25

I am 17 years old and will be graduating from university this academic year with a bachelor's degree in computer science, and I am applying to a variety of software engineering jobs. I am fairly confident in my resume but I am not sure how best to deal with my age during the application process.

There is a great deal of information regarding age discrimination, graduation dates revealing age, and advice against including one's age on a resume. However, all this information seems to be geared towards people whose old age would make them less desirable candidates. I also discovered How to apply for engineering internships at 16? [closed], but my case differs in that I have the qualifications for many software jobs I have found.

I also found Interview: Tell age or not?, but I live in California which as far as I am aware has no age discrimination laws affecting those under 40. IANAL, but this seems to mean that if I am applying to a position and am being compared to those under 40, age will likely be a factor in hiring decisions, and even if I don't bring up my age, it seems difficult to hide (many applications ask for high school graduation date which can be used to estimate my age, some ask for age directly).

It seems as though my age could serve as an advantage (proof of ability to learn quickly, etc.) but could also be a disadvantage (doubts about my long-term commitment to the job, social skills, professionalism, etc.). I will be 18 shortly after graduation so inability to sign NDAs and other documents should not be a major concern.

How can I present myself to employers in such a way that my age is a neutral or positive factor rather than a negative one during the application process?

  • 14
    Just a comment... many of the age articles that you will have read will not apply to your situation. At the age of 17, you are still considered a minor which is a state and federally regulated status. I would wager that companies will be impressed with your accomplishments at such a young age but you may run into limitations as to what you are legally able to do before you turn 18 (for instance, interfacing directly with heavy machinery would most likely be out of the question). – DanK Dec 4 '17 at 21:23
  • 3
    I'm not sure about the US, but in Australia you can't really sign contracts until you're 18 which may be a problem for an employer. There's an employment contract for starters... – Numeron Dec 5 '17 at 6:59
  • 3
    Do you have any previous internships that could serve as a reference? CS is a field that is notorious for being extremely bad at forming good college graduates - most people with a diploma can't program at all and barely understand the most basic concepts you need for a job. Most good places to work will value your experience way more than your diploma, so keep that in mind. If you don't have any previous experience, I would recommend starting with a internship to learn the ropes so you don't burn yourself on the market on a real job with bigger expectations. – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Dec 5 '17 at 10:38
  • 2
    As an example - My first real job on IT, with a full salary as a Lead Developer was when I was one year in my college course, at 19. However, I already had two years of previous experience as an intern for that same business. My six years in college were done side by side with full-time, salaried jobs - and those did show me that my college course was mostly useless for the needs of the real world. Don't rush yourself - use the fact that you are young to your advantage and use the extra time you got to learn how to develop in a realistic setting. – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Dec 5 '17 at 10:46
  • 1
    Graduated at 17... looking for employment... what's the big rush!? Take your computer skills and develop the next big thing while you still live at your parents for free. If that fails you'll be old enough that this Presicament of yours is no longer relevant and you'll still have decades to be bossed astound at work. – chrisjleu Dec 5 '17 at 23:33
26

Don't mention age at all

If you list expected graduation dates, then it's not as easy to decipher what is the age of the applicant.

When you do come in for an in person interview, it will be vital to present yourself as a professional. I know from experience it's easy to spot younger applicants when they show up in the wrong attire, speak looking at the ground, don't follow social norms such as hand shaking (when appropriate).

They will doubt you when they realize you are young, but if you brush up on how to make a strong first impression, then you will be able to counteract that first instinct of theirs.

Dress the part and act the part as a professional, and your qualifications will be all they will remember when you leave.

Regarding the age specific documentation, if you are far enough in the process and they like you as a candidate, they will most likely work with you to figure all that out.

  • 8
    I would just add: The only time when youth is a negative factor is when there is a lack of experience/credentials. If you have them, then there is no worry. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Dec 4 '17 at 21:08
  • 3
    Also worth mentioning that, to mitigate concerns about immaturity, come prepared to talk about group projects and internships. Focus on the interpersonal aspects, as that's where a lot of younger folks fall down. – Monica Cellio Dec 4 '17 at 22:44
  • this is all great advice. – Fattie Dec 4 '17 at 22:59
  • 3
    I got my first job at 18 by wearing a suit and tie, and coming in with a professional attitude. Strong handshake and looking at people when you speak to them with confidence can really trick people into thinking you're older than you actually are. For instance, most of my current coworkers thought I was in my mid-30's before it got around that I'm not even 25, just because of my knowledge and the way I carry myself. Of course, that's not always a good thing..... – Anoplexian - Reinstate Monica Dec 4 '17 at 23:52
11

Congratulations on your success so far! You're going into an exciting field and graduating early on top of it.

Age discrimination primarily concerns older folks as they deal with such perceptions of only being able to work a few years until they retire, not being healthy enough to do the work, or just not being able to learn new skills. These concerns often push productive citizens out of the work force. For you, however, any concern that you're too young for the job will rapidly dissipate when you hit 18, even more so when you turn 21 and suddenly have a leg up on your competition.

If I were you, I'd be more concerned about exploitation. Coming off as mature is one thing, being able to judge whether you're with the right company or working the right amount for the right amount of dollars is another. Many developers at all ages misjudge companies and lose out on salaries and opportunity costs.

Your university should be able to provide opportunities in the form of companies known for taking young developers from graduation to seniority without too much hassle. Look for apprenticeships!

