Why does their tend to be a bias against hiring older workers? Does this bias come from the hiring companies or the agencies? We interviewed Pat Gerace a Global Talent Acquisition Director who has worked for both placement agencies and in large multi-national companies.
ec-bp: Does any sort of bias exist about hiring workers exist? Especially in Supply Chain, Electronic Commerce and EDI.
Gerace: Yes, very definitely in all areas. It is not just a bias in the hiring process. Many short sighted company's stagnate the career growth and development of the seasoned worker.
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ec-bp: Does this bias come from the hiring companies or the agencies.
Gerace: For the most part, agencies are only respond to the requirement/requests (written and oral) of the hiring companies.
ec-bp: What leads to this bias?
Gerace: It can be from many factors. The impression that older workers are out of the office more for illness; but this ignores the fact that younger workers are out to care for children. Companies may be looking for an image instead of a skill set, maturity and experience. They may also anticipate problems with a older worker and an younger boss. Lastly, there may be the perception that older workers are not techno savy. This may or may not be reality.
ec-bp: Isn't it against the law to discriminate against older workers?
Gerace: Yes it is. But companies and agencies carefully guard their actions so that winning a legal action becomes very difficult to prove (no witnesses, no paper trail). I advise anyone not to go through the process unless it is an iron clad case. Use your energy and time concentrating on finding new employment with a company that values what you have to offer them!
ec-bp: What advice can you give to the "over 50" job seeker?
Gerace: When you first approached me about being interviewed, my comment to you was "How did you know I was over 50?" Your surprised response was"I didn't, I was looking for an individual experienced in HR at both companies and agencies". Well, that is what it is really all about: the over 50's have experience ,maturity and work ethic to sell.
Now for a list of do's and dont's for over 50 workers:
(1) Yes, it is OK to soft sell your age. There is no legal requirement to include your university graduation dates, etc. Keep away from the picture if possible.
(2) Keep up and improve your skills. Many options are available: university credits, community colleges, professional/technical schools, self-taught skills. This is particularly true of IT skills. Don't expect an employer to understand your lack of computer skills.
(3) Dress for success when going to an interview; try not to "date" yourself with your attire.
(4) Don't show up at an interview and announce: "I want to work five more years, then retire". Yes, five years may be more than the college hire may stay; but the point is, this will turn off the hiring manager. Also, even if it is true, don't disclose that you were let go to bring a younger worker in. Instead, just say there was a reorganization and you are excited about the opportunity to explore new avenues.
(5) Be enthusiastic; sell yourself like a car salesman sells a car, but make sure that you have something (skills, education, experiences and energy ) worth selling.
(6) Employers are pretty transparent when you are being discounted for your age. Some phases that are used are: "Your skills are great, we just don't think you are a fit for our company" or "You may not be a fit for our long term plan" When you hear this, just move on to a company who will value you!
(7) Don't expect to find employment "forever". It does not work that way anymore. Even IBM and Japan do not have "lifetime" employment anymore. Know that today's jobs are not "forever" so keep a "cash kitty" to last between jobs.
ec-bp: What do you think of foreign outsourcing?
Gerace: For many companies it does not work. Organizations eliminate a skilled (expensive) staff, then bring the operation back, but with a younger (cheaper) staff. Training time and poor customer experiences may negate any savings.
ec-bp: What other interesting things can you tell us about from your experiences?
Gerace: I think that sometimes age discrimination happens when a younger person is intimated by the experience of an older worker. To me, mature, successful leaders want to have a team of skilled workers not matter what their ages.
ec-bp: What can you say to employers about hiring an older workforce.
To paraphase an old song: "Hire new talent but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold."
The older worker brings a diversity to your team that will be profitable for everyone. Being an older worker is the one diverse group we will all belong to someday.
Closing comment from Pat. Personally, I am more comfortable working for company instead of an agency. I want to relate to the company, it's mission, it's products, it's heritage. I want to align my values and ethics with those of the company that I am selling to candidates. Pride in the company that I am working for is critical for me.
Some other background material we discussed
Computerworld has written on the subject of age bias. As they say "Some consider it IT's dirty little secret, or even IT's big open secret." They even suggest 40 instead of 50.
Most high-tech employers would likely deny that age discrimination is an issue at their company. But many IT workers over 50 beg to differ, saying they have experienced age bias or know someone who has.
The bias can take several forms, they say. Their salaries might stagnate. They might have few or no opportunities for advancement. They might not be included in training and professional development programs. And they could be the first to be laid off and the last to be hired.
One of the biggest supporters of over 50 workers is the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). As well as a great source for how to get and keep jobs, they rank the companies that are the best employers for workers over 50. They also address what You Can (and Can't) Do About Age Bias. They cover understand your rights, and the attitudes you may face.
For more than six decades — and more than six recessions — Andy Rooney, 92, held on to his job. It's a feat today's recession-weary older workers, who aren't even near retirement, may be envying.
About Pat Gerace
Pat Gerace MBA, CTC. has been in recruiting for over 20 years in the Chicago land area. Her experiences range from manufacturing, hospitality, healthcare, managed services and public transportation industries. She has created recruiting departments from the ground floor up and has served as an International project manager to facilitate the roll out of Applicant Tracking systems. Her work turning around one company's recruiting process was featured in the book "Help Wanted & Help Found: The Insiders' Guide to Recruiting & Hiring Hourly Workers by Shawn C. Boyer, Kyra Newman, and Mike Ward. She also has created college recruiting program for an international manufacturing company.
Pat is currently seeking a new full time or consulting opportunity. To view her Linkedin profile. She can be contacted through email: pat.gerace (at) yahoo.com