Age SHOULD Factor into Hiring
Should age play a role when it comes to hiring? The easy answer is no, which is most often because the concern is that a company targets a specific, usually younger, demographic. Companies can be challenged, fined, or even sued should they be found to have engaged in any form of discriminatory hiring practices and why most will make every effort to bring a healthy cross-section of candidates to demonstrate that they are equal opportunity(and still hire whomever they want anyway and there is not much you can do about it!). A company should be able to hire the person they feel is the best fit, and will typically do so based on deeper factors like Talent, Job History, Achievements, Personality and Cultural Fit, assessing who has the right mix of all of these things to give the company confidence that they have found the right person for the job.
But what if a company looked at age differently, not necessarily as Old or Young, or even Experienced or Inexperienced? There are deeper factors when it comes to age that makes the older worker a bit more attractive to the savvy, strategic hiring manager. Beyond the number. Age implies a few other important factors like loyalty and longevity. The older candidate will usually be able to show more experience due to having worked longer, which certainly does not mean ‘better’. Thirty years of average performance in a mundane job that anyone of a thousand candidates could do is not attractive to a hiring manager, whereas the person doing cutting-edge work for the first five years out of college will seem far more attractive and it makes sense why. But look deeper into this simplistic example and think about who will be loyal to the team and company, more likely to stay around when things get tough, budgets get cut, or they don’t get the freedom and autonomy they believed they would have. Is there a job in which, once trained, an intelligent, talented person could do, despite the less impressive resume, but whose history of loyalty and tenure may raise their stock? Is it not worth considering that this candidate likely has been through highly structured environments, budget cuts, downsizing, yet persevered? Will that candidate ten to fifteen years from retirement approach this job as possibly their last stop before retirement, and look to work hard to finish their career here? Wouldn’t most people hiring sign up immediately for their candidate of choice to stay for ten to fifteen years? And will that ‘exciting’ candidate go through the challenging times, the lean times, and stay for anywhere close to that length of time? Statistics say they will not. When a good hiring manager lists out pros and cons of their candidate shortlist, this has to be a consideration in looking to build a team that succeeds through consistency and provides business continuity.
The average tenure of workers nationwide is decreasing year after year. The more frequent hiring means more onboarding, training, and time to ramp, all of which have a cost to companies, and why the need for better, more precise, identification of that right person is greater than ever. A company has to determine not only who the best, most skilled, person for the job may be, but figure out who will be the most committed to the job and the company long-term. The person who has ‘been through it all’ due to years of experience, is likely applying with a belief that this job will provide a sense of stability and avoid repeating going through some of the more challenging periods in their work history. If you are confident that your team and your company offers such stability, or are working hard to achieve that goal, the older candidate may well be looking for the same thing. They therefore may be a great partner to share where, and how they have been through the same organizational transformation, and perhaps even led the effort, and would welcome the opportunity to do the same for you at your company should you bring them aboard.
Measuring ‘Job Satisfaction’ often comes down to whether a company is meeting the expectations of its employees, and that means different things to different people. The expectations of the Millenial and Gen Z groups are often not the same as those who fall into the Baby Boomer and Gen X demographics. Everyone expects to have certain things like compensation, benefits, time off, flexibility, and opportunity. Beyond that, the older worker will usually have fewer new-age, out-of-the-box thoughts, and look for more of the traditional expectations of Security, Fairness, and a Good Environment. That makes sense as they did not grow up in business with such perks, and most companies have learned in recent years the value of more interesting, modern benefits are expected by newer generations and certainly welcomed by the older generations.
The older worker can also be a great mentor to those new to the workforce. If most of a company’s teams are two to five years out of school, are they ready to lead, teach, and show others some of the more foundational aspects of satisfaction and success? Can they mentor others on mapping out a career plan, and how to build great working relationships if they have yet to do so? They just may be able to, but all you are truly confident about is that they have a talent for the job and can do that. The smart hiring approach is to consider all of these factors if the hope extends beyond just getting the job done at a high level but offers an ability, even a likelihood, to help build and develop a team that has leadership, mentoring, and career-building at its core. That foundation is something that even the most talented person, including those just entering the workforce, wants.
The older worker can provide stability to the workplace like no other, and prove to be the valuable asset that brings more than simply talent to the successful equation. Work ethic, commitment, experience, and mentorship are tough to measure, but the odds of finding them all within a certain candidate pool favors the older worker. If you can snap out of the hypnosis of the flashy, cutting-edge work that your candidate shows to have been doing before their recent departure from Amazon, Google or Apple, and think more broadly about what the ‘right fit’ really needs to be for sustainable success at your company, you may come away with a different mindset in your hiring. You may find yourself hiring better, and less frequently than you have in recent years, while you enjoy a team that is a cohesive unit, one built on partnership, with a goal-oriented, loyal team spirit, looking to complete your projects at a high level, and even chomping at the bit to take on the next.
(And if that other candidate is so great, but left Google, how long are they going to hang around here???).
Good article by Builtin on Age, Ageism, and the challenges for older workers in today’s workplace