  • I wanted to add a little bit more - look for companies that have apprenticeships, recent graduate internships, or recent graduate programs. You're a key candidate in this group and will probably benefit from the built-in camaraderie and career skills courses they offer, for nothing else but destroy any lingering excuse that say you're too young. – LeLetter Dec 5 '17 at 16:33
  • Another option to you is grad school - if you get a masters before you're twenty, you will be very far ahead of your peers and on track for management positions by your mid-20's. – LeLetter Dec 5 '17 at 16:36
  • Heh, too right on the under-paid aspect. Heck, I was 22 when I got my first dev job, and even though I didn't have my degree for another 2 years, I took an offer that was abysmally low. Then again, it was twice what I had been getting, so felt like a fortune. Watch the pay, ensure you're getting around what others in your position/experience range are getting, on the low end if you want to feel comfortable with it. – SliderBlackrose Dec 7 '17 at 15:39
8

If you have a real undergraduate degree (not just an Associates) at 17, then your age will not be an issue when applying for a position. No need to mention your age, just show your qualifications.

0

I am 17 years old and will be graduating from university this academic year with a bachelor's degree in computer science, and I am applying to a variety of software engineering jobs. I am fairly confident in my resume but I am not sure how best to deal with my age during the application process.

Employers see candidates as a risk. All candidates are a risk, and in that sentence you just described yourself as both a benefit and a risk at the sametime.

Now let me break it down, and I'm doing this because I want to share with you the hidden messages you are sending to employers. I'm hoping to help you here. So stay with me and forgive me if it feels like criticism.

I am 17 years old

This comes across negatively.

Employers don't care how old you are. They care how old you behave, but here you are self identifying with a 17 year old, and statistically speaking at least some of your employers are going to have 17 year old children and they aren't happy with them right now.

It's important that when you speak about your age that you are prepared to present yourself as mature beyond your years, and the best way to do that is with evidence.

Do you engage in any hobbies, clubs or associations that older people would be into? Have you done any volunteer work? Are you saving money for your future? Have you paid off your loans? Are you married or do you have children? Do you currently hold a steady job? Did you pay for your education yourself? Do you live on your own? Do you dress like a mature person?

Make your own list and just keep thinking of ways you're more mature than 17. This will be fuel to burn during an interview.

My point here is that you need to tell a compelling story that you're mature for your age. You might be offended by some of the questions, but the point here is that you're trying to sway an employer's bias in your favor.

Otherwise, you're just another 17 year old.

and will be graduating from university this academic year with a bachelor's degree in computer science,

This comes across positively.

This is a great benefit for you, but an employer can find many candidates that have a bachelor's degree, and the person in the interview before you likely had one.

The compelling story here is that you're achieving this at the age of 17.

Can you think of other benefits for the employer because of this?

Did you score above average in grades? Did you complete any compelling theses or projects?

How can you provide evidence that you're an above average learner, as this translates to money saved by the employer. Employers are always seeking candidates who can prove they learn quickly. I think this is your greatest asset.

and I am applying to a variety of software engineering jobs.

Focus your job search on specific companies. Research what they do, what problems they are faced with and ask people questions about those companies.

Talore your cover letter and resume specifically to that company.

I am fairly confident in my resume

This comes across negatively.

Don't show confidence especially if you're young.

When employers read your resume they are looking for hints about your personality. Will he get along with others? Does he have a pleasant temperament? Will people like him?

People whom are technical often fail to express their behavior in their resumes. They describe their skills and abilities, but fail to mention how they help other people.

My best advice for this is to find a human resource manager on LinkedIn for a business in your field of interest, and ask them for a favor. Ask them how your resume makes you come across as a person.

but I am not sure how best to deal with my age during the application process

Like I said above. Employers don't care about your age. They care about the risk of hiring you. Specially, they care about their own fears they aren't telling you.

Have you done anything when you were 16, 15 or 12 that demonstrated you were intelligent and/or mature for your age? You're far more likely to convince them that you'll make a fine employee if you can show a positive history.

Maybe you learned computers at a very young age. I would share that and be specific about what you learn.

It seems as though my age could serve as an advantage (proof of ability to learn quickly, etc.) but could also be a disadvantage (doubts about my long-term commitment to the job, social skills, professionalism, etc.).

You hit the nail on the head right there.

Don't be afraid of your disadvantages, but turn it around and try to look at it from the perspective of the employer. Ask yourself what fears could they have? and how can I provide evidence the fear is unfounded?

For example;

  • "commitment to the job" you committed to university at a young age. Use that.
  • "social skills" don't apply to jobs via advertisements. Network with people. Prove them wrong.
  • "professionalism" wear a tie. Get a haircut. Check your spelling. Make eye contact. Firm handshake. They will judge your professionalism within 5 seconds of meeting you. What this really means, is the employer wants to know you can survive in their world.

I will be 18 shortly after graduation so inability to sign NDAs and other documents should not be a major concern.

Those are professionalism issues. I think you have it covered.

Good luck!

  • 1
    The rest of your answer is spot on, but Don't show confidence is odd advice. Obviously you don't want to cross the line into arrogance, or pretend you have experience or skills that you don't, but being confident in your abilities is absolutely a plus as long as you can walk the talk. – lambshaanxy Dec 6 '17 at 10:49
  • @jpatokal yes I agree. It's just that when you're trying to overcome age discrimination for being young. Any confidence even if it is justifiable could be seen as arrogance simple for the lack of experience. For example; saying you've learned everything there is to learn in computers via an education would be a mistake. It's better to say "I have a solid foundation from education and shown a pattern for quick learning". One is confidences and the other is realistic. I guess. I don't know if I'm right but that's just my impression. It's been awhile since I was young :) – user7360 Dec 6 '17 at 14:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.