Over the past 2 decades, DyNexus Recruiting has recruited, placed and hired hundreds of ERP and CRM (IT) consultants for VARs, ISVs and ERP & CRM end-user companies.

We’ve been writing about “hiring” for several months now. When we first started, the topics were mostly practical and safe.  Then, last week, we wrote and published a blog on the touchier subject of hiring foreign workers. The reaction from the blog entry was surprisingly lively, and quite frankly, it sparked us to consider that you, dear reader, may find our thoughts more interesting if we were to, say… unbutton something… literarily speaking. So imagine us semi self-consciously opening the top two buttons of our pressed white dress shirts to a song called The Taboo in Hiring… DJ! Start the music!

Our first dance is called: Age Discrimination and it stars our founder, Ben Schrenzel.

BEN: I’m a baby-boomer.  I know about aging.  I’ve worked with thousands of candidates, at all points in their careers, and of all ages.  The following are observations, not proclamations.  My hope is to engage people in a conversation, and I’d be interested in getting feedback. I welcome you to email me.

This was hard to write.  Don’t shoot the observer (or dancer).

Some observations about age discrimination:

  • Discrimination – Treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit. This is bad and improper.
  • Discriminating – Treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on objective analysis of the facts and circumstances. This is good and proper.
  • Everyone ages – There are no exceptions. Some age at a quicker rate than others, and different parts of us mature at different times, but all of us age in a uniquely individual way.  Life is a moving platform, and the success of our lives is affected by how well we adapt to each new changing configuration.  Everybody does it differently.
  • Skills and capabilities are affected by aging – Some get stronger (experience), others diminish (physical strength), but skill levels change, and they become dated. One problem is that most job-related skills don’t really lend themselves to accurate measurement, so it’s left mostly up to our subjective judgement.
  • Energy level is affected by aging – From personal experience, I can tell you that I’m glad my wife and I raised our children when we were in our 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, and not later. I also note that Olympic athletes are all young!  Are you looking for someone who can and will put in the 60-hour weeks that are sometime required?  Should we not take this into consideration?
  • Adaptability is affected by aging – Two things come to mind: 1) The Jesuits used to say “Give me a child until he is seven, and I’ll give you a lifelong Catholic” and 2) the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Both reflect the common understanding that younger people are more malleable than older people.  Are you looking for someone who you can mold and develop?  Should we not take this into consideration?
  • Longevity is affected by aging – Any actuary will tell you that younger people statistically will have more years to live than older people. Duh!  Are you looking for someone who will be a long-term employee?  Should we not take this into consideration?
  • Fitting into a youth culture – A lot of technology companies, especially start-ups, are populated with 20-somethings and 30-somethings. With the long hours, intensely high energy level, sharing pizza and Coke, playing on the company volleyball team, a definite youth culture develops, and plays an important part of the whole “camaraderie program.”  Should we not take this into consideration?
  • Judgement improves with experience – To this I would point out that the vast majority of corporate CEO’s have decades of experience. Younger “superstars” happen, but they typically surround themselves with seasoned, experienced, senior people.  In many ways this outweighs everything else, but not necessarily.  Should we not take this into consideration?

So, there you are. The elephants are out of the closet and I’ve never, ever been a good dancer.  I think this is one of those things that are either epically difficult or completely impossible to resolve.  I guess we just have to do our best to balance objective business reasoning with wisdom and decency.  It’s not easy, but then again . . .