- Blog post
Too old? Or too qualified?
It’s clearly discriminatory to reject job applicants as “overqualified” if that’s code for being older than you’d like.
But what if a candidate really is overqualified for a job where you specifically want lesser qualifications — and just happens to be older?
Then, according to a recent legal case in Illinois, it’s OK to tell the person thanks but no thanks.
The facts: A 56-year-old man answered an ad inviting recent or soon-to-be college graduates to apply for a training program leading to an entry-level sales job. This applicant told the company he’d graduated almost 30 years earlier, and stressed his two decades of sales and other relevant experience.
He wasn’t hired. He sued for age discrimination, but the court that heard his suit threw it out.
The court said the applicant failed to meet the employer’s job requirements, which included inexperience.
The older applicant insisted that the “recent graduate” language was simply code for “in your 20’s.” Besides, he argued, how could lack of experience be a legitimate job requirement?
But it turned out that the employer had a nondiscriminatory business reason: It had found it was hard to train experienced people in its own system. So it determined that in this case, inexperience would be a real asset: the new hires wouldn’t have to “unlearn” other ways of doing things.
Also helping the employer’s case: The nine people who were hired all fit the description. None had more than a few months of sales experience.
photo credit: Will Hale