HR and Recruiting

Making the case for hiring older workers

Written by Eric Titner

If you’re responsible for hiring at your company, your goal is crystal clear: seek out and retain the very best available talent in your field in order to meet the requirements of your open positions and the needs of your business—all in an effort to help your organization push past the competition and lead the pack in your industry.

It’s an important goal—and an achievable one—provided your approach to recruitment is well developed and razor-sharp. That said, some recruiters tend to get “tunnel vision” when hiring and approach each recruitment effort with a pre-determined notion of the sort of candidate they’d like to hire. While this can reflect a carefully thought out strