Occasionally I receive so many e-mail messages about a certain news article that I feel compelled to blog about it. Such as the case for the Pro Publica/New York Times article, “Report: Major companies excluding older workers from job ads on Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn.”
What were firms like Amazon, Verizon, Goldman Sachs, UPS, and Facebook caught doing? They were placing job ads in social media sites that targeted young people — targeted in the sense that only young people received the ads. So you say, “Aha, gotcha!”, right? Not really.
The article’s expose’ is merely a reflection of the REAL problem, which is that these employers are earmarking these jobs for young people in the first place. All the major tech firms have ads explicitly stating that the jobs are for “New or Recent College Graduates” (along with internal documents using acronyms NCG/RCG). Or the ads will state “3 years’ experience,” meaning that applicants with 15 years of experience are “overqualified” and automatically rejected. So the article is not news. And since the vast majority of new graduates are young, it makes practical sense for the firms to target their social media ads to the young.
Not that I am defending any of this. On the contrary, I have written extensively about age discrimination in tech, and on the fact that it is fueled by the swelling of the young labor pool by the H-1B visa workers, who are almost all young. (A point that Pro Pub./NYT would not state even if they knew about it.)
Instead, my point is that it is futile to treat the symptom and not the disease. If these firms stop restricting dissemination of their ads only to the young, they still will be restricting their hiring to the young. And they still will hire lots of young H-1Bs.
Interestingly, KQED, a Bay Area NPR station, ran a piece Thursday morning on Facebook and the age issue. It profiled a 54-year-old man with extensive, sophisticated tech background who lives just a few blocks from Facebook but has failed repeatedly to get even an interview with the firm. Facebook and the reporter spun this as problem of a large firm that would like to hire people like this man, but has problems connecting the right applicants with the right managers. But not to worry, Facebook is going to set up a special program to remedy this. As you can see from my comments above, this is not the problem at all, and the special program will help only a few token hires.
So the social media targeting issue is a distraction from the real issues. The same statement holds for the “Intels Good, Infosyses Bad” false dichotomy that I rant about here so often. The claim is that the “Infosyses,” firms that hire H-1Bs and then rent them out to other employers, are the main abusers of the H-1B program, while the “Intels,” who hire H-1Bs directly, typically as foreign students at U.S. campuses, use the program responsibly. Again, that is just a distraction from the real issue, which is that the Intels are just as culpable.
Take a look at this LinkedIn page. Almost all of the Facebook engineers appear to be foreign-born, and most of those would be current or former H-1Bs. Indeed, Facebook has recently “qualified” as an H-1B-dependent employer. Mind you, those engineers are probably well-qualifed, but Facebook is rejecting lots of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are also well-qualified. I’ve called attention here before to similar LinkedIn pages showing the same pattern for eBay. (Largely Indians there, compared to the Chinese-dominant Facebook.) Once again: Congress could shut down all the Infosyses entirely, yet Americans still wouldn’t be getting these jobs.
“Keep your eyes on the prize” — not distractions.