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Years of experience

Over the past year, I've been turned down for numerous jobs for being "too senior".

It seems that all the job offerings I hear about either want a graduate, somebody with a year's experience, somebody with 3 years' experience, or possibly 5 at a push, but after that they just don't want to know. (I've got 8).

This pisses me off, as it implies companies are happier to get less experienced people, probably because they're cheap, while the gurus can go jump.

What's going on?

Better than being unemployed...
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Probably exactly what you think, they want cheap. Apparently  cheap means, low salary. I suppose they get what they pay for, but don't always quite realise what that means.

Fits perfectly with contemporary short term thinking...

Practical Geezer
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Another reason (beside geezer's explanation) for wanting to hire people with little experience might be that many companies in the business are rather young. The management is young, too. I think, some managers are reluctant to hire someone who has more experience than they have themselves.

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Another reason often cited is that someone with lots of experience will get bored with the job and decide to move on. Companies want employess that will stay put. There is a lot of expense in ramping up new employees and compnaies don't want to spend that money just to have someone get bored and quit.

Ichabod Crane
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

companies are happy with xyz. If you think they are wrong, it is up to you to sell your value.

If they do it because less experienced people are cheap, then you might want to lower your salary expectations, or show that you can add so much more value to the company.

if it is because they think you will bolt as soon as you get something more interesting, you might want to show how long have have stayed at previous jobs, and hint that you want stability/long term contract/long notice period (get creative).

if they think that with that many years experience you are already set in your ways, you might want to demonstrate how you have picked up new skillsets/methods, and how you are able to adapt to new environments.

I could go on.... just sell yourself, and in this market, make sure you are a bargain... maybe not cheap, but a bargain.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

I'm probably as cynical as geezer (probably more so, I'm probably older :-), but there are also some practical reasons.

Younger workers are more flexible (translation: they will put up with more shit) than older, more experienced, workers. That's normal - for example they are less likely to have a family and can therefore work longer hours (and are willing to do so because they need to get experience under their belts and want to make a good impression). Since those longer hours are unlikely to be paid, they can be almost as productive as you and half as cheap.

If necessary they will travel, because like I say they are unlikely to have wife, kids and labrador waiting at home. And if travel is necessary, a young employee can be put in some fleapit hotel without kicking up a fuss.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

As an "aged one" I had  a interesting experience last month.  A guy wanted a website.  I was the 4th or 5th person he interviewed.  After a few minutes he said, "You know, I like your age," and gave me the project.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Real projects are 20% fun and 80% sweat. Meaning, that 20% is creative work and 80% routine/detail work. Usually seniors cover the 20% fun part + leadership & mentoring as routine.

Then it quickly comes down to dollars and cents: a company will employ a small number of senior people for $$$, a large number of intermediates for $$ and maybe a number of juniors for $.

There is indeed less need for senior people on the market.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Try rewriting your resume to omit some of your years of experience. If questioned, just say you don't want to discuss that period. Of course they will probably assume you've been in prison.... ;-)

David Clayworth
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

I'm a senior developer, and I was out of work for quite awhile.  I was finally offered a position, at less pay than an intermediate developer at the same company.

I managed to negotiate my pay to the same level as the intermediate.  I have about 10 years of experience over the intermediate guy.

I consider myself lucky, if not a bit ripped off.

happy to be working
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

These days, it's rare that I find a job posting that isn't for a senior programmer/developer/etc.  Are companies calling 3-5 years experience 'senior'?

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Thanks for the replies. Just to clarify a bit.

I have a job at the moment. It's "better than being unemployed" (hence the tagline), but it's not better than the really good job I was laid off from last year.

I've taken a substantial paycut and make less decisions. I'm surprise they hired me as it's rather obvious I'm going to leave as soon as the market picks up.

Jobs I see advertised as "senior" are generally around the 5 year mark. Anything more than that is "team leader" or "manager" and those are definitely thinner on the ground. Plus I'm a developer, not a manager (though I've done a bit of management on the side) so it's not the sort of job I'd want, anyway.

Better than being unemployed...
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

I think the main reason employers don't hire people when they reach a certain age isn't usually because of the years of experience they have.  I'm sure they'd love to get someone that' s been in the trenches and know what they're doing.  Also, you've mentioned that you're willing to take significant paycuts, to keep yourself competitive to younger folks salary wise.

So if we've remove those two factors (years of experience and money) from the reasons not to hire then what is the real reason then? 

My guess would be that the person isn't as enthusiastic about working as they could be.  You've got to display a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

When you enter the interview, walk briskly into the room and firmly shake everyone's hand while giving each individual a warm and large smile.  Think of yourself not as a developer at that point, but as a salesperson trying to sell yourself.

