Working longer and delaying retirement is increasingly becoming a reality for many Americans. Full retirement age is now 66 rather than 65, and for those born in 1960 or after, it increases to 67. Average life expectancies for men and women turning 65 today are 84.3 and 86.6 years respectively, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). For some older job seekers, however, remaining in the workforce may be more difficult than expected, thanks to claims that ageism may be built into some of the very tools they use to search for jobs.
How Online Job Sites Are Allegedly Weeding Out Older Applicants
An investigation by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan suggests that online job sites put seniors at a disadvantage when applying for jobs by design. Madigan issued a press release in early March, announcing that she had sent letters to six national career and job search sites regarding potential age discrimination violations. Those sites include CareerBuilder (TGNA), Monster Worldwide Inc. (MWW), Beyond.com, Indeed Inc., Ladders Inc. and Vault. (See: The Best Online Job Search Techniques.)
Madigan requested information from each company concerning practices that appear to prevent older workers from creating admissible resumes and profiles when using these sites to search for openings and apply for jobs. Central to the issue is the charge that some sites require users to include the dates of their education and previous work experience – but then are designed so that only workers born after a certain span of years are able to fill in the online forms. Result: Not only can older workers not avoid showing their age; their birth or college graduation date could make it impossible for them to even apply.
Madigan’s initial investigation, for example, found that one company made 1980 the earliest possible start date for education or work. If someone completed his or her education in high school and was 18 in 1980 and age 55 now, that means this person – and other job seekers over the age of 55 – wouldn’t be able to fully complete the job profile and be admitted to the site. On other sites, the cutoff ranged from 1950 to 1970. A CareerBuilder spokesperson called the issue an oversight that would soon be corrected. (Read: The Most Popular Jobs for People 65 and Older.)
Research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco supports the claims made by Madigan’s office. In a field experiment using fabricated resumes for fictitious workers, those who were over age 49 were at least 30% less likely than those under age 31 to have an employer contact them after applying for a job. Women over age 64 fared the worst; they were 47% less likely to hear from a potential employer.
That’s dismaying considering that the American workforce is aging steadily. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age of all employed workers in the U.S. in 2016 was 42.2 years. Through 2024, the BLS estimates that the average annual growth rate of the population of workers ages 55 and older will be more than three times that of the overall labor force. By 2024, the 55-and-up crowd will represent 25% of all workers. The number of women in the workforce is expected to grow, while the number of men is projected to shrink slightly.
A bill recently introduced in Congress aims at extending greater protections to older workers who encounter age bias on the job. Dubbed the “Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act,” the bill would make it easier for older workers to prove job discrimination based on age, including during the course of the application and hiring process. (See: 7 Tips for Seniors Seeking Employment.)
The Bottom Line
Whether the probe into job search sites will result in any major changes to the way online job search platforms allow for the input of information remains to be seen. In the meantime, older workers should be aware that these sites may be putting them at a disadvantage when looking for work.
Before plugging your information into a particular site, check to see whether there are any restrictions on the dates you can use for entering your work history. If you find the gates look hard-wired to keep you out, consider reaching out to the employer directly to submit your resume. While you're at it, also check in at the small number of sites that actually reach out to older workers (see On a Retirement Job Search? Try These Agencies).