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Should you be recruiting more age and experience?

It’s always been fashionable (and possibly, appropriate) to criticise the older generation and right now it seems to be the turn of the post-war Baby Boomers. On Twitter, the iconic “OK, Boomer,” has become the millennial response of choice to any perceived condescension from their elders. And fair enough, perhaps. Take a look at climate change, a financial crisis that just won’t go away, and the inherent instability of the labour market (those Boomers were the last to enjoy so-called ‘jobs for life’) and you might agree that there’s something to answer for. However, the post-war generation may have a crisis of their own, and it’s one that impacts on employers.

The survey says…

The fact is, we’re all living longer. That in turn, puts a strain on health services and pensions. The result is that many Baby Boomers still need to work, watching their retirement age retreat even as they approach it. However, recruiting employers have a tendency to be youth-oriented. Sure, they’re looking for experience and skills too, but they’d ideally like that know-how to come in a younger package with the result that over-50s in the UK face greater unemployment. According to a survey from ‘jobs board for seniors’ Rest Less:

  • 37% of those in long-term unemployment were over 50.
  • The proportion of workers over 50 who had been job seeking for more than two years was greater than any other age group.
  • Workers aged 50-64 were 33% more likely to be in long-term unemployment (2+ years).

And to back this up with another study, a survey of 10,000 businesses by Harvard Business Review and Deloitte a few years ago found that two-thirds saw age as a competitive disadvantage.

The ageing workforce

According to the Office for National Statistics, the percentage of people in employment aged over-65 doubled since 1998. This trend shows no sign of slowing and presents employers with an opportunity: to recruit workers with significant experience and proven skills and knowledge (ideal mentors?) who are generally interested more in stability than climbing the ziggurat.

Tips for recruiting and including all ages

To attract highly qualified, older job candidates:

  • Consider the wording of job adverts – Deliberately cite opportunities for “retirees” or “the over-50s”; offer flexible options, remote working and part-time arrangements to appeal to a demographic that value them. In other words, make them feel wanted.
  • Interviewers – Ensure that the possibility of age discrimination is reduced in your recruitment process. Consider anonymising applications, removing names and ages. Train interviewers and assessors in applying previous (perhaps less obviously relevant) experience to job requirements.
  • Don’t assume – The usual equation is that experience equals a higher salary or more benefits but don’t make assumptions about what an older candidate might want by way of compensation. Leave that for the job offer and contract negotiation stages, initially, you’re just looking for the best-fit candidate.

As a growing group, it’s arguable that older workers are an underused resource potentially offering experience and know-how for which there are no short cuts. The global prejudice against age offers employers an opportunity to say “OK” to the Boomers…

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