Many decisions are made in the first 7 seconds according to one article that I don't have the link to at the moment.  So you've got to make a really good impression within those first few seconds and continue to deliver a go-getter attitude throughout the interview.

Also, doing extra things such as sending a well picked out thank you card to the recruiter, point of contact, and the interviewer will earn you special brownie points that could give you an important edge in a near tie with other candidates.

I don't think several years of experience is a bad thing.  Instead, you should focus on it during the interviews as something unique you're bringing to the table that other younger candidates cannot. 

If you think the employers are thinking your're too old, then you'll just have to get them to look at the glass half full perspective instead.

And finally, if you've tried all of the above and still aren't getting the results then as soon as you get the call or e-mail rejection, reply back and ask them what made them not choose you.  Make them feel as comfortable as possible in order to get a straight and truthful answer. 

Just say something like, "Hi, [interviewer's name], I'm looking for ways to improve myself for future interviews in my job search.  And was wondering if you could tell me what in particular or lack thereof in my background, experience, etc. that made you choose someone else."

When you get a reply back as to why you didn't make the cut, you could also use the knowledge to try and assure the person that their conclusion based on this factor is not totally correct and here's why.  You might get back in the running with this tactic and increase your chances of landing the job.

If you don't ask, you'll never know, and will always be second guessing the interviewer's motives and reasons for not hiring you.

Good luck!

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

My favorite is "You don't want this job, you can do better."

If I didn't want it I would not have applied for it.

Still, the market has changed.

At one time programming was about algorithms and data structures, one could reasonably say "Oh a new programming language, I'll learn the syntax today and be up to speed by the end of the week."

Now it is all about arcane APIs and toolkits. As these seem to have a life expectancy of about three years having ore experience than that is irrelevant.

Management wants to believe that programming is easy. That way thay can justify making larger salaries than we do.

Further, management also wishes programmers to be a frangible resource. So they want them to be interchangable. So everybody must have the same skills and the same experience.

Anonymous Coward
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

>>>  My guess would be that the person isn't as enthusiastic about working as they could be.  You've got to display a lot of energy and enthusiasm. <<<

My first impression of this posting was that, yes, it's just a guess like just about every other post in this thread.  And besides that, what does being "too senior" have to do with being enthusiastic about the work.  However, there is an important message in the posting.

A few years ago I worked for a small software development company.  When they couldn't get enough work, they contacted employees out for on-site work.  We usually had to go for an interview with the customer.

On a couple of occasions the customer rejected my assignment to the project.  Their reason was that I did not appear to be really interested in the project.  I have to give them credit for being perceptive and honest.  They were right.  I tried to convince them that I could do the work, but it was too obvious to them that I would really rather be doing something else.

In both cases I ended up with an assignment much more to my liking.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

>>>  Further, management also wishes programmers to be a frangible resource. So they want them to be interchangable. So everybody must have the same skills and the same experience.  <<<

The word is "fungible", but I think you have a valid point.  If people are interchangable parts, you have lower risks and lower costs.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

First of all, I think its very important to clarify what you have "8 years of experience in".  When I see 10 years of perl programming,  8 years of j2ee, 2 years of C#, and other crap like that on a resume, I roll my eyes.   

To be perfectly honest, if I'm looking to hire someone, I couldn't give a rats ass if they did cobol for 40 years if the project is in j2EE.  The stuff that is important to see on a resume backed by a ton of years are things like management, leadership, project management, and organizational skills.  Like everyone else said, its going to be nearly impossible for a guy twice my age to out-produce me code wise.  (quality too).  On the other hand, I know theres no way I'm mature or organized enough to manage a team of 8 guys, and be organized enough to delegate tasks efficiently.  Those are the strengths of someone more "senior".  Focus on those and i'm sure a company will find you and be thrilled to have you as part of their team.

VIncent Marquez
Wednesday, January 15, 2003

" Like everyone else said, its going to be nearly impossible for a guy twice my age to out-produce me code wise.  (quality too).  On the other hand, I know theres no way I'm mature or organized enough to manage a team of 8 guys, and be organized enough to delegate tasks efficiently.  Those are the strengths of someone more "senior".  Focus on those and i'm sure a company will find you and be thrilled to have you as part of their team. "

Not to attack you or anything, but I think your attitude, while well meaning, is part of the problem that the orginal poster posted about.  Just looking at someone's age, you've already concluded that the only thing they're probably useful for is management and staying far away from code.  And furthermore, you go on to state what you see as the so-called "strengths of someone more senior". 

Are you right or wrong?  I don't have a definitive answer.  If I had to guess, I'd say you are wrong much of the time (perhaps even as often as you are right).  However, my point is that by predudging this guy based on age, you are eliminating possible positions for this person in the exact same manner.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

mackinac wrote:  'And besides that, what does being "too senior" have to do with being enthusiastic about the work.'

