Age Discrimination More Prevalent Than Racial or Gender Bias? Reply

Despite the various bursting bubbles, financial flame-outs and blood-curdling recessions, the challenges for employers seem to have stayed the same.   They want a flexible job force that needs little training, adjusts well and requires moderate monitoring or mentoring.   These same employers bemoan the availability of quality candidates for their job openings.  Yet there is a wellspring of overlooked talent that does exist and can quickly and easily fill this void.  It is often segregated and overlooked because of marketplace misconceptions and myths.  It is the mid-career or older worker.

Although age discrimination is illegal it most certainly exists and appears more prevalent than gender or race discrimination.  In many markets it is overwhelmingly apparent, such as the film and television industries.  In others it can be more covert but it is still just as real.

Ask anybody on the job hunt age fifty or over and they can attest to the challenges of even getting a phone interview when just a few short years before the problem was deciding which call to take.   Those fortunate enough to be screened cite the same feedback when turned down for a role:

  • Another candidate whose “skills more closely matched” the needs of the company was identified
  • Or, the candidate themselves was “too qualified”

While the first is open to interpretation and might indeed reflect a core competency reality, the second is almost without question derived from an observation of the applicant’s age and the underlying preconceived notions related to workforce longevity stereotypes.

What are these myths that are so prevalent with recruiters and hiring authorities?  The stereotype breaks down into four areas.  Those fifty years of age and older are:

  • Inflexible
  • Too expensive
  • Lower energy employees
  • Not as technically savvy

Reality is much different.   Studies have shown that those over fifty:

  • Have broader knowledge and better work performance.  (Research has found no relationship between job performance and an employee’s age.)
  • Are happier and have better interpersonal skills
  • Quit less, use far less sick days and have less accidents
  • Are more flexible in their work schedules
  • Cost less:  The market dictates salaries based on experience, not age. While health care use is greater, they typically don’t have dependents to pay for and don’t contend with pregnancies or childcare issues, so there is a strong offset.

So what do we do?

The workforce is rapidly aging.  By 2020 those fifty-five and older will make up almost 40% of the employed.  There will be less young workers joining the ranks.  Employers will be forced to confront the ageism issue head-on.  But this can be a huge win for all parties.   The solution starts with the employer.

  • Educate young supervisors regarding the stereotypes of the older worker.  Begin dispelling these misconceptions.  Help them to be empowered as managers.
  • Teach young supervisors how to give feedback and guidance and how to hold older workers accountable.
  • Create a culture that embraces those in mid-career (just as some companies have outreach programs for military veterans).  Establish benefits and rewards that are relevant to the older worker, these typically are not pay and promotions.

What can a fifty-year old out of work do to help themselves get hired?

  • Push back against the stereotypes, but don’t overdo it.
  • Build a resume that reflects the high accomplishments of the past fifteen years at the most. Ten is better, especially in the tech fields.  Anything beyond that starts to ‘age’ a resume and a prospective employee.  Emphasize your problem solving ability, people skills, leadership experiences and examples of sound judgment.
  • Be sure to enroll in continuing education courses and certification programs – especially in the technical fields – that show an on-going interest in career development and progression.
  • Get active in career affinity groups in person and online.  Become visible and vocal.
  • Get in shape and maintain a healthy diet.   The younger you feel the younger people will feel you are.  Age isn’t all about days on a calendar.

And a final word to the prospective employee, don’t pre-judge the employers.  Your wisdom comes from your experience and your experience has value.  The young hiring manager will see that if you present yourself respectfully.  You may well be the answer to their workforce problem.

“Ah, Go Bing Yourself….” 2

“Ah, Go Bing Yourself…”

I’ll wait.  Go to www.bing.com and search for own name.  Now do the same at Google.com.    Try your name and job title together.   Check out your images on Google.6a00d8345410a269e2017c31798c27970b-800wi

Surprised at what you found?  Almost everybody has some searchable information available with just a few clicks.  First impressions are everything. Honestly ask yourself what people would think of you if all they had were these data points?

Recruiters, hiring managers and interviewers frequently use this information to “learn” about candidates.   They will search using your email address, too.  Employers will know a lot about us long before we ever hear from them – if we ever hear from them.

With the resume in the death-rattle stage of its existence, the online profile and other information have become the basis for making next-step recruiting decisions.  A person with generous praise in a Linkedin profile as well as a few self-written blog postings related to some aspect of their career may well get plucked from the digital swirl and asked to interview over someone whose online life is only represented by book recommendations and a simple chronological profile on a job social network.

So, to improve your odds of getting the call or email or response regarding a job opportunity, control what you can online.  At a minimum review your Linkedin profile every few months and keep it current (do not overdo the recommendation piece… too many can be perceived as desperate or hiding something…)  Be sure you have a photo on Linkedin.  A good quality image works best.  Reply to questions people post on Linkedin or ask your own.  Keeps you visible. Make sure that the keywords relevant to your career are in your profile and position summaries.

More importantly, if you can write clearly, make an effort to respond to blog postings in your career niche or write a couple guest blogs.    Set up a WordPress blog of your own – about you — and make sure your resume is available for download.  Review relevant work related books on Amazon.com.  Post photos on Instagram — helps tell a bit about who you are versus “what” you are work-wise.  Join Meetup.com and find a career or business group near you that shares your interests.  Tweet a bit.   Make sure your actual resume is current on The Ladders or Monster.com or any career site you use.  Recruiters will still ask for and review them, but usually after they’ve already found you.  All of this will add to your online image and helps you control the initial impressions about you.

Keeping your online brand fresh is not that hard.  Just takes a little effort and the results can be quite positive.  Neglecting your online presence can be equally detrimental.