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.

Views: 2373

Comment by Bonnie Brooks on November 14, 2012 at 4:28pm

You both have excellent points. I guess I want attitude and spirit to erase age discrimination...but I can see you're right and it isn't happening. We can only hope that future generations will get the message. 

While a sad commentary but certainly a great discussion. Marcia and Judi - I thank you and kudos to Erin for getting the dialogue started!

Comment by Erin Passmore on November 15, 2012 at 9:31am

Great discussion everyone - thanks so much for picking up on what I think is a topic we need to be very active on.  And if only a great spirit and willingness to work would change some people's minds.  I think one of the harder parts of this issue is that many of the ones doing the discriminating do not realize they are doing it.  They think they are hiring based on culture and experience. 


So as we look at this issue, the next question is - how do we educate those around us on this issue?

Comment by Bonnie Brooks on November 15, 2012 at 9:38am

It will take a grass root effort. More articles, more blogs such as this and spreading the message through the social media sites. Wonder if AARP has any ideas....anyone else have any ideas? 

Comment by Marcia Tiemeyer on November 15, 2012 at 9:56am

I think this is an issue that may take care of itself as/if the economy improves.   It could just be a matter of supply and demand.  There are not enough qualified younger people available to step into the roles that could be created by business in a good economy.  If that scenario should come about, older workers with the experience and ability will be in demand.  A big "IF" however.

Comment by Cate Kulak on November 15, 2012 at 10:12am

It's going to take the grassroots effort referred to, and to accomplish it, we must become that "trusted advisor" to our clients. As they come to trust their recruiters, internal or agency, they will come to rely on our insight. It will take situations like Marcia describes, when there isn't a supply to meet their perceived need, which gives us the opportunity to point out that we have someone who meets all the qualifications they really need, but is just a little more experienced, more senior, etc. Then we can chip away at the stone.

Comment by Chrisman Wilkey on November 15, 2012 at 12:29pm

I wish I could say that Erin was mistaken in this article but from both professional recruiting experience and experience personally I believe she is totally on target. Living in Seattle we see it all the time, especially with the large software east side organization you all know as well as the huge on-line retail organization again you all know. I know of great candidates who have been submitted with demonstrated successful track records who are passed by - they do not even get a phone screen. It's a real tragedy that talent goes much for laws. IMHO

Comment by Erin Passmore on November 16, 2012 at 9:29am

I wish this issue would take care of itself with the economy, but I fear that for many it will be too late.  Retirement funds, housing all gone.  I really see this as a significant danger in the long run.  Let's keep up the call and work towards education.  As diversity becomes a greater issue, I think we need to recognize that diversity also includes the over 50!

Comment by Sally Appenzeller on November 16, 2012 at 2:45pm

Judi,  I agree as far as attitude, and I must say Ihave not interviewed any candidates lately that looks as you

described.  I am in the 60's full of energy, dress up to date, no gray hairs, ( it is now red ); I read the box wrong and got the wrong color!!!  and I can get the interviews, it is just comvincing the younger staff that I do not want their jobs.  I just want to recruit, and; as I think I have said earlier, make money for the company as well as for myself.  You have to be so careful and choose your wording correctly, other wise they think you are not only mature but maybe lazy! and I for one am not lazy!!!  I am working almost 10 hrs a day!!!! 

Comment by Judi Wunderlich on November 16, 2012 at 3:38pm

Sally>  I realized that of all the over 50 people I've interviewed or met with, the women were always up-to-date in their looks/style. It was the MEN who looked woefully 'old.'  Yes, the wrong kind of clothes can make you look older than you are.  Guess men need to catch up in the style department!

Comment by Chrisman Wilkey on November 16, 2012 at 3:50pm

I think the guys suffer from gee, do I really need to color my hair? Yes DUDE you do....give up the bell bottoms. Seriously it's a balancing act, do you wear a tie, do you go up scale business casual or jeans? Depends on where  you are interviewing. My thought is go on the classy side just not to an extreme.


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