Ooh! Ooh! Look At Me!

Too Old to Work?

Too Old to be Useful?

I’m fully aware my experience is entirely anecdotal. After all, it has happened – as far as I can tell – only to me. Furthermore, I really have no way of knowing why things occurred the way they did because I haven’t been made privy to the processes and decisions that went into the “invisible” side of my experience. Therefore, you may write these words off as the irascible grousing of a bitter old man, if you like.

Nevertheless, inasmuch as I have applied for a shitload full of jobs in the recent past, all of them online and most of them through LinkedIn, let me offer a little of my experience in doing so. When it comes to hiring, regardless of whatever else they may or may not do right, and regardless of the good intentions of no doubt good hearted people, HR departments suck at treating applicants as human beings.

Of all the positions I applied for, I would say no more than 20 – 25% of them acknowledged my existence in any way after I had completed my application. Of those, the majority were simple web pages that I was fed after completing their application. In total, I received no more than four email acknowledgements of my effort.

Unfortunately, my application was the last of our “engagement” and this was even true of organizations whose primary business was “Social” business. Even people I knew personally managed to avoid interviews or much, if any, communication. I don’t think it was because I have body odor, either.

One company, to which I applied for a community management position, sent me a four-page document containing around a dozen scenarios and problems they wanted me to respond to with my analysis of the situation and how I would handle it. I took the opportunity (and at least four hours) to respond to the challenge and provide what I hoped were good answers.

Despite my relatively rapid response, it wasn’t until I publicly wondered (on Twitter) why I was being ignored that I received an email (or was it a tweet?) informing me the job had been filled. Another company was kind enough just yesterday to let me know of another position that has been filled . . . months after I offered my application. I wonder why they never thought to interview me?

Here’s what I think may be happening. Despite all the rah rah talk about respect for the knowledge and experience of older workers, nobody really wants to hire someone my age. It’s pretty easy to figure out approximately how old I am simply by looking at my LinkedIn profile. If nothing else, you’ll be able to figure out I’m a Baby Boomer and, actually, with very little search proficiency, I believe one could ascertain my exact age with reasonable certainty. I have no intention of hiding it either.

I must point out, as well, I’m fully aware I have made a large portion of my life an open book by my participation in social media and through my blogging efforts. However, I also have a long track record of loyal and valuable leadership and service to an organization that played a significant role in the United States’ space program. I have also, for many years,  shared a great deal of the knowledge and experience I have gained from those efforts. There is a digital trail of my work as well.

I guess my best bet is to continue seeking clients who can use my assistance for short periods of time or for limited responsibilities. Let me say this to hiring managers, though. You really ought to figure out processes for treating your applicants with a bit more respect. I know they’re supplicants as well as applicants, but do you have to treat them like shit by essentially ignoring them throughout what is not a comfortable process to begin with? Just a thought. After all, the word “Human” is part of your process and job description, no?

About Rick Ladd

I retired nearly 13 years ago, though I've continued to work during most of the time since then. I'm hoping to return to work on the RS-25 rocket engine program (formerly the SSME) which will power our return to the moon. Mostly I'm just cruising, making the most of what time I have remaining. Although my time is nearly up, I still care deeply about the kind of world I'll be leaving to those who follow me and, to that end, I am devoted to seeing the forces of repression and authoritarianism are at least held at bay, if not crushed out of existence. I write about things that interest me and, as an eclectic soul, my interests run the gamut from science to spirituality, governance to economics, art and engineering. I'm hopeful one day my children will read what I've left behind. View all posts by Rick Ladd

6 responses to “Ooh! Ooh! Look At Me!

  • Al

    If I may…let me jump in. We exchanged postings on HP.

    OK…I am one of those evil HR folks…but I am not an evil person. And I have advocated for candidates with the right experience and not because of age, gender, race…or whatever. Unfortunately, age factors in because of some unfortunate stereotypes:
    – A lot of experience equals higher wages (in my book, if a candidate is willing to work for a fair and prevailing wage, WE should not exclude them.
    – Coatailed with the above, older workers will accept a lower paying job and jump ship as soon as the right paying job comes around. Maybe, but the younger folks do this as well.
    – There are companies out there, mainly small ones that value experience and hence…age.

    So, how do we get past the age dilemma without needing plastic surgery or hair coloring? Not easy, but it is about attitude and understanding what you can control. Can you control the asshole hire managers? No…but you can control how you react to them. I can hold evil thoughts or I can be like a good salesman…next…and then next again, and again, and again.

    I am over 50…I get it. But if you want my honest opinion, networks, people you know, are a better way to search for those jobs that rarely make it to the public domain. LinkedIn is a public domain and when you use LinkedIn, you have plenty of competition. Combined with LinkedIn and Monster…networking has proved to be the ticket for me. I have landed the last 3 times thanks to people out there who were on my side.

    As for HR, we all remember the snail mail days…with the advent of so much technology, I am now doing more resume reading than ever before…but my brain capacity has remained the same…the volume is a killer and when I used to get snail mail I know within seconds get bombarded…it is overwhelming. Is this an excuse not to have some kind of reply sent out to candidates? Not really, but I do understand the challenge. The new alternative is to have these Applicant Tracking Systems automatically send out a very lame…”thank you for your resume, we will get back to you if there is a match” sucky letters. Quite frankly…not getting anything felt better that that.

    Let’s go back to attitude. You have to approach the job search with high energy…hit is hard like a 30 year old!. You have to reach out to networks often and I was hitting at least 10 per day. I would leave a voice message and then call again…catching somebody live is better. A former boss called me a networking slut! I was not offended.

