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Moving Past the Millennial: How Ageist Hiring Practices May be Hurting Your Applicant Pool

Written by Karli Kendall

If your hiring team is part of the 73% struggling to find the right candidates, you may want to try expanding your applicant pool. One factor that may be currently preventing employers from maximizing the value of their current applicants is a tendency to favor younger workers.

This bias may be conscious or unconscious. Some companies, for instance, have been guilty of using Facebook’s targeted advertising to only display their job ads to 18-35 year olds, an example of conscious, intentional age bias. Other times, the signs of ageism are subtler and less intentional. In 2015, researchers sent out identical resumes of two fictional job seekers - one age 28 and one age 50 - to over 2,000 job ads to find that employers were 3.6 times less likely to invite the 50-year-old candidate in for an interview. These employers denied themselves the opportunity to learn more about a solid candidate simply because of age.

With more employed adults delaying retirement than ever before (three-quarters now plan to work past the government’s recommended age), older Americans are a great source of talent. In today’s hiring climate, the number of job openings now outnumber the number of job seekers, meaning that employers can’t afford to dismiss such a large group of applicants.

 

How Your Company Can Benefit from Hiring Older Workers

In addition to the obvious benefit of maximizing your applicant pool, older applicants are more likely to possess certain skills, experience, and character traits than younger candidates. Some qualities that Entrepreneur Magazine found are common among older employees include:

1. Dedication

2. Punctuality

3. Honesty

4. Focus

5. Maturity

Besides the fact that older Americans are more likely to embody these character traits, another often-overlooked perk of hiring older candidates is reduced labor costs. Some employers might unconsciously favor younger applicants because they assume that they will have lower salary demands, but this isn’t necessarily the case. On the contrary, older applicants often already have insurance plans from a previous employer, or have another source of income (another part-time job, investments, etc.) and may be willing to accept a lower salary than other applicants. The worst you can do as an employer is to assume that an older applicant will require a higher salary without asking them first. You may be missing out on a great candidate who provides a wealth of experience at a fair salary.

 

How to Reduce Ageism in Your Company’s Hiring Process

Fortunately, there are many ways to minimize unconscious ageism in the hiring process. To fairly evaluate all candidates, be conscious of any ageist language or questions in interviews and try to use impartial information - such as skills or personality traits - to assess candidates.

Eliminating Ageist Language & Questions

Eliminating age-based bias from your hiring process requires vigilance in the type of language used and questions asked in interviews and job adverts.

For instance, the Society of Human Resources recommends avoiding these questions in particular:

1. Would it be hard working for a boss younger than you?

2. Do you think our technology demands might be too much?

3. Why would you want this job, given all your experience?

4. People here work long hours; that probably doesn’t interest you.

5. Do you feel that you’re overqualified for this position?

In job listings, calling for candidates that are “energetic,” “young-spirited” or “office ninjas” discourages older applicants from applying for roles that otherwise may be a good fit, diminishing your applicant pool for the position.

 

Making an Impartial Appraisal Using Software & Pre-Employment Tests

When evaluating job applicants, online blind-hiring software and pre-employment tests can reduce age bias.

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) sometimes offer employers the option of hiding candidates’ names, email addresses, or age-related information from their resumes. This “blind” evaluation method is meant to reduce any inclination to hire candidates of a particular gender, race, age, or other demographic.

Pre-employment tests are another great way to compare all of your candidates on an even playing field. These tests can analyze factors such as an applicant’s skill set, personality, or cognitive aptitude. Studies have shown that a candidate’s cognitive aptitude is even more predictive of their job success than their past experience, their education level, or even their interview.

 

In the age of hiring ageism, the conscious and unconscious favoring of younger job seekers is excluding older applicants from businesses’ already small applicant pools. In order to maximize your company’s selection of candidates, be sure to avoid ageist language and questions, and consider looking into online software that allows for blind hiring practices. While you may not get “office ninjas,” you may find that older candidates possess greater dexterity in the office than you’d imagine (and oftentimes more flexibility in pay).

 

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Karli Kendall

Written by Karli Kendall

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