While I normally try to run a different “career poll” each and every month, it’s been a slightly longer window than that in this last go-round, due to the holidays and other factors.  This being said, however, I’m excited to finally have the chance to share the results of my latest poll with you — since this survey not only received a sizable response from among my clients and regular blog readers, but also stimulated quite a bit of discussion among the LinkedIn community, at large!

For those who missed it, the specific question I threw out there in my most recent poll was:

“What type of discrimination, if any, do you feel is most prevalent in today’s job market?”

The five response choices were:

1) Discrimination against older workers
2) Discrimination against younger workers
3) Discrimination against women
4) Discrimination based on race/ethnicity
5) Discrimination against the unemployed

A total of 498 people cast their vote on this particular topic, and while you’ll see a small graphic of the results below, you can click here to access the full set of results.

The Analysis?  Sadly, I think the first noteworthy thing the poll confirms is that discrimination seems to be alive and well in today’s job market.  While in truth, I didn’t give people the option NOT to vote for a certain type of discriminatory hiring practice, the overall tenor of the survey pretty clearly shows that most people don’t feel all is perfectly “fair and just” in today’s hiring world.

Just to give you a taste of what’s on peoples’ minds regarding this topic, here’s a quick sampling of some of the opinions that were expressed in the 54 additional “comments” submitted at the bottom of the poll page:

“All of the above. As a professional I’d say the situation is horrible and out of control to say the least.”

If you are old, a minority and unemployed, you are in deep pucky!”

“Out of work and over 50? Don’t even bother looking. In ’99, when I was 53, my phone rang all the time. The phone still rings today, but it is in China.”

“I think discrimination against older workers is what I have noticed the most. I have a lawyer friend who specializes in age discrimination cases and he is swamped with work.”

“I think it’s different in different markets. In India there has been a lot of discrimination against women a few years back and it still exists for higher roles. There’s also discrimination here on the basis of age and race.”

The unemployed people is always considered inferior than employed people.”

Then again, there were a few voices out there who pushed back:

“My father just got a job and he is 60 and I know people who are near 50 and still get hired based on the field of work they are in. My suggestion for everyone is to update his/her skills with the newest office skills like I explained to my dad.”

“Is it Ageism or Fuddy Duddyism? Sometimes I think when I hear my peer group make comments like ‘Twitter is stupid and is for kids’ it points out that maybe our skill sets need improvement.”

“Life belongs to the young, let them struggle and work their way up, just as we did. Be content, exercise, keep your mind open, eliminate stressful things. If you are old and looking for work, chances are you have been looking all your life and didn’t find it.”

“There are many more types of discrimination, but the point is that probably the only way to get around these factors is to have a skill in high demand where the employee has more of a bargaining position.”

And lastly, there were some comments that were a bit out in left field:

“There is a sixth discrimination, based on the last form of acceptable racism: degree racism.”

“The other day this 250 year old guy walks in and ask for a job. I hired him on the spot. We now transcribe ancient scrolls.”

“The category left out is discrimination in favor of machines over humanity.”

This is just a small sampling of the thoughts that people submitted, so if you’re even the slightest bit interested in this topic, I’d highly encourage you to visit the full poll, above, and scroll down to read through the long chain of interesting responses.

My own analysis?  I don’t think there’s all that much I can add to the string of discussions referenced above.  Or perhaps I COULD say a lot more, but I won’t, since this posting is already getting pretty long.  Overall, though, the general gist of what I’ve written about before on this subject is that yes, discrimination exists, but it’s not nearly as black-and-white as most people make it.  Sure, if you look hard enough, you’ll find cases of downright “evil” discrimination with NO basis in objective reality.  But then there’s the milder form, where companies may decide an executive with 30 years of experience wouldn’t be happy with an entry-to-mid-level assignment.  Or that a younger worker or new graduate would need too much hands-on training to make an immediate contribution.  This kind of bias is regrettable, but at least partially understandable, I think, compared to discrimination based on immutable factors like gender, race, or sexual orientation.

In truth, though, what this poll really got me wondering is one thing in particular.  It got me asking the question: “What’s the opposite of discrimination?  If most of us believe the companies today are selecting people unfairly, and injecting unfair bias into the process, what would the perfectly ‘fair’ way be to select employees?  What would that look like?”

I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this.  Should companies make people go through a specific work simulation or performance test, then simply hire whomever does the best job?  Should they interview people in a double-blind fashion, where they aren’t given any cues as to a candidate’s age, sex, ethnicity, or other factors?  Should we repeal the minimum wage laws and allow companies to hire people willing to work 60 hours a week, for $3.00 an hour, since by the employer’s definition, such behavior might qualify as “the person able to do the best job?”

No easy answers, but hopefully someday a better mousetrap — or a surge of enlightenment — will arrive on the scene and transform the hiring market.  Until then, let’s keep talking!

As for the coming month?  You’ll find my latest LinkedIn poll question here, exploring the subject of hiring discrimination even more deeply and asking: “What aspect of job hunting do you generally find to be the most challenging?”