September 29, 2006

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Age Before Beauty?

A lively exchange with a client today has resulted in my itching to vent my frustration. New legislation has come into force here in the UK that prevents employers discriminating on the basis of age. In practice, this means that a job advertisement that reads "minimum 5 years' experience" is now to be frowned upon. A 21-year-old graduate can't possibly have 5 years experience, and we must not discriminate because he or she isn't old enough to have that experience.

We can discriminate against people who lack the necessary skills, of course. And that, to my mind, is how it should be. I've seen people walk out of school straight into a software development team and deliver to a standard that many people with 20 years' experience can only dream of. I've seen people with 40 year's experience who couldn't code their way out of a paper bag. How good you are is the issue. How long it took you to get that good is of no consequence.

But some people insist that for role X you must have minimum experience of Y years. To me, that says "we don't actually know what a good X looks like, so we've focused on this arbitrary and meaningless requirement instead". The new legislation will no doubt encourage employers and recruitment professionals to find a new arbitrary and meaningless thing to focus on, and the government will slowly close the discriminatory loopholes one by one, until one day - perhaps thousands of years from now - employers will have no choice but to hire people based entirely on their ability to do the job.
Posted 14 years, 3 months ago on September 29, 2006