Are “Years of Experience” Requirements Fair to Younger Workers?

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I’m about six years into my IT career and like any business person I am always keeping my eye on the market.

I’ve noticed a trend where employers post minimum experience requirements, which is not unusual. However the requirements are a bit overstated. For example, a former employer has posted a minimum requirement of eight years experience for the position I held and excelled at for several years (with only two years experience when I started). Truth be told, a second year undergrad could do that job without difficulty.

This is just one example and it is not uncommon in my observation.

The practice smacks of discrimination against the young and I can only imagine the frustration my newly graduated peers must be experiencing. Do you have any suggestions on how to get a resume in front of a hiring manager or will the “kids” just need to pray for a lucky break?

To read the answer click here: Are “Years of Experience” Requirements Fair to Younger Workers?

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9 thoughts on “Are “Years of Experience” Requirements Fair to Younger Workers?

  1. This is different in the UK. It's as illegal to discriminate against younger workers as the over-40s, so technically we shouldn't use x years experience, but rather indicate the skills and level required. Notice I say technically – I saw an employment lawyer ad requesting x years PQE recently!

  2. Age discrimination is also illegal here in New Zealand, and it is very rare to see a job ad posted requiring x years of experience for that reason – the newspapers pretty much police this themselves.

  3. The other question a good recruiter should ask themselves is 'does this person have ten years of experience, or one year of experience ten times?'.

  4. Ms. Lucas, I beg to differ on your contention that age discrimination laws don't apply to people under 40. If that's the case, I'd like you or any labor law attorney to explain the following true story:

    When I was 15, I applied for a job at a major clothing retailer. On all parts asking my age, I listed my true age of "15 & 1/2" years old. I got a job interview & was told I would hear back "one way or the other." At no time did I lie about my age.

    A few weeks later, I see a want ad in the newspaper for the same retailer for the same job I'd applied for. The retailer had not called me back in that time so I called to follow up. In response, I'm told that you have to be 16 to work there. Bear in mind that I was given zero notice of this until the lady I spoke to told me this. There were no signs, no listing in the application, NOTHING that listed an age requirement to work there.

    So I call up both the company's main headquarters & my state's EEOC office & told them the whole story. I also make some compelling arguments to the main headquarters about maturity not being a factor of age, the uselessness of me having the job in the middle of the school year (when I'd be 16) & the arbitrariness of it all. When the EEOC heard about it, by the way, they immediately jumped on it.

    The exact same afternoon I get a call from the store manager & an invitation to interview with him.

    When I went to that interview, he told me point blank that he could hire someone as young as 14 but they preferred to hire 16 & up. I pointed out that I'd already had an interview & restated my point that I was already capable of doing the job + waiting 5 months wasn't going to change it as well as the point about people 16 years+ weren't automatically more mature or capable than me at 15.

    I must have been convincing enough because I got that job & ended up staying there for 3 years. I was also one of the youngest people to work in that location.

    So, why would the store manager magically call me after I'd called the EEOC & the main headquarters the VERY SAME day? I made the calls on my own, I wasn't a lawyer like I am today & if I'd been some thug or someone who inspired terror, I wouldn't have been interviewed to begin with & certainly wouldn't have been offered a job later on. My parents weren't involved (I knew how to advocate for myself quite well), no one else I knew of acted on my behalf & I refuse to believe any store manager at a major retail establishment would have humanity towards a 15 year old so why would this manager make such a beeline to talk to me & offer a job interview unless I could have had a potentially valid age discrimination claim on my hands? Even a drama teacher a year later said I probably got that job b/c the retailer feared I'd sue them otherwise.

    This was in the mid-90s if it helps but I've never heard of any magic law change that made age discrimination valid for 15 year olds in that time vs. today.

  5. Fascinating. Many states have restrictions on what hours the under 18 set can work and there are many jobs that you must be 18 to do, but those are not generally retail.

    The protected class status is for 40 and up.

    I shall look into this a bit further. Maybe one of my labor and employment lawyer friends has an answer for me.

  6. As Ms. Lucas states, many states have restrictions on how much, or if, a person under the age of 18 can work (hours per week, past a certain our of the day, etc.) Most states require anyone under the age of 18 to have a work permit.

    She is also correct that in the US, there are no age discrimiantion laws for persons under 40. I can't really explain your story, other than to suggest it may have had something to do with your calling the store's headquarters. If you had accurately related your situation in your call the EEOC, you would have been informed there was no law to prevent any employer from hiring you because your were too young.

  7. As this is IT, I would like to encourage the OP to disregard the years of experience and apply for positions for which you're qualified.

    Many times in IT the time requirements are written by HR (no offense) and should be taken with several hundred grains of salt.

    There are ads who want 5-10 yrs of experience with software which didn't even exist 5 years ago.

    Send your resume in and hopefully they will be passed to a hiring manager who can vet you properly. If not, you don't want to work for a company like that anyway.

  8. If a company posts 8 years of experience for a job an undergrad could do, it’s likely that they already have someone in mind and they are trying to weed out the competition up front. Either that, or that happened at one time, and they just keep using the same recruiting materials over and over. Either way, making higher requirements than are necessary is simply a bad business practice, and you might not want to work there anyway. You didn’t say what kind of experience they posted for though, so unless it says 8 years of paid professional work experience, you can use any experience you want to add to that 6 years you already have. Since you are young, you probably had some kind of IT experience all the way back to High School. Volunteer experience? Set up granny’s investment club website? Use whatever you can to get the interview, and then show them what you’ve got.

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