Mobile Recruiting is a Form of Employee Age Discrimination

Check out our mobile webinar. It’s worth 1.0 HRCI general credits. It’s also free and always on demand. 

Change is the only certainty in life and these days the need for technology fuels much of the change especially from a business imperative. Organizations whose products aren’t built on the latest and most popular consumer platforms are at a competitive disadvantage. Their sales and revenues dip dramatically or in some cases stop at a screeching halt. Chances are your business’s products are available for download, digesting or for using the best and most innovative platforms in your industry. If your consumer facing marketing and product is so cutting edge, then why isn’t your internal and workplace technology.

Mobile vs. HR Technology Adoption

Unfortunately, companies are way behind technology adoption curve when it comes to workplace collaboration platforms, social media, mobile systems and especially their hiring and application process using the good ‘ole ATS. And that’s likely because the corporate decision makers have lost touch with how their employee population is communicating.

The media exposes this technology gap on a daily or hourly basis publishing stories like this instead of really getting at the heart of the matter. This isn’t about discrimination, the job search or how to get noticed, it’s about our lack of adoption of technology.

Our lack of adoption of technology for HR and recruiting isn’t a form of age discrimination. It’s actually reverse discrimination because our senior leaders are basing their own decisions on whether to spend investing in workplace technology particularly mobile on their own experiences as a demographic when they aren’t even remotely who we are trying to reach. These senior leaders are foregoing to invest in workplace technology, mobile and collaboration tools because they don’t see the value they bring not for their employees but only that they see.

Recently, a job seeker told me, “Mobile recruiting is a form of age discrimination in hiring.” And to this job seeker, I think that it’s not about age discrimination but where you are within the adoption curve of technology. The demographics when it comes to mobile tell us that mobile adoption is happening across all ages and in fact may actually be the best way to reach diverse candidates particularly minorities populations strategically.

Consumer Trends vs. Corporate Communication & Recruiting

Don’t believe me. See the graphic below. My only concern is the adoption of smartphone technology is lower for the over 40 crowd. This lower adoption percentage is due to the simple fact that smartphones have only been around since 2001. And yet smartphones technologies have outpaced the sales of cell phones starting in early 2013. In short, the adoption rate will only increase because they’re the only game that companies like iPhone, Android and Blackberry are pimping. I guess it’s really that the consumer products not the employers are to blame for the discriminating practices when it comes to selling consumer technology.

Cell and smartphone owner demos

When it comes to the adoption curve looking at technology particularly in hiring, collaboration and for corporate collaboration and HR technology, we are slow to adapt, evolve and invest when our consumer counter parts are going crazy buying, investing and using the latest technology. You can see from the consumer vs. HR tech adoption curve graphic below, that human resources and recruitment is a laggard when it comes to adopting tech in their roles. Historically, we are 18-36 months behind consumer trends making it relatively easy and risk averse to be an HR technology innovator, if we choose to follow the already develop consumer adoption curve.


Slow Adoption of HR Tech in Human Capital Industry

What does this slow adoption mean for engaging, retaining and recruiting our employees? It shows that we are not a culture fueled by change but a culture that’s run by stuffy and behind the curve senior leaders who don’t understand or value the technology that their employees use and engage with outside of the office today.

While mobile and other HR technologies may feel like a huge risk, they are in fact, follow pre-determined consumer models making investment in technology like mobile to human resources, internal communication and workplace collaboration efforts easier to invest for your senior leaders and HR teams.

Check out our mobile webinar. It’s worth 1.0 HRCI general credits. It’s also free and always on demand. Click here

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

Reader Interactions


  1. dbildfell says

    great summary. In fact this provides an element of self selection of those candidates. Who wouldn’t want to be looking at candidates who are more advanced adapters of mobile technology as part of the screening process

  2. Stephen O'Donnell (@stephenodonn) says

    On balance, I find it to be an acceptable form of discrimination. Of course an employer shouldn’t say that they only want to attract the demographic which uses mobile technology more. However, when pressed, they may need to come up with a convincing argument as to why they weren’t more inclusive in their recruitment methods.

    At present, employers and professional recruiters are still given leeway to advertise where they choose, and let that be the initiative test for jobseekers. Evidence of not looking for candidates in every location is not quite evidence of unfair and legally contentious discrimination.
    I wrote about the unfairness of recruitment recently here.



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