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Resumes and Age Discrimination

  • 1.  Resumes and Age Discrimination

    Posted 03-05-2020 15:36
    Age discrimination is illegal, yet is very difficult to prove and is alive and well in some workplaces.

    In recent discussion with an older engineer (late 50's), she commented that she wasn't getting callbacks for jobs she is extremely qualified for . I agree with that assessment having seen both her resume and the job descriptions; she seems to be doing everything "right", including active follow-up.

    This engineer wondered if there was a way to "age proof" her resume so it wouldn't be dismissed immediately due to ageism.

    I have not run into this particular issue before when reviewing others' resumes. Frankly, I feel like you wouldn't want to work somewhere that automatically disregards you because of age, but I can also understand that sometimes you just need a job for financial reasons and can't afford to be "picky". I'm not sure how it would even be possible to "age proof" your resume when it is so easy to look people up (with pictures) on social media.

    What do you think? Do you have any resume tips for older engineers who want to "age-proof" their resumes?

    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Engineers Rising LLC

  • 2.  RE: Resumes and Age Discrimination

    Posted 03-06-2020 08:39

    I think part of the problem is not necessarily the age, but that many companies don't want to pay them what their experience is worth. I know that I saw a lot of P.E.s, and engineers with that level of experience, take jobs when the housing market crashed that did not require their level of experience and education because they needed the paycheck. Many companies took advantage, and still do, of the fact that they could get more experienced engineers for what they would normally pay a more junior engineer because of the market.

    It is unfortunate that your friend is not getting callbacks. She could be so valuable as a mentor to junior engineers especially on the non-technical aspects of engineering. I know that has been the area that I have had to work the hardest on over my years of practicing.

    Tell her to keep after it and not change her resume. There is a firm out there that is looking for her and when they find her they will be willing to compensate her for the experience and value she can add to the firm.

    James Wilson P.E., M.ASCE
    Charleston Water System
    Charleston SC

  • 3.  RE: Resumes and Age Discrimination

    Posted 03-06-2020 11:07
        I was 38 when I graduated from Engineering College; I ran into the same thing in a tight job market.  What I did was remove all references to age by reformatting my resume to exclude chronology other than when I graduated, but did list my experiences and qualifications as distinct items.  Either it did make a difference or the job market loosened up a bit, I'm not positive which.  It won't hurt her to try.

    James Justin Mercier, P.E.
    Life Member ASCE
    Sr. Life Member IEEE
    Austin Texas

  • 4.  RE: Resumes and Age Discrimination

    Posted 03-06-2020 11:08

    Good question, Stephanie. Im my long career, I have reviewed literally thousands of resumes while hiring over a hundred people in engineering or professions related to water utilities.  I don't think that there was one resume that I was not able to deduce a person's age.  A resume that doesn't end up in the trash can has to list career experience and length of time at each job. Reviewers look for this to detect signs of "job hopping" as well as the value of the experience to the previous employer. I also wanted to see if the applicants experience reflected professional growth and increased responsibility over their career. Older applicants also may have worked for consulting firms that have been subsumed years ago by larger companies. I was also interested in the length of time an engineer has been licensed, which if not shown on the resume is easy to find as it is public information. I did this not to necessarily discern an applicant's age, but the depth of their experience.

    My opinion is that a resume that tries to hide age by manipulating or leaving out such information raises a red flag, not an age flag in my case, but a flag nonetheless, as in "what career problems is the applicant trying to hide"?  Many employers are looking for maturity in mid or high level jobs.

    My advice is not to mention age in a resume, but to fully describe their experience and stress the maturity and leadership growth during their career that will be of value the employer. This won't stop a potential employer from discriminating due to age if that is their nefarious goal, but like you mentioned, who wants to work for such an employer?

    Bevin Beaudet P.E., M.ASCE
    Bevin A. Beaudet, P.E., LLC.
    West Palm Beach FL

  • 5.  RE: Resumes and Age Discrimination

    Posted 03-06-2020 14:48

    Does experience matter? Does expertise matter? Do our young engineers deserve mentoring and guidance? If one asks these and similar questions to engineering leaders who handle decisions, they would say, 'Of course, they do.' If one asks a follow up question, 'Why then different irregularities and discriminatory practices exist?' They would probably say, 'It's all about market and supply-and-demand. We can't do anything about it. Our clients do not care; they just care about liability insurance.'

