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Code words for “young” on job applications you may not recognize

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2022 | Age discrimination |

The American workforce is gradually shifting a little, as Baby Boomers retire, Generation X hits their mid-50s, the oldest Millennials start turning 40 and Generation Z enters the job market in increasing numbers.

That may be bringing about a new rash of “coded” job advertisements that are designed to discourage workers in their 40s and older from applying.

What sort of codewords are employers using these days?

Employers know that age discrimination is illegal, so they aren’t going to just come out and say, “We only want younger applicants.” 

Since the phrase “recent college graduates,” has become too well-known as a signal that an employer is ageist, employers are getting a bit more creative in their coded messages. Today, you may see phrases in job applications like:

  • Cultural fit
  • Go-getter
  • High-energy
  • Tech-savvy
  • Digital native
  • Flexible

The phrase “digital native” is particularly under fire because it automatically implies someone who grew up with the internet at their fingertips…something that even older Millennials may not be able to say. 

While employers who use the phrase “digital native” may say that they merely want someone who has good computer skills and can adjust to new technology, as needed, the phrase really is exclusionary.

When age discrimination starts to creep into a workplace, beware

Even if you’re comfortable in your current position and not looking for work, you should be concerned if you see these ads in your company’s job listings. That could indicate a shift in your employer’s thinking that could eventually hustle you out the door as they seek to replace you with one of those “high-energy” young workers.

Discrimination in the workplace is never acceptable. If you think you’ve been victimized by age discrimination either in the hiring process or in your current position, it may be best to explore all your legal options. 


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