Skip to content
Home » Blog » Addressing Ageism in the Recruitment Process

Addressing Ageism in the Recruitment Process

Old dogs can learn new tricks

Many employers are currently facing challenges in filling critical roles, regardless of whether they are big tech companies or small businesses. The Great Resignation has led to talent shortages and worsened existing ones, resulting in intense competition among companies for a limited pool of candidates. However, certain highly qualified job seekers are finding it harder to secure employment due to one simple factor: their age.

According to a global study conducted by the career training nonprofit Generation, unemployed individuals aged 45 or older have experienced long-term unemployment rates of 63%. In comparison, job seekers aged 35 to 44 have a rate of 52%, while those aged 18 to 34 have a rate of 36%. This trend is not new, as individuals aged 45 and older have consistently represented 40% to 70% of the long-term unemployed since 2015.

Age-based bias, whether conscious or unconscious, has no place in the hiring process, especially during a talent shortage. It makes it unnecessarily difficult for companies to find the right candidates with the required experience and skills. To address this issue, it is important to understand the findings of Generation’s study.

Hiring managers consistently view older job seekers less favorably, despite their strong on-the-job performance. Many professionals aged 45 and older see their age as a serious obstacle in their job search. Among successful career switchers, 53% believe that age is one of the biggest barriers to finding new employment. For those who are still unemployed, this number rises to 71%.

This perception is justified, as hiring managers are significantly less likely to rate professionals aged 45 and older as application ready, having the best experience, or being the best fit for the company culture compared to candidates aged 35 to 44. Candidates in the youngest age group (18 to 34) are often regarded more favorably than their older peers, even in terms of experience.

The main concerns hiring managers have regarding older candidates are their reluctance to adopt new technologies (38%), their ability to learn new skills (27%), and their compatibility with other generations (21%). However, when hiring managers do give older candidates a chance, positive outcomes occur. They rate 87% of these hires as performing as well or better than younger employees and believe that 90% have the potential for long-term company loyalty.

This discrepancy between perception and reality puts older professionals in a difficult position. While they can excel when given the opportunity, convincing others to give them a chance is an uphill battle. As a result, many older job seekers are forced to compromise, such as lowering their expectations (66%), accepting positions in different industries (30%), taking lower salaries (29%), or accepting lower starting positions (24%).

To address this mismatch, companies need to identify the causes behind it. Like-me bias, favoring individuals similar to oneself, is one factor that contributes to hiring managers’ views. The majority of hiring managers surveyed were under 45, which may explain their preference for candidates aged 18 to 44. To overcome this bias, it is crucial to build age-diverse interview panels and decision-making teams. Including people from different generations in the hiring process can provide a more balanced perspective and help older candidates feel more welcomed and valued.

Another factor is belief perseverance, where biases persist despite contradictory evidence. The same survey respondents hold conflicting beliefs about older professionals, perceiving them as less suitable and competent candidates while also recognising their high performance and potential. Talent professionals should proactively address these conflicting beliefs, challenging hiring managers to explain their reasoning and confronting biases in a delicate and empathetic manner.

Confronting bias is just the beginning. Older candidates bring valuable experience and skills to companies when given the opportunity. To create a workplace that embraces employees of all ages, intentional strategies should be adopted to welcome and support older workers. Companies like HubSpot and CVS Health have implemented programs to assist professionals who have been out of the workforce for a while, providing them with easier transitions and access to necessary training.

By actively addressing biases and implementing programs and initiatives, companies can tap into an overlooked talent pool and make a positive impact on the lives of individuals who struggle to find suitable employment.