    Let us ask the same questions to a lawyer/judge, a politician, or a journalist. If one says, 'Your honor, you are too old to be a judge.' The judge will immediately use his or her gable to say, 'Send this ignorant to the school. This guy does not understand what ruling class means.'

    Ah, there lies the answer. We engineers are not ruling class (although some of our leaders tend to think so). We are just working class (to be of some comfort, let us say upper working class), as our politician and journalist friends like to see a society in distinctive classes. And we behave as such.

    Engineers like to think themselves as an innovative profession. Can't they find some innovative ways to utilize valued experience? What about our leadership organizations and licensing authorities? Don't they have a role? 21st century needs 21st century answers. Old norms and practices have outlived their purpose. Perhaps, it's time to learn from lawyers/judges, politicians, and journalists to know how they handle it – how they value skills and intellectual ripening (that accrue with experience) for common societal benefit.

    This and other postings and discussions on resume and jobs are fascinatingly interesting.

    Dr. Dilip Barua, Ph.D, P.Eng, M. ASCE
    Vancouver, BC, Canada

  • 6.  RE: Resumes and Age Discrimination

    Posted 30 days ago
    Sometimes the issue is simply that the applicant is overqualified for the position being advertised, rather than an age issue.  We've sometimes received resumes from people with 15+ years of experience for positions which were clearly specified as needing say 0-5 years of experience.  Those overqualified applicants generally aren't invited for interviews because they wouldn't fit the role and compensation offered for the position.  We have hired engineers who became engineers later in life after a career change, who had appropriate engineering experience for the position, and their age was never an issue either in getting the job or doing the job.

    Irfan A. Alvi, P.E., M.ASCE
    President & Chief Engineer
    Alvi Associates, Inc.
    Towson, Maryland

  • 7.  RE: Resumes and Age Discrimination

    Posted 29 days ago
    I find it quite interesting that there are so many individuals/companies that complain that they can't find the help they need, but then choose not to hire someone that may appear overqualified. There are many quite competent people that may not be interested in management and other higher-ranking positions. I have encountered people that would prefer doing an entry or mid-level position versus the high-level position that they are quite capable of performing.

    From a labor type of perspective, I have seen a number of supervisors who would much rather be in the cab of a crane (or whatever their expertise was), versus managing people. Sometimes, a higher rate paid to these individuals could be easily justified due to the increased productivity, safety, and crew motivation. I believe the same is applicable in the field of engineering. Sometimes people want to do the task they enjoy doing versus managing people.

    If companies are interested in fixing their labor shortage problems, consider hiring overly qualified people that are interested in the less demanding positions. Not only could improved quality and productivity be achieved, they could also provide mentoring that is so badly needed in today's society.

    In my opinion, I don't believe it is a problem with the resume, I believe it is a problem with those doing the hiring. Keep reaching out to those who value what you bring to the table.

    Michael French P.E., CEP, M.ASCE
    Consultant / Owner
    Construction Innovation Consultants, LLC
    Fair Oaks Ranch TX


  • 8.  RE: Resumes and Age Discrimination

    Posted 28 days ago

    To clarify my comments, the applicants who we judged to be overqualified all had management experience, and didn't indicate that they had an interest or willingness to work in non-management junior and mid-level engineer positions.  They typically sent in their resumes without a cover letter or email indicating why they would be a good fit for the position we advertised, so we assumed that they were taking a 'shotgun' approach and sending their resume in response to many ads, regardless of whether they were a good fit for the advertised positions.

    Regarding your point about senior engineers working in a non-management role and mentoring younger engineers, I agree that such engineers can be valuable and we've had such engineers in my firm.

    Irfan A. Alvi, P.E., M.ASCE
    President & Chief Engineer
    Alvi Associates, Inc.
    Towson, Maryland