Ageism lurks in IT recruitment processes

Despite age discrimination legislation introduced last October, ageism is still ingrained in the recruitment process, according to a survey by law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner.

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With more than 600 cases currently going through employer tribunals, it seems many employers still continue to select on the basis of age. And the IT department and wider industry are especially vulnerable to stereotyping around age, according to employees and recruiters.

"I know one financial services company that won’t place candidates over the age of 26," said Martin Allport, managing director of IT recruitment consultancy D1. "We recently nominated a 45 year-old man to this company. He is a very good technician and would have brought the younger guys on because he had good mentoring skills. But the 35 year-old IT director turned him down on the basis he 'didn’t fit'.”

Allport said this kind of stereotyping also permeates many IT departments. "But having some grey hair might otherwise be perceived as a plus for project management, because it shows you’ve been round the block a few times and have experience."

A senior associate with Berwin Leighton Paisner, which commissioned the survey, confirms that a particular ageist aura cloaks the IT world because of the furious pace of technology churn.

"One of the cases I’ve dealt with concerns the perception that there is inherent ageism in the IT industry," said Jackie Thomas.

In that case, the plaintiff contended that a requirement for recent experience in a job vacancy hit older candidates harder because of their difficulties in landing IT jobs in the first place, prior to the 2006 legislation.

"I reject those stereotypes absolutely,” says Ben Booth, global technology director of market research giant Ipsos. “It doesn’t make a great deal of recruitment sense because the demographic time bomb is already ticking away. People have to get real about the recruitment pool available and this legislation is prodding us in the right direction, not to reject older candidates.”

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