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May 10, 2024

Avoid Age Discrimination in Early Career Programs

At our most recent Annual Members Meeting, United States EEOC Commissioner, Keith Sonderling, joined Veris Insights Co-Founder & CEO, Carter Bradley, for a fireside chat to speak about some of the trends he’s seeing within the recruiting ecosystem. This is a summary of their conversation on early career programs and guidance for recruiting teams on preventing age discrimination. 

Early Career Initiatives: The Costly Mistake of Unintentional Age Discrimination

A few years ago, an unsettling scenario unfolded when an organization found itself in a $2M+ settlement stemming from an EEOC age discrimination lawsuit. The culprit? Their “Early Career” hiring initiative. This incident sent shock waves through the University Recruiting industry, sparking concerns to this day about the potential ramifications of their own early career programs. 

Commissioner Sonderling acknowledged the complexities inherent to early career recruiting, particularly age discrimination. One glaring issue is the language used in job descriptions, often explicitly seeking “recent college graduates,” which may imply a preference for candidates in their early twenties.  

Leading with Inclusivity

Amidst these concerns, advocacy groups like AARP are championing the cause of older workers, decrying the exclusionary practices perpetuated by “early career” programs. However, the solution isn’t to abandon campus recruitment altogether. Instead, Commissioner Sonderling urges also leveraging alternative avenues – such as online job boards – that allow qualified candidates of all ages to apply, ensuring equal opportunity. 

Veris Insights’ research found more than half of companies have changed their “University Recruiting” team name or have actively considered it. As recruiting for entry-level positions expands beyond college campuses, some companies find a team name like “early career” or “emerging talent” to be more inclusive of all candidates in the early stages of their career, despite their age or degree status.

Recruiting & Fostering Early Talent Moving Forward

Navigating early career recruiting programs while safeguarding against age discrimination requires a delicate balance of legal compliance and inclusive practices. By heeding the insights shared by Commissioner Sonderling and embracing a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, recruiting leaders can maintain their programs and forge a path towards a more equitable future.


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