Silicon Valley’s call for “new grad” job applicants, a barrier to older workers?

A new story by Fortune sheds light on how some tech companies may be targeting young candidates and thus discouraging older ones. It is done in a subtle way, by specifying in job ads “new” or “recent” grads, Fortune’s Verne Kopytoff reports.

Yahoo, Facebook, Dropbox, Electronic Arts, Hewlett-Packard and Apple are among the companies that have listed openings with “new grads” in the jobs’ qualification section. Some companies, perhaps worried that “new” will be interpreted as just weeks out of college, then further detail that 2011 or 2012 graduates are acceptable.

The designation potentially is in violation of federal employment law, a lawyer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission told Kopytoff.

Ageism in the workplace has long been a Silicon Valley issue. In boom times, when companies say labor is so tight they need to scour the corners of the earth for talent, some older job applicants say they are overlooked.

There is little available data about the age demographics of the tech workforce. Among the companies that have recently offered a snapshot of the gender and ethnicity of their employees, there is no mention of age.

In a case that Facebook settled with the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Department, the company had advertised for a lawyer, “Class of 2007 or 2008 preferred.”

In its defense, Facebook argued that law school grads can be among a range of ages and that in interviewing for the role it talked to people outside of those graduation dates.

In its settlement, the company agreed to not specify again the graduation dates but Kopytoff notes that it still uses “new grad” in seeking applicants.

As Kopytoff points out, companies typically stay on the right side of the law by using terms like “entry-level position” and “no experience required.”

Why tech companies might specify “recent grads” is unclear. My guess is that “recent grads” works better to draw in applicants, but does it signal to “not so recent” grads not to bother?

I asked Verne if this practice is illegal, will regulators do anything?

Above Photo illustration: Michael Vasquez/Miami Herald/MCT archives




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  • devarajaswami

    Silicon Valley companies specify “recent grad” to signal two reasons:
    1. The culture prefers younger applicants who can work long hours without complaining, and
    2. The salary and compensation expectations should be of the order of entry level positions.
    In both cases, the overall hidden code is that these positions prefer younger employees who can get paid less, work harder, and are “easier” to handle.
    Certainly the spirit of the law is being broken routinely, if not the letter.

  • TCWriter

    Wonder when the rest of the world will realize these tech companies are not good corporate citizens — and the tech honeymoon ends?

    After all, these are the same players who pretty clearly colluded to keep worker’s salaries below market value with an illegal anti-poaching agreement. Plus the tax dodging, option backdating and other illegalities.

  • Jung Kyung Fan

    Thanks siliconbeat for alerting us to the story in Fortune. I’ve worked in the Bay Area tech scene since the 1980’s and know that ageism exists and instances like this does occur frequently. It’s happening right now because, as you mention in the article, it is yet another boom-time for tech. I agree with the previous posts. New grads is code word by the tech companies to encourage younger, more inexperienced people to work for them because they want people to work for cheaper without complaint. The sad part is that there is an undercurrent here that ‘new’ methods and technologies somehow is ‘better’ and more viable than ‘older’ technologies (represented by other folks such as myself and others who literally started making PC’s as a hobby before tech became a commodity). This is the justification that the greedy tech companies use to make hiring decisions — we need NEW BLOOD, newer technique. The counter to this is that if you work in tech, it is a given that tech will always change, evolve and hopefully get better. This change doesn’t necessarily have to be driven by people who are just out of school. As a matter of fact, change would be qualitatively higher if it were driven primarily by older employees because they have EXPERIENCE and understanding of what works and what is practical.

    The other reason why the stupid tech companies is because it gives them a chance to post pictures of their young and fun-loving staff on the corporate bio-pages (you know the type I am talking about). I can’t stand those types of pages because they make the companies seem vapid and not serious about their product.

  • Ed

    I remember a school board hiring new grads (teachers) a few years back. Once they got some seniority and higher pay they layed them off and again repeated the process. It’s a pay and benefits issue. So if your a new hire you may in awhile be a new fire?