While it is illegal to discrimate against employees on the basis of age in most markets, it is still an almost universal practice globally.
Virgin Airlines in Australia was recently found to have discriminated on the basis of age in their hiring practices. The authorities were not able to find any evidence of systematic discrimination during the hiring process, but instead did a statistical analysis of the age of all Virgin Airline employees, found a huge skew towards young people, and Virgin was found guilty.
This is unlikely to happen to many firms, and age discrimination will continue to be an issue for anyone over about 35. Employers now just use euphamisms like “over-qualified” to mean too old, or just use alternative reasons to reject candidates they feel are “past it”.
Being “too old” usually means that you are outside an age band which the employer considers typical for the given level of seniority. They may feel that an older person cannot be shaped as easily, or won’t be flexible enough to adapt to the corporate culture. If their qualifications and experience exceed that which is required, they will be concerned that the employee will get bored and discontented in the role. They may be scared that the employee will be more qualified than they are.
While we all know these concerns are unjustified, things are not going to change in a hurry, so it is important to factor this into your career plans. You may be 25 now, able to walk into a job any time you want in a talent short market, but in ten years time in the middle of a recession, things will look very, very different. It is hard to imagine, but make sure in 2017 you don’t find yourself across the desk from an interviewer (who was 15 years old in 2007), looking at you with contempt in her eyes and saying “we will call you”.
Plan ahead. Make your you have a skill-set which will remain in demand, and keep it up-to-date. Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to apply for jobs you are “over-qualified” for. Network heavily. Specialise, but have foresight, and if your specialisation will be extinct in ten years, make sure that you know what the next big thing is going to be in your industry.