CXO

Tech companies admit to actively targeting younger workers for jobs

Facebook claims the practice is commonplace, and could actually improve age diversity in the workplace.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Tech giants including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google ran job recruitment ads for companies targeted to certain age demographics, often preventing older workers from seeing them in their feed. —ProPublica and The New York Times, 2017
  • Facebook said that age-targeted job ads, when used responsibly, better help employers find workers of all ages. —ProPublica and The New York Times, 2017

Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google have run job recruitment ads for companies targeted only to certain age groups, often preventing older job seekers from ever seeing them, according to an investigation published Wednesday by ProPublica and The New York Times.

Businesses that recruit only for younger demographics may be missing out on experienced talent—an issue especially for the tech industry, where competition for workers remains strong, but ageism is also alive and well.

Though the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 outlaws discriminating against people age 40 or older in hiring or employment, GenXers are hired for tech jobs 33% less than their workforce representation, and Baby Boomers are hired 60% less, according to a recent report from Visier. Meanwhile, Millennials are hired 50% more in tech—despite the fact that workers' performance increases with age.

SEE: Insider's Guide To Better IT Leadership (Tech Pro Research)

Tech companies that do hire older workers are more likely to see them stick around: The resignation rate for Gen Xers and Baby Boomers is only 10%, compared to more than 30% for those just starting their careers, Visier found.

Further, a Dropbox survey of more than 4,000 IT workers found that people over age 55 were actually less likely than their younger colleagues to find using tech in the workplace stressful.

Workers are increasingly turning toward platforms like Facebook for job searching: The social media giant launched its own job search feature in February, allowing companies to post position openings on their business Page on the site.

Companies can also purchase recruitment ads allowing them to select their audience, which Facebook then targets with the data it collects from users. Employers such as Verizon, Amazon, Goldman Sachs, and Target have all purchased ads limited to certain age groups, according to the investigation. Several of those employers told the publications that they had changed or were changing their recruitment strategies.

Facebook said that it tailors employment ad by audience, and that this practice is not discriminatory, since it is part of a larger effort to reach all age groups. "Used responsibly, age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice and for good reason: it helps employers recruit and people of all ages find work," Rob Goldman, Facebook's vice president of ads, said in a statement.

Goldman compared the practice to running employment ads in magazines or on TV shows targeted at younger or older people. "What matters is that marketing is broadly based and inclusive, not simply focused on a particular age group," he wrote in the statement.

However, the difference is that in theory, a person of any age demographic could pick up a magazine and see a job ad, according to legal experts cited in the investigation. On a social media platform, the ad may simply never appear for a person outside of the targeted group due to the algorithm that is populating a user's feed.

The issue is moving into the legal arena: On Wednesday, the Communications Workers of America filed a class-action complaint in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of all Facebook users age 40 and up who may have been prevented from seeing job postings on the site, alleging age discrimination.

For tips on how to make sure that your company is not discriminating against hiring older workers, click here.

Also see

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A CNET reporter talks to Facebook employees in a conference room with a Super Mario video game theme at the company's headquarters.

Image: James Martin/CNET

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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