Hiring Managers

Hiring the Older Worker


In the words of the great English poet Alexander Pope, fools rush in where angels fear to tread. I am going to address a ticklish subject here, but it’s something I feel strongly about. I am going to lay out a case to employers, that not only should they NOT discriminate against the older candidate; they should shift their paradigms and embrace that segment of the workforce.

The first step to correcting a problem is often to admit that you have one, so here goes; the older worker has been discriminated against for a long time. This is pretty widely accepted, as evidenced by the fact that there are laws against age discrimination. As with other forms of discrimination, over the years it has become subtler. So, I might hear things like, “it’s an impressive resume, but we’d really like to find someone with more energy”, or “they certainly have the experience we are looking for, but they’re overqualified for this position”.

The next step in our quest for the cure is to explore why employers are predisposed to think this way. I think there are several reasons, but one stands above the others, and it is not valid today. There was a time when companies reasonably expected their top employees to stay there until they retired. That was the unwritten social contract between the company and the employee – loyalty that went both ways. Hence if you subtracted someone’s age from 65, that was how many years of service you were going to get out of them, give or take a few. Wow has that changed.

The company-employee loyalty is gone, for the most part, overcome by the realities of a global economy, mergers and acquisitions, a demand for short-term business results, and a host of other factors. What you have now is a situation where the average Gen X and Gen Y employee is changing jobs every 3-4 years.

The bottom line is, if you want someone today who is very likely to be with your company for 10 years, do not overlook someone who is 55 or 60 years old. They will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge, they will show up on time every day and give you a full days’ work, and when the time does come to retire they will tell you well in advance and gladly train their replacement.

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