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Recruitment can be a crazy business.  We are at the whim of our candidates and our hiring managers, some days it feels like I am a babysitter more than recruitment professional.  Over the past few years I have noticed a disturbing trend, one that may have been present for some time but I am noticing it more and more.

 

Hiring Manager and Recruiters are focusing more on fit, which is great – except they are “fitting” those over 50 out of work.  I have worked at a few companies that have a product that is geared towards youth and early – mid career professionals.  So as a result, they feel their culture is also “youthful”.  They are not stating they will not hire anyone over a certain age; instead they are capping it terms of years of experience.  In one example, I was working on hiring a Sales Manager. In our discussion the VP stated that he wanted 5 – 10 years of experience.  Anything over 10, he wouldn’t consider.  And not 10 years as a Sales Manager, 10 years in their career.  Essentially, anyone over 35 need not apply and he was very clear that this was the case but he couldn’t say that without being discriminatory.  I tried to work around this by presenting someone with 10 year’s of experience in sales and 8 years outside of sales and he sent back the candidate immediately with a too much experience decline.

 

Another trend I have seen with recruiters is the inability to see that not everyone is looking to move forward in their careers for their entire lives.  Over time, the climb up the ladder is no longer the priority but they still want to use their skills and experience.  So someone may have been a director at one stage is looking to be an individual contributor at another.  These applicants don’t even garner a call; they are relegated to the decline pile without another thought as the role is “too junior”.  This again tends to target the over 50 crowd who are looking to adjust their work/life balance.

 

I understand that many organizations are thinking that they need all the eager youthful overtime that the early to mid-career level workers can contribute, but these folks are also more apt to leave the organization after a couple of years and take their skills and overtime to another organization.  Over 50 workers are more likely to be loyal, be productive quicker and maintain that productivity over time.  So why are we shutting them out?  Why are they consistently on the losing side of the job?  Many of these workers are technically adept, have not left the workforce voluntarily but rather have been laid off, and are eager to work.

 

If you feel I am exaggerating, recent studies in the UK show that people over age 55 are out of work 2x as long as someone in their 30’s.  And this trend is continuing to grow.  Studies in the US and Canada are showing very similar trends.  In itself, this could prove to be more catastrophic to society as these adults become dependent on their children very early on as they lose their homes and savings for retirement attempting to find work again.

 

We need to work at retraining our recruitment colleagues and our Hiring Managers to consider a multitude of factors when making hiring decisions.  We all know age discrimination is illegal, but for many, they don’t even realize that is what they are doing.  Let’s tackle this issue before it does reach the edge of the precipice.

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Comment by Peter Ceccarelli on November 16, 2012 at 4:40pm

Spot on assessment!  Everything you shared is unfortunately true and happening at epidemic levels all over the World,not just the U.S. 

I'm on the north side of 50, and have been with my company for 7 years.  However, even with my resume cut of back to 1996, and the prior career experience just a short paragraph/sound bite, even a dumb person can ascertain that I'm definitely over 40, and maybe pushing 50, therefore I'm "undersirable".  I've actually tested my resume out in my industry, and years ago when I was really on the market, I got swamped with phone calls (I've been in the same ecommerce industry and city for over a decade and have a great local reputation), but now I get nada, zippo, nothing.  So what's that tell you?  Employers want the age range of 28 to mid 30's and that's pretty much it for the majority of hires.  They may go upwards of early to mid 40's for Director and C level positions because it takes that many years to gain the necessary experience required for those level of jobs.  It's a very sad commentary for our society.  It's illegal, but it's happening.  Even my hiring managers shy away from "more mature" candidates because they're either afraid to manage someone their parents age, or think that just because we turned 50, our brains stopped functioning and we're no longer relevant. 

I have to tell you this.  Am I more expensive than someone 35 with my same skill set?  Yes I am.  By a lot.  However as you stated, will that 35 year old put up with the crap year after year, the ups and downs and stay for 7+ years with one company?  Probably not.  And do I out perform them because I have extensive experience and a broader skill set because I've been at this a long time, therefore my employer is getting a helluva lot more out of my engine because of that than someone less than half my age.  Yes they are.  So the less money/younger candidate bull-shit excuse just doesn't fly.

Great post.  Thanks for bringing it up.  It's never going to stop, but it's certainly happening.  I guess I'm more sensitive to it now than before because now I'm "one of them" and let me tell you, the years flew by fast.  Just think about that you youngsters who think you'll be eternally young.  You won't.  So wake up and be more of an advocate for ALL candidates, not just the "young" ones.

