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Job Hunting, Jobseekers' Perspective

MYTH #3: Do Employers Favor Younger Candidates?

Senior Citizens Find That New Ulm, Minnesota, ...

Image by The U.S. National Archives via Flickr

Even in the almost three years that I have worked in the job I have now, I have noticed the population of jobseekers using our services trending radically upwards in regard to age. Many of those people I meet with voice their concern that employers don’t want to look at them because they are too old.

Consider two examples (names are changed):

  1. Jerry is an IT professional and web designer. He had been laid off from his job of 6 years and had been out of work for over 2 years. Although he had started to contract his services and did everything he could to keep his experience current, employers weren’t looking at him. He was convinced that this was due to his age.
  2. Sean had a wealth of experience in various management positions and had been laid off almost 2 years ago. Since then he has worked the odd temp job here and there, but was not getting anything permanent. He was very exhausted and discouraged.

Both these men are over 60 years old.

It was cases like these that made me decide to learn more about the issue at hand. I decided to do my research—attend various workshops, find material online, and talk to employers and recruiters. I found some interesting information to share with my mature jobseekers.

There will always be some employers who will think that younger jobseekers are going to be a better investment than older ones for whatever reason. Thankfully, no two employers are alike. Many employers do appreciate the value of experience, work ethic and wisdom that mature jobseekers generally bring to the table.

I have also found that while there are mature jobseekers out there perceiving age discrimination against them by hiring managers, there is also a sizeable group of younger jobseekers feeling the same age discrimination against them. In this economy, the grass is always greener on the other side of the unemployment line.

Personally, I think that viewing the current status of jobseekers in terms of their age is counterproductive. The jobseeker isn’t going to get any younger. There’s no need to worry about that aspect if there’s nothing you can do about it anyway.

The Maturing Workforce

Besides, our workforce is naturally trending older.  Statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the largest growing groups of workers over the 10-year period 2006 to 2016 are those over 55 years of age. By 2016, workers age 65 and over are expected to account for 6.1% of the total labor force, up from 3.6% in 2006.

There are some concerns employers do have about hiring older workers. Success comes from proactively countering those concerns with positive realities, especially when grounded in concrete examples from the jobseeker’s experience.

Some of those concerns are:

  1. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
  2. Training older workers is a bad investment because they will not last long.
  3. Older workers are not as productive as younger workers.
  4. Benefit and accident costs are higher for older workers.

It is important to note that:

  1. Studies show only negligible loss of cognitive function of people under 70. While older workers take longer to absorb completely new material, their better study attitudes and accumulated experience lower training costs. In fact, the fastest growing group of Internet users is people over 50.
  2. Workers over 50 have longevity of over 3 times longer than job hopping younger workers. The average time that an employee over 50 stays at a job can easily exceed the life of the new technology for which the worker is trained.
  3. Overall productivity does not decline as a function of age; in fact, productivity can actually rise due to greater worker accuracy, dependability and ability to make better spot judgments. Older worker’s production rates are steadier than other age groups.
  4. Older workers take less sick days per year than younger workers. While individual older worker’s health, disability and life insurance costs do rise slowly with age, they are offset by lower costs due to fewer dependents. Additionally, older workers take fewer risks and statistically have lower accident rates than other age groups.

(SOURCE: American Business and Older Employees. AARP. Washington DC: 2000; Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Addressing the Challenge

AARP lists the ten things employees can do to keep themselves marketable as they age:

  • Keep your skills current (especially computer and other technical skills
  • Keep your resume current
  • Stay informed about today’s changing workplace
  • Sell yourself in your interview; stress your strengths and how you are a good fit for the company
  • Know your rights under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
  • Network, network, network!
  • Make sure everyone knows that you know how to use a computer
  • In an interview, focus on the job, not on the benefits
  • Be willing to be flexible
  • Be a little humble in your interview; while maintaining your confidence and not underselling your skills and abilities, don’t act as if you know all the answers.

Epilogue:

Jerry was hired by a new social networking company as a web designer.

Sean, tired of management positions and eager to learn something new, was hired last week to train as a pharmacy assistant.

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About kimberlyjmyers

I am a workforce development professional in Washington State. I have ten years experience working with dislocated workers, vocationally impaired, and people with disabilities on many levels and backgrounds from offenders to non-English speaking refugees from around the world. The One thing the clients I have worked with all had in common: there was some barrier to employment, and I work diligently every day to identify, address and remove those barriers.

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