Yup, personal contacts are a good way. Would love to be able to "scale" that, somehow. Maybe some way ask personal contacts for their personal contacts.
Older folk do get overlooked, and if they do come through the pipeline, there's sometimes an age bias. From the hiring company's perspective, I feel confident we can deal with bias... there are few enough great folk coming in through the door that nobody can afford to let a bias reject good person.
Being overlooked is the big issue, but I think it's because the older programmers are not "out there" and looking actively the way younger ones do. That's what makes them so elusive. With personal obligations, they're slightly less likely to go to local meet-ups and clubs.
Part of this might be that older programmers are a bit jaded by recruiters who're seem to be all the same.So, the paradox is that many of them would like to switch to something more interesting and more lucrative, but might ignore recruiters, or not search as actively... and, meanwhile, there are companies that would like to hire them, but don't know who they are or how to find them.
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