I was on the phone yesterday with a senior level hiring manager from a potential new client and heard something for the first time in a long while.
"We love older programmers."
When I speak with CTOs and hiring authorities about their ideal hires, some are more cautious than others when stating their preferences. I'm not a lawyer and don't know specifics on the rest of the world, but here in the U.S., we have laws that try to prevent discrimination in hiring. In conversations, some company representatives will share descriptions of ideal candidates with recruiters that could be approaching a somewhat gray line from a legal standpoint, where a recruiter should clarify that they will present all qualified candidates regardless of whether they are a member of some demographic.
We read so much on ageism working against the most senior in the industry that sometimes we forget that there are firms that prefer some gray hair. The problem, of course, lies with the numbers. As I said, I hadn't heard a strong desire for hiring the most senior level resources in a long time, and we don't see companies using language that would tend to attract older applicants.
Job specs penned by HR or internal recruiters may describe the company as being young and having energy without any disambiguation as to whether the reference is to the employees themselves or the newness of the organization. "We're a young company" can have more than one meaning - maybe it means "we're all 22 years old," or perhaps it means "we're in an incubator and angel funded." We may read about established and stable companies, but how often do you see a reference to a "mature team"?
When we look at company websites that show photos of their entire development teams or just a few select profiles, it can give a sense as to the type of culture the firm is trying to portray. These are usually smaller companies and startups with photo choices varying from the serious and dignified to goofy costumed photo booth style shots that are rather shamelessly trying to appeal to a younger audience.
Maybe it's because I'm in my mid-40's, or maybe it's because of the ageism I hear about (and defend my clients against with words) in my resume writing business, or maybe it's because I spent 15 years running a Java Users' Group that had its share of gray hairs, but I've always been sympathetic to the plight of the older developer. It's refreshing to hear someone state that they are welcoming to the most senior talent, and I hope to hear that more in the future.