Monday, 12 April 2021

Easy setting

"They feel that you're technically excellent and would be a brilliant addition to the team, but that your skill set isn't quite the right fit." I've heard that, or something similar, an awful lot over that over the past few weeks, and I blame video interviews. Let me explain.

My IT career is relatively short, as this is my second career. I had a previous job where I got to a pretty senior position; then, I changed direction to do something I was fascinated by when I could afford to. An off-the-cuff and spontaneous interview later, I landed my first IT gig; I've not looked back.

About to start my third IT role, I'm more than excited by the prospect, but the journey to this position hasn't been all that easy. Several interview processes commenced, and they all started well. There was the screening phone call which went well; then there's the broader - video-based - interview where they can see me and see how old I am. I enjoy this; it's always nice to put a face to the name of the person you've been chatting with.

Then the feedback comes - and, by far, the majority of it runs along the lines of the quote above. I think that's fair enough, TBH; employing someone is nothing that should be taken lightly - you're likely to be spending significant time working alongside them, and if they're old and set in your ways, that could get old, real quick. But how come all the responses are so similar?

I got to chatting with a friend, and she'd been in interviews with her old gaffer and, should a candidate be over the age of 40, there was an automatic black mark against their name. Her gaffer thought that anyone that old would be far too set in their ways to learn something new, let alone work flexibly. Let me tell you: after my previous career, learning and flexibility is all that I want in a role! I guess that's disingenuous, though; there's the opportunity for learning and flexibility in any position; a job is what you make it after all - but IT-based professions seem to relish change and growth.

So I'm left with the feeling of being every-so-slightly discriminated against, thanks to my age. That's not something a middle-aged, middle-class white man can often say. As John Scalzi points out, we've automatically got an advantage and run the game of life on the lowest difficulty setting. It's not the end of the world either; neither does it bear any resemblance to the discrimination faced by others. It simply means that my CV has to be polished a smidge more and that I have to prep a little more. It also means that the process is a little longer and that I hope that the people interviewing today are a little more enlightened than those who interviewed me yesterday.

But, hey, I like meeting new people and talking with them - so I'm sort of odd in that I enjoy interviews. Some people like exams (mentioning no names, but it's my mate I mentioned above), so I guess I'm not that strange in the greater scheme of things. And I might even be wrong; perhaps I wouldn't be quite the right fit? I came across this post on I Programmer and wondered if that would work as a replacement for that final video interview, but I don't think it would. It would be best if you had that face-to-face contact to ensure you're going to be able to work together. Besides, I've been caught out by big-O notation questions before.

My friend has just read this, and she pointed out that her gaffer also thought that if you were over thirty and not in a "lead" position, it meant you weren't any good.