I started the most important project of my professional career--getting a job.

I attacked this project with the objective that I would not stop until I accomplished my goal. Here are some of the things I did that resulted in my success:

1. I determined that looking for a job needed to be a full-time job. With this in mind, I planned my "work" week. I would wake up each morning and dress as if I was going to an office job. On Monday and Tuesday, I searched job boards and company websites for positions of interest. On Tuesday afternoon, I would place a call to company receptionist in the hopes that he or she would provide me with the name and direct contact information of the hiring manager responsible for recruiting for the position. With this information, I would fax my resume and cover letter for their review. I was ask if they would be available to meet for an introductory interview--this is different than a formal interview. I would offer to meet them on Thursday, and would suggest two different times. I spent Friday morning sending out thank you notes. I spent the remainder of Friday reviewing my triumphs and defeats of the previous week. My day started at 8:00 a.m.and ended at 5:00 p.m.

2. I accepted the reality that the interviewer was probably still in diapers when I started my first job. He or she might see me as an aged hippie who probably still had my day-glow Deadhead poster on my wall and my love beads hanging from the lamp in my flop-house. I had to overcome my prejudice of the punk-grunge, skater, gamer image and accept the reality that this person had my future in their hands. For the first time in my own children's life I did not tell them to turn "that noise" down, I asked them who the singer was and why they thought they were so "rad". Now I was armed with something I could use to show that I was not stuck in Woodstock.

3. I stopped highlighting things I did in the past, except for major accomplishments, and focused on what I would bring to the company now and the immediate benefit they would realize from my contribution. Young employers may be uncomfortable speaking to an older adult. They were raised to respect their elders, and now they were being asked to supervise, manage, and discipline the same elders. 

4.  Reply

Apr 23, 2011 12:17 PM Susan Susan  says:
I realized that to be successful, I needed to reinvent myself to meet others needs. I had to admit that the education I had was outdated, or even worse obsolete. I enrolled in evening courses at the community college, and to my surprise the majority of the students were very similar to me. What makes evening courses different from normal courses is that students are normally professionals seeking to update their knowledge. This dynamic allowed for the exchange of ideas that represented real-time events, and was backed with proven research and findings.

I still had to pay the bills, support my family, and stay committed to my previous obligations. I had to find some means of bringing income into the house, so to supplement my unemployment benefits, I signed up at every temporary staffing agency in town. The jobs paid far less than what I was accustomed to;however, I looked every temporary assignment as an opportunity to uncover hidden jobs.

It took almost a year, but my hard work paid off. In February 2010, a recruiter from AT&T Internet Services contacted my in response to my profile on LinkedIn and asked if I would be interested in a Tier 1 Customer Assistant position at their new Las Vegas location. I contained my impulse to jump up and down, and calmly responded that I would be honored to work for a company with a long history of excellence. My operations manager is younger than my baby brother, but I don't care. I arrive at work 1 hour before my shift starts and always stop by her desk to ask how her day has been going and offer my assistance if she needs help.

I was working on a special project for the Human Resources department of ConAgra Foods in Irvine, California in 2003. They were opening a new district sales office and needed to hire a district manager, 6 account sales representative, and one secretary. Within the first two days after the position was posted on Monster.com, they received over 1700 resumes. In 2010, it is not uncommon for a company to receive two-times as many resumes for one or two openings. Older workers need to remind the younger employer that they were on the ground floor when the first desktop PC replaced the IBM Selectric III typewriter. They need to let the younger employer know that they are willing to change and grow with the company;and that their age and experience will benefit the overall success of the organization.

Finally, older job seekers need to stop looking for a position that will replace the position they lost. They did not lose the position, the position was eliminated. For all of those who responded with impressive backgrounds, think about consulting. The job may have been eliminated but the business need still remains and employers are being asked to meet this need without incurring overhead expenses. How do they do this, they hire professional consultants who submit a bid for the project and then move on when it is finished.

So Don, here is my two-cents and some food for thought. For the few that clearly are looking for pity because their new address is the third parking space, row 5, at the Gold's Gym parking lot, remember the buck starts and stops with you and if you chose to whine, Catholic Charities is always looking for people to clean up after lunch is served at the soup kitchen.

Apr 26, 2011 9:45 AM user1230101 user1230101  says: in response to sarvesh kumar dharayan

I have been in IT in this Valley for many years. I worked for three Indian Based Companies. It was always a common comment by Indian Nationals who hold both US and Indian Citizenship that Americans are lazy and fat. These comments always indicated to me that Indians are ethnocentric and consider themselves superior to American IT workers. US firms started the H1 process. The first so called IT workers from India, who always lied about their knowledge and skills during the day, while reading books at night to learn the skills that they professed to have. Over $6 billion dollars has been drained out of Silicon Valley by three Indian IT outsourcing firms. Indians are the new Mafia boys who have this crap view that they are so super smart and the Americans who invented the knowledge and skill sets are worthless. It is time, to restrict our Affirmative Action laws from Indians who are given job benefits, and to eliminate the H1 Visas.

Dec 1, 2011 11:26 AM graham graham  says: in response to Susan

I find you disgusting. I hope you lose your job. You obviously have no empathy for people who are out of work like you were at one point.


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