I think you misread my post.  In the beginning of the post it's mentioned that being "too senior" *possibly* may not be the reason why he hasn't landed a better job.  As such, I then postulated that perhaps he may not have shown as much enthusiasm as he could have portrayed when coming into the interview. 

The possible lack of enthusiasm is therefore my "guess" and that real problem may not lie in being "too senior".  And since it's just a guess I then concluded in the post that he should ask the interviewer after the rejection to nail down what is actually the problem so that he wouldn't be "second guessing the interviewer's motives and reasons."

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

>>> Like everyone else said, its going to be nearly impossible for a guy twice my age to out-produce me code wise.  (quality too).  <<<

I can't figure out, from the contents of your post, why you believe this.  There isn't really much difference between programmers?  Nobody is more productive than you?  What?

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

>>> I think you misread my post.  <<<


Wednesday, January 15, 2003

I in no way meant that I was smarter, or even a better programmer then someone twice my age. What I meant was (and should have included):  Most people in their forty's or whatnot are unable to devote as many hours to programming as compared to, me for instance, who doesn't have a wife and/or kids to go home to. (then again, they might just be wiser and realize you shouldn't work 12 hour days). 

Vincent Marquez
Thursday, January 16, 2003

Dear Vincent,
                    If the forty-year old programmer was as good at twenty as you are now(and I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt by presuming you are a good programmer), then he will run rings all over you when he gets to forty. He'll already have solved problems you have to think about.

                    Working twelve hours a day is useful when deadlines loom. I doubt if it is sustainable. It is not that young people are able to work longer because they have no commitments ; it's simply that some of them have no other place to go in the evenings - using your office as a social base isn't necessarily more productive. And single programmers have been known to get a life - admittedly normally by accident!

Stephen Jones
Thursday, January 16, 2003

Meh, you guys all bring up good points.  Perhaps its just my own biases comming through: Most of the older guys I meet in the industry teach me a ton, and I have a lot of respect for them, but when it comes down to "grunt work" (not desiging, planning, etc)", the younger guys at my company out-produce  the older ones. 
      Not to say that they arn't as important; imo Design and architecture is more important then actually banging out the code, (and is more difficult).  Out of all the developers I've worked with over the past 3 years, two are less then 22, and one is 28.  But, after reading the posts, most of my arguements don't seem to hold up :-)  I hope I didn't offend anyone. 

Vincent Marquez
Thursday, January 16, 2003

Thanks for all the comments.

Couple of things I didn't mention. Firstly, I don't put years of experience next to anything on my resume, just the skills. It's just recruiters seem to insist on asking me how many years' experience I have in xyz, presumably because their brain throws a parsing error otherwise. You can infer how many years' experience I have in something by reading the body of the resume.

Secondly, some of the times I was turned down for being too senior, I didn't even get an interview. They just looked at the resume and thought "he's got too many skills and years, scrap".

For the ones I did interview for, I think I can see what the problem might have been. In the past, I've played an active role in making decisions and getting projects out of the door. I remember an infamous meeting about 18 months ago when a bunch of us said "screw the management politics, we know what we want to do and when we want to do it, so let's just do it" ... and we were the only team to deliver something working, on time and to budget.

I don't think I'd be able to get away with that sort of thing as a new starter in a company, and management might be worried I'm gung ho and insist on doing things my way. Perhaps.

One of the key reasons I want to leave this company is that I don't get a chance to be pro-active anymore. The senior management seems to have learned everything on an "ad hoc" basis and won't listen to good ideas I, or indeed the middle management, have. So everybody gets frustrated.

Better than being unemployed...
Thursday, January 16, 2003

I hear you all. Here's my story:
I started in the field in 1962. That already marks me as an old guy. I've programmed in a lot of different languages, been an MCSD, MCT, taught just about everything, and currently teach Java in college.
When the big companies laid me off I went into consulting, doing mostly VB, Access, and SQL Server (see, a Microsoft living). I did okay for about 8 years, then market turned downward.
Nobody want to hire a non-NET guy who is a)about to retire, b)has a lot of opinions on the right and wrong ways to do programming, and c)costs too much.
I've rewritten the resume to downplay the length of time I've worked in the field and emphasize versatility and adaptability, and current strengths (Java being the best), but now I find I don't have the money and desire to load up with NET software and learn it. Besides, C# looks an awful lot like Java, no?
So, now I'm working in a new field (counseling) at rock bottom rates and looking very forward to retiring, which means teaching, picking up odd jobs if any ever come my way again, and counseling. I feel a little sad that employers won't hire from the experience pool and get good work, quickly and with quality. They just don't get it.

Gary Labowitz
Saturday, January 18, 2003

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