    The network needs to be with a familiar connection. Friends, colleagues, universities, military experience, sports…if your message to a prospective network says that John Doe,”a former Marine partner of yours”…THAT is a connection…so, figure out the connections and use them. It will give you a few extra minutes.

    I hate networking…but recognize the value. If you don’t mind, I sense a high level of frustration in what you have written. And this information is in the public domain…my suggestion would be to keep your feelings private. Anything in the public space will not help the cause.

    Best of luck. Listen, am I done with the rat race? Absolutely! Unfortunately, I have bills to pay. Working is over rated and I would much rather be at my condo in Florida, enjoying the grandkids…but my financial reality is that I need to work. My new attitude…”I love my job!”


    • Rick Ladd

      I don’t believe I even suggested HR people are “evil” in that post. I did say “When it comes to hiring, regardless of whatever else they may or may not do right, and regardless of the good intentions of no doubt good hearted people, HR departments suck at treating applicants as human beings.” I stand by that statement. In fact, in my many years as a knowledge management professional I found the HR department to be one of the biggest impediments to really implementing practices and systems that would have made the job of better understanding who knew what a little easier. That didn’t in any way make them evil, merely gigantic pains in the ass and, in reality, it wasn’t any one person or even a group who I would say were responsible. Rather, it was the process and the fact we were one giant bureaucracy. That, however, wasn’t the thrust of the instant post we’re discussing here.

      Let me cut to the chase. I have absolutely no intention of keeping my thoughts private. I did that for far too long. I have things I wish to say and I will be saying them, possibly far more forcefully as time goes by. Fact is, I no longer want a job. One of the reasons I was looking during the time I refer to in this post, is because I was collecting unemployment compensation and I had no choice. I was also a bit unnerved by the whole early retirement thing, but I was 64 years old at the time all this took place, so it wasn’t exactly strange territory.

      I just read a great piece by Steve Denning on Forbes (I may have mentioned it to you on HuffPo; not sure. if not, here’s the link) that has pretty much solidified my decision to continue building the business/practice I’ve been working on for a while. I’ll make it work or I’ll . . . well, Social Security and my modest pension will keep me from starving and we’ve got savings enough to get the kids out of High School. I’ll make it work.

      PS – I’ve never colored my hair. I have a very full, thick head of salt and pepper. I’ve worked hard for it. I earned it. I’m keeping it just the way it is. I’m told it’s quite attractive. 🙂

      PPS – Thank you for taking the time to comment. I really don’t disagree with you. We all have to handle our situations in the manner that works best for us. Working in a very conservative industry like aerospace and being a very (that’s VERY) progressive kind of a guy always required a lot of silence on my part. That’s one of the reasons I’m determined to speak my mind for the remainder of my life. It was painful and not a little soul killing. I have to make amends. Thanks again. I really do appreciate your thoughts.


  • Kate JW

    Rick, I had a rude awakening when we moved for my husband’s employment when I was 52. Up until then, I had almost always been offered whatever job I had applied for, and was, by then, a proficient Executive Secretary/Admin. Asst. I had always worked in non-profits, either educational or religious, but could not find work to save my life in our new setting. I even had an interview for a job at a seminary connected with a university–combining both aspects of my experience–to no avail. After three years of looking, I gave up. I ended up working for minimum wage at Target. I kept blaming myself, until I read about the thousands of others in my age bracket having the same experience in the economy changed by recession (and, as it turned out, we had moved to a small city that was in recession even prior to what hit the country in ’08). And you’re dead on about the rudeness of potential employers. More often than not, I never even got a “thank you for your application,” letter much less a “the position has been filled” letter. Why are employers so rude? Because manners, in general, have gone out the window? Because there are so many people applying for any given job that they’re too overwhelmed to respond? Anyway, I’m out of it now. The physical nature of working in retail ruined my health, so now I don’t work at all–just sit around annoying people who are brave enough to put themselves out there with their blogs.


    • Rick Ladd

      Thanks for the comment, Kate. It’s refreshing to have an actual human provide some insight or, as in this case, support for one’s thoughts instead of the occasional link bait crap that somehow makes it through WordPress’s spam filter.

      I’m sorry, but not surprised, to hear your experience. I’m sure it’s mirrored in tens of thousands of places and is likely to get worse at the rate we’re going. I’m not sure what the answer is, but nowadays I’m tending toward spending less energy on railing against what’s wrong and more on creating what I believe is right. The following quote from R. Buckminster Fuller says it for me.

      “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

      Thanks again. I appreciate you taking time to communicate with me.



  • PD Williams

    Unfortunately, people have become a commodity — much like paper clips or trash bags. My thought that this was a by-product of efficiency and drive toward bigger profits, however, I’m now convinced it’s nothing more than simple rudeness — the result of defective upbringing.


    • Rick Ladd

      Hiya PD. Thanks for stopping by and putting in a few pennies worth. Back in my days as a somewhat recalcitrant cog in the corporate machine, those of us who thought of ourselves as “progressive” frequently pointed out that most failures were caused by systemic or process issues, not individuals. I think a lot of the processes that are either inadequate or just not in place are the result of the drive for efficiency in many organizations. Unfortunately, they forget that being effective is far more important than being efficient. You can get better at doing something that is entirely counter productive, which (as the late Professor Russell Ackoff used to point out) only makes you wronger!

      Having said that, I do think there are a lot of just plain rude assholes out there. Some of that can surely be blamed on our society’s general attitude toward common courtesy which, for many, is non-existent. Hence, the proliferation of what I like to call “functional” sociopaths. Not as bad as George W. Bush (who I happen to think was a clinical one), but tiresome, tedious, and illegal to shoot nonetheless.


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