How I think about hiring and developing people

We’ve recently tried out some new analysts at Content Factory. Great way to test our 9-level analyst system.

Most applicants are college-aged teen-to-early twenties, but people of all ages can join the program. However, it’s designed for students still in school, since we have college and classmate support.  Harder to go through the program without joining a team for mentorship.

We’ve considered eliminating the $10/hr starting position, which handles training and apprenticeship- which requires “hands-on” time from Senior analysts and above. This raises the starting pay to $15/hr and means we have a higher expectation of skills. We’d have fewer “apprenticeship” type positions and young adults would have to qualify at a higher level to join the company.

But once they do get in as a Level 2 Analyst, they have a “better” position as a digital professional. And our self-guided training is getting better and better. We offer the training at no cost, regardless– subsidized by our awesome clients.

If we keep the Junior Analyst spot as paid and raise it to $15/hour, then we have to increase our prices, though we already operate at just above break-even.

Know the old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? Imagine that the person you’re wanting to hire is set in their ways, and is actively refusing to learn your system (be it out of pride, or that they think their experience stands on its own). It’s happened to us before and has cost us thousands while we tried to coax them to cooperate. Forget being old dogs, these are horses we’ve led to water but refuse to drink.

So, in our situation, who would you consider hiring: The 20-something-year-old social media generation who grew up on the internet and is still apt to learn, or someone who still types with two fingers, does things “their way”, and are afraid of change?

I’m not attacking older people. If you have the necessary skills and the willingness to adapt and learn, regardless of your age, then you would excel in our system. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that a certain category of worker doesn’t understand the new job economy– which is based on performance and upward mobility, as opposed to having to “negotiate” a corporate job right out of school.

But, despite the obvious choice, did you know it’s illegal to discriminate against hiring someone based solely on their age? Be careful about making those old-timers/dinosaur jokes! It could land you in trouble.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits employment discrimination based on age with respect to employees 40 years of age or older. Here are a few key points to remember:

Work Place Fairness

Here are some examples of potentially unlawful age discrimination:

  • You didn’t get hired because the employer wanted a younger-looking person to do the job.
  • You received a negative job evaluation because you weren’t “flexible” in taking on new projects.
  • You were fired because your boss wanted to keep younger workers who are paid less.
  • You were turned down for a promotion, which went to someone younger hired from outside the company because the boss says the company “needs new blood.”
  • When company layoffs are announced, most of the persons laid off were older, while younger workers with less seniority and less on-the-job experience were kept on.
  • Before you were fired, your supervisor made age-related remarks about you, such as that you were “over-the-hill,” or “ancient.”
  • Workers who are 40 years of age or older are protected by the ADEA from employment discrimination based on age if the employer regularly employs 20 or more employees.

Are all older workers protected under the law?

No. The ADEA contains several exceptions:

Executives or others “in high policy-making positions” can be required to retire at age 65 if they would receive annual retirement pension benefits worth $44,000 or more.

There are special exceptions for police and fire personnel, tenured university faculty, and certain federal employees having to do with law enforcement and air traffic control. If these exceptions may apply to you, check with your personnel office or an attorney for details.

The ADEA makes an exception when age is an essential part of a particular job — also known by the legal term “bona fide occupational qualification” or BFOQ. For example, if a company hires an actor to play the role of a 10-year-old, or a teen’s clothing store needs models, the ability to appear youthful is a necessary part of the job or a BFOQ.

Can an employer ask my age on a job application?

Nothing in the ADEA specifically prevents an employer from asking for an applicant’s age or date of birth. However, because such inquiries may deter older workers from applying for employment or may otherwise indicate possible intent to discriminate based on age, requests for age information will be closely scrutinized to make sure that the inquiry was made for a lawful purpose, rather than for a purpose prohibited by the ADEA.

What do I have to prove to prevail on an ADEA claim?

Claims of unlawful discrimination on the basis of age can be difficult to prove. To be successful, the employee must show that some adverse action was taken on the basis of his or her age. Such an adverse action can be shown by direct evidence, but such evidence is not usually available.

It isn’t enough for an employee to show that he or she was replaced by a younger person, although this fact can serve to strengthen a claim under the ADEA. An employer can only be held liable for age discrimination if the employee can show that an intentional action was taken against the employee because of the employee’s age.

It’s considered age discrimination if you directly told applicants you were looking for young workers only or if you stated in the job application/job posting that the job was only for young adults.

You can, however, tell a person that they do not meet the job requirements or are overqualified during an interview. A lot of companies hire at job fairs where they can meet potential candidates face to face before interviewing or they require applicants to bring in their resume and can meet the person before interviewing. You can not commit age discrimination if the applicant has not even been interviewed for the job because they were never a potential candidate.


What about Failure to hire cases?

So-called “Failure to Hire” cases are notoriously hard to bring and even harder to prove. As long as the organization ends up hiring someone who is qualified for the job, how could you ever prove that they were rejected because of age? It’s not as though the organization is going to publish the new hire’s age for all the other candidates to see.

It’s unlawful to reject a job-seeker because s/he’s over forty, but it’s perfectly legal to decline to hire someone because he or she is a Capricorn, a knitter, or a Golden State Warrior fan. It’s legal to refuse to hire someone because they’re Republican or because they’re vegan.

You can say to a job-seeker “You’re too ugly to work for me” without breaking any laws. In other words, older job-seekers aren’t the only ones being discriminated against.


U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. It is unlawful to harass a person because of his or her age.

Harassment can include offensive remarks about a person’s age. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.


Special thanks to Tymber H. from FancyHands, who compiled the list of articles and extracted useful information.

Want to read more by Dennis Yu? For more content follow him here:

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top