Archive for the ‘Equal Employment Opportunity’ Category

You’re part techno guru, part social butterfly. You’re outgoing. You have amazing energy. You love to talk about cool technology. Well, we have customers waiting to speak to you.

That’s what that the ad said.
This is a job selling cell phones.

Based purely on the description, I thought I could make the cut. However, one might suspect that the ad is filled with code for only 20- or 30- young somethings to fill the position and that anyone older than that need not apply. Why do I suspect that? The words we use have meanings. “Techno guru,” “social butterfly, “amazing energy” “cool technology.”  Be honest. These are not terms that would bring to mind for most people a 50-something year old. I’m thinking Paris Hilton and Justin Timberlake. Snookie or the Situation.

But companies can’t discriminate in hiring people over 40 based on age unless there is a bona fide reason to do so for the position. So they can’t be advertising for young people, can they? We’ve all heard the assumptions that if you are over 40 you can’t or won’t want to fulfill these types of job requirements.

The requirements, and I quote,

 The successful candidate will be able to perform the following with or without reasonable accommodation:

·         Ability to work flexible hours, including evenings, weekends and holidays

·         Ability to stand for long periods of time

·         Ability to complete all paperwork completely, accurately, in a timely manner

·         Ability to lift up to 25 pounds

·         Ability to operate a personal computer, wireless equipment, copier and fax

·         Ability to work in other locations as the needs of the business dictate may be required.

·         Complete all aspects of opening and closing the store in accordance with written procedures. Submit all transaction journals on a daily basis.

·         Assists with inventory maintenance

·         May be required to wear a uniform

Everyone assumes that those who have been in the workforce for years are not willing to take on such tasks. Let me tell you about flexibility.

I applied; I attached my resume and filled out their application.

I affirmatively agreed to do all of the above just for an entry-level job selling cell phones and I have not only a bachelor’s degree in Communications but a JD as well. I’m a licensed attorney and I said I’d be willing to wear a uniform to sell phones. How much more flexible can you be?

They say among the reasons “older” people remain unemployed longer than those under the age of let’s say 45 is that we are inflexible.

Turns out, I am “not qualified on testing” for the position for this full-time retail sales consultant position.

I was (and am) more than a little perplexed.

How could I not have qualified? I’m one of those people who always has to have the latest technology and I’m one of those people my friends and co-workers have always called on when they needed help with their computers or gadgets. As far as sales experience goes, I’ve sold everything from a package of chewing gum to diamond rings worth thousands of dollars. Surely, I can sell a cell phone.

You won’t find anyone more customer-service oriented than me; and I’ve always been an outstanding employee. This same company had given me outstanding reviews AND on my exit interview five years ago told me I was eligible to be rehired.

Now the required qualifications were:

If you enjoy… (All emphases are mine)

·         Using competitive spirit to meet and exceed assigned sales goals

·         Staying up-to-date on the latest data/entertainment technology and devices, such as Wi-Fi, data devices, TV entertainment tools

·         Understanding customers’ needs and helping them discover how our products meet those needs

·         Multi-tasking in a fast-paced team environment

·         Working a variety of hours including weekends, evenings and holidays involving occasional overtime

·         Educating and engaging customers through product demonstrations

·         Interacting with customers and providing prompt and courteous customer service to all customers in person, via phone or written note

·         Position may be commissioned and quota based

Tell me who is better able to determine what I enjoy, me or them? That is, how are they able to accurately test for these qualifications?

The test-taker is encouraged to answer the test questions quickly and honestly. I happen to love multi-tasking in a fast-paced team environment. I can’t stand jobs that are otherwise. Does their testing reflect this? I don’t know. If I answer honestly, on a scale of 1 to 5, I don’t “enjoy” working a variety of hours including weekends, evenings and holidays involving occasional overtime, but I would do it and I would do it gladly to get a job. But if I answer that question with a 3, because I’m honest, do I fail the test?

It is certainly legal to test as long as the test has a bona fide relationship to the job and it is not just a pretext to discriminate. In other words, a test has to be internally valid. The skills that are being tested have to be directly and provably related to the job.


I’m always suspicious of pre-employment testing anyway and I am not convinced this was a skills assessment test unless clairvoyance is a skill. I guess I knew I might be in trouble when it kept asking things like how your supervisor or your co-workers would rate you on the scale of 1 to 5. Well, I know how high I know they should rate me based on my performance but I don’t know how high they would rate me. So, I estimated conservatively. I assumed they were going to check. Did that cost me on the test? Once again, I don’t know.

I do know I wouldn’t leave a customer standing there just because it was break time and that I would say, “Someone will be with you shortly,” if I’m tied up with a customer and I see another one that needs to be helped.

Gatekeepers – and that’s what these testers are – serve a purpose and that purpose is to let only select people in. Experience has shown us that the gates, especially when they are imaginary tests, can keep some of the best people out. In this case, I suspect what is being kept out is some experienced people who are willing to swallow their pride and take a job for which they are overqualified.

I’m left wondering who does pass these tests, and I can’t help but wonder if I failed to pass it when I put in my application and resume that showed I had more than 30 years of experience,

I am convinced that this test could not have tested my “skills” in any area listed in the advertisement. None of my abilities were tested and, as I’ve said before, I’m the best judge of what I enjoy.

What could the company have been testing for that I could have failed? Of course they don’t show you your test results, but you’re welcome to retest in six months. And if you “fail to qualify” again you can take the test again in another year.