Comment by Judi Wunderlich on November 16, 2012 at 5:25pm

Peter:

Ageism is just another flavor or racism or sexism. Overweight people also face discrimination, as do people with 'foreign-sounding' names or accents.

Because as long as we have humans judging candidates, we will have certain classes of people who are turned away because of that human's 'isms', and that interviewer might not even be conscious of the real reason why the don't like that candidate. This is a sociological problem that none of can fix; it is entrenched.

I tell my job seekers that if you fail to make a good first impression (within the first 5 minutes of meeting an interviewer) then it's over, because it's very hard for someone to get past their first impression. And that includes what you look like, talk like, smell like, how you dress.... well you get the gist.

Comment by Peter Ceccarelli on November 16, 2012 at 6:29pm

To Judi: Awesome post.  Very insightful.  This entire discussion if great.  And have you noticed, we're mostly all if not all of us responding are the demographic being discussed. 

To Chrisman: Dye your hair for an interview if you're a man?  No way Jose.  Look at my picture!  I'm completely gray and have been since my late 30's.  But my face say's something else.  Men of our age who dye their hair look like a dweeb.  It's not flattering.  Woman.........yes it works for you.  For us, it's God awful and it looks dyed. Why in the world would you do that.  If you're coaching candidates to do that, you're doing them an injustice.  Have them look current and relevant in grooming and clothing choice.  The gray hair won't matter then.  You're still over 50 with or without it.  But most look terrible if they dye it. 

Comment by Sandra McCartt on November 17, 2012 at 2:25pm
I agree with Peter re men dying their hair. I had a vp sales candidate who was in his early 60's. His LinkedIn pic was classy, gray hair ,distinguished look. After several phone screens he was flown halfway across the country for a full day of face to face interviews with the client ready to ask him to stay overnight for an offer if things went well. Age paranoia took over or some idiot told him to dye his hair.

In the door he walks with dyed black hair except for a white spot behind his left ear. Who knows why somebody didn't see it or if they did they couldn't fix it. He was out of there in about two hours after about five, "hello, thanks for coming, nice resume, we'll be in touch ", courtesy type interviews.

The feedback was unpleasant at best. He never got past hello and was referred to as "spot" by the executive group. Lock, load, shoot self in foot.

My take is instead of trying to get every company to hire people who for any reason aren't who they want to hire, it's our job to find the company who wants experience and sell it.
I have never had a problem placing the challenged hire, but I have to find the place where whatever the challenge is, it doesn't matter. That being said appearance is important in any hire. Nobody hires slobs,weird dressers or people with white spots on their dyed black heads.
Comment by Sally Appenzeller on November 17, 2012 at 3:10pm

Oh my,  Men dying their hair is not a good idea!!!!  For some reason on a man, you can tell it is died, or they have a wig on.  If the candidate dress's professionally, is up beat, sells himself then he should have nothing to worry about.  I feel bad for the candidate that lost the opportunity because he dyed his hair and had a spot.  What a shame!!!! 

You know, what if we all sent a survey to all our clients; have pacific questions, once we get them all returned, have a committee review them, and then have AARP. ICSM, other associations that may also take an interest, and possible publish the results, and maybe get this aired.  Just thinking out side the box.

 

Comment by Erin Passmore on November 19, 2012 at 9:19am

I agree also with the men and dyed hair - it never looks great and they have to do it constantly if they are fully grey.  Not worth it!  I also think that women who are very obviously on the later side of 70 look a little silly with a full head of coloured hair.  After awhile you are fooling no one. 

 

I am still aways from hitting the demographic I have written about, but I am very happy to see such a great discussion.  Every little bit can help us move forward with this.  In the 80's it was need not apply for this group due to Employment Equity.  Now it is need not apply because you are too "experienced" or "expensive" for our salary and our health plans.

Comment by Bob McIntosh on November 19, 2012 at 9:44am

I thank you as well. I have many frustrated mature workers (40 and over, according to the DOL) who are running up against hidden age discrimination. Many would be fine taking a lesser role and less pay to shuck off the responsibility. 

Comment by Chrisman Wilkey on November 19, 2012 at 10:01am

Bob, problem with that is that they are locked out for the most part here as well, conversation goes something like this...you were a "whaever" why would you want this lesser job?" Or the thought is, offer them the job and as soon as a better opportunity comes around they are gone. I've had hiring managers and HR tell me that about great candidates. It's a very real Catch 22.

Comment by Judi Wunderlich on November 19, 2012 at 11:02am

LOL!  About the men and dying their hair thing. I know several over 50 men who dye their hair regularly - and they look great!  The key is, they get is professionally colored.  I believe the men you are talking who look silly are doing home jobs. 

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