It’s very likely that much of your talent pool consists of older workers. According to a recent study from Pew Research, close to 20% of Americans age 65 or older (that’s a total of nearly 9 million people) are still working. It’s more expensive these days to live a comfortable lifestyle, parents are spending much of their savings on their children’s college educations, and people are living longer today than years ago. But age discrimination in recruitment exists today, and it has a negative impact on the livelihood of baby boomers as well as younger workers. Fear of age discrimination can also discourage workers from applying to jobs they are qualified for.
Age discrimination is illegal under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which “protects certain applicants and employees forty years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.” While age discrimination in hiring is difficult for job seekers to prove, the website for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shows that the number of age discrimination claims has been steadily growing since 1997. Besides that, by engaging in age discrimination in the recruitment process, you are shortchanging your business. Baby boomers have proven to be a very hard-working generation who hold a lot of loyalty to their employers and aren’t likely to quit their job at the drop of a hat. They are also known for being resourceful, independent and disciplined.
How Hiring Managers Display Age Discrimination
You may think this isn’t an issue in your human resources team, because you employ ethical people. But age discrimination in hiring isn’t necessarily intentional. Your hiring managers may have bias towards older workers that they aren’t even aware of. Age discrimination can exist in all parts of the hiring process, from job ads to resume screening to interviewing. It’s also important to note that age discrimination in recruitment can apply to younger workers as well, especially in situations where you are requesting a certain number of years’ experience. In this case, you could be missing out on talent that has developed their skills rapidly. And you don’t have to be age 65 or older to be deemed too old to perform the job in question. Even people in their 30s can lose job opportunities to younger applicants.
How to Avoid Age Discrimination in the Recruitment Process
To keep age discrimination at bay during recruitment, it’s important that your HR team reviews the qualifications of job candidates in groups. That way, you can point out possible age bias to each other along the way. It helps to have multiple eyes and ears because age discrimination can easily be missed in the recruitment process. Some of the assumptions hiring managers have that cause them to be afraid to hire older workers are lack of aptitude with technology, lack of flexibility, that they will be difficult to train, and that they will be retiring soon. To avoid age discrimination in the hiring process, it’s important that you destroy these cultural ideas among your hiring team. For example, not hiring a worker because you are afraid they will decide to retire after a year or two on the job is bad logic because in today’s job market, millennials are known to job hop. You could end up having to find a replacement even sooner by choosing to hire a younger worker.
To avoid age discrimination in the hiring process, here are some things you should watch out for:
- Wording in your job postings that indicates you are targeting a specific age group in the job posting. For example, words like “agile” or “energetic” could indicate a younger age group. Words like “astute” or “seasoned” could indicate an older age group.
- Mentioning requirements like “recent college graduates” or a certain number of years of experience in job postings can be perceived as age bias. Simply mention the skills and qualities required for the job, and the level at which they should be developed. Focus more on how relevant the candidate’s recent achievements were in their career, not how old or young they are.
- In the interview, avoid mentioning the person’s age or referring to aspects of their age that could make the job challenging. For example, be careful expressing concerns that they are overqualified for the job, since that can be interpreted as age discrimination in recruitment. Also, if you are interviewing an older candidate and your company consists of mostly younger workers, avoid making inquiries such as “Would you feel comfortable reporting to a supervisor that is younger than you?” Or in the reverse situation, avoid asking a younger candidate questions such as “Would you be ok with managing a team of older employees?”
- Make sure your photos and videos you use in your recruiting materials don’t portray too many individuals of one age group.
- Be diverse with where you post your jobs. Online resources such as social media and job boards are an excellent place to post jobs, along with print resources like newspapers and newsletters.
- Send your human resources team to look for talent not only at high school and college job fairs, but also other networking events such as those for professional associations and school alumni associations. This will give you access to a wider age range of talent.
Author: Jessica Cody
Jessica Cody, a native of Fairfield County, Connecticut, has a background in online marketing and public relations. Currently, she works at VHMNetwork LLC in the role of Marketing Analyst. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut, where she studied Journalism and Political Science. She is also an avid runner with a passion for the outdoors.