Advertising plays a significant role for companies looking to hire new talent. More and more, companies choose to use Facebook, LinkedIn and other digital platforms to find their newest workers.

But solely using advertising methods like these can end up screening out older applicants. It may be intentional, or it may not. But there is no question that it is illegal.

How ads filter applicants

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states very clearly that it is unlawful to screen out specific age ranges within job ads. With the prevalence of advertising through sites like Facebook, it is easier than ever to block particular ranges. According to Reuters, T-Mobile, Amazon and other corporate giants allegedly used Facebook’s ad targeting technology for precisely this purpose back in 2017.

Aside from primarily using internet-based advertising platforms to spread the word about their job opening, many companies discriminate against older applicants within the advertisement itself. Employers use certain buzzwords within an ad that imply their preference for youthful candidates, creating an unconscious bias against older people. Examples may include words and phrases like:

  • “Recent graduates”
  • “Digital native”
  • “5-10 years’ experience”
  • “Energetic,” “youthful” or “vibrant”

Why companies discriminate

Companies may worry that older workers will not have the energy and stamina to meet a demanding pace or lack the technological know-how to keep up with rapid change. Some companies do not need extensive experience and would rather pay less for less.

Hiring managers may unintentionally focus on younger applicants because they seek those traits typically associated with youth. However, employers must be careful to avoid making these connections.