When you’re my age (in your 50s) and you’ve been looking for a job for more than three years six months is a life time. But, I’m told there are things I can do to bone up for the test the next time around, which we’ll look at in You’re Just Not Qualified (Part II)
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President Barack Obama named 49-year-old rock star Jon Bon Jovi to his new Council for Community Solutions. According to AARPORG/Magazine Bon Jovi is the only entertainer appointed to the council which brings together 25 “noteworthies” of diverse backgrounds to find ways to reduce youth unemployment.

What this means of course is that when Jon Bon Jovi – who has leant his voice to several significant causes – says we need to do something about a problem people listen because he is a celebrity. That’s why the President appointed him.

What I want to know is this, where is my Bon Jovi?

I need a job and no one’s out there stumping for me. I need a Bon Jovi (or a George Clooney or Denzel Washington) and an elite group of foundation heads, CEOs and academics to figure out how to get me employed. Where is my Council for Community Solutions that was formed to do something about unemployment of people over the age of 50?

The appointment is a slap in the face because many of us were there at the beginning of Bon Jovi’s career and all the way through the “big hair” era, attending his concerts and buying his records, making him the superstar he became. Many of us are still there among his biggest fans. And now when it comes down to the time when we could use his help – and this is not entirely his fault – a man that is closer in age to this over-50 crowd that is struggling in this horrible employment environment to find jobs, has been tapped to use the fame we helped to build to help a generation that really doesn’t need his help.

Yes, youth unemployment is high. It’s always been a problem as I understand it. But young people are going to get jobs eventually. At the very least, they are going to stop being teenagers and they are going to become young adults. Once they become adults everyone will want to hire them. This is, after all a youth culture; which is the problem for people over 50 who are trying to find jobs now.

People over 50 aren’t going to get younger. They can’t wait it out and expect that someday they’ll stop being too old. Each year, each month, each week they are out of a job works against them. What we’re seeing more and more of is the “older” generation, the baby boomers, being kicked to the curb.

The President’s appointment is a slap in the face also as even when the unemployment numbers show any small improvement, the unemployment and reemployment for those over 50 continues to be dismal.

Try sending out a resume or a few dozen resumes showing a few years of experience and see what response you get. More and more the answer is less and less.

· You respond to a job posting for which you have the listed qualifications and you’re told, send us your resume and we’ll contact you if anything matches your skill set. You never hear anything; or

· You hear you have too much experience for this position; or

· You’re told you wouldn’t be happy/satisfied in this position; or

· We’re afraid you’d leave as soon as a better paying position (or one in your field) comes along; or

· Nothing period. Resume launched into the ionosphere never to be heard from again.
The same thing is happening to so many people it cannot be coincidence; it cannot be purely the incompetence of the jobseeker and it can’t be just a few lazy people whining.

You can blame it on the “seniors”, as many are wont to do, but that doesn’t change the fact that something catastrophic is going on. What else could you call a whole generation that is being written off right before our eyes?

Something has to be done and it can’t be done on an individual basis.

No matter how many times I tell a prospective employer as an individual that I’m willing to start at the bottom and I don’t need to make $80,000 a year, he still doesn’t believe me. No matter how many resumes I send out – and I’ve sent out plenty – I still can’t impact the stereotypes in a meaningful way. Not by myself. Hiring managers can still reject my applications, without ever giving me a reason and there is nothing I can do about it and no way I can prove what I know to be the case – that ageism is playing a primary role in the hiring decision.

All across the nation, the media has been reporting for at least the last three years about the job situation for people over 50 who have been searching for jobs for months — for years — with no luck. If you pull together all of the reports the message is clear, we people over the age of 50 need help. As a group. And we need to help ourselves.

As a useful segment of society we still have much to offer. We’re not dead yet and we’re probably not going to be for another 20-30-35 years.

Again I ask where is my Council for Community Solutions. You say we have the ADEA. We have the EEOC. We have governmental interventions that prevent age discrimination in hiring. They’re not working.

Re-training “seniors” isn’t the answer. Re-trained seniors that hiring managers won’t hire are just as bad off as they were before being trained. Hell, thinking of us as seniors isn’t helping either. That just sets us apart in a way that says our skill sets are inferior to those that are needed in today’s markets, and therefore justifies the decisions of hiring managers to seek younger employees. Seniors can’t do the same things younger employees can. They’re slow and set in their ways; and they take too long to learn.
I know you’ve got a lot on your plate Mr. President, and you’ll soon be running for reelection which will make you even busier, but I’m calling on you to give us our version of Jon Bon Jovi and the Notables.

I’m also challenging Congress and other politicians, the legal system, business, academia, those with jobs, those without jobs and every other thinking person to help us recognize that this bias exists, and is being imposed full force. Help us find a way to put “older” people back to work now.

We’re going to be around for a while and we can either be a drain on the country’s resources or (what we’d prefer) contributing members of society.

I sincerely believe we – CEOs, politicians, job seekers, celebrities and others – will come together on this issue and figure out a way of putting people who want to work and already have the skills to work back to work.

If all of the people I’ve recently read about in the media and on the Social Networks were to band together and not only share their experiences but demand action, we could affect a meaningful change. I’m challenging those of us older than 50 who are unemployed or way underemployed to stop whining about it and band together to demand action to do something about it.

Mr. Bon Jovi was quoted as being a big believer in the power of “we.”

So am I.

I am only one person but with you I am one more. Or we.

I believe we have power. Let’s use it. If you believe as I do don’t just comment. Lend me your name. Commit to action. E-mail me your contact information. Let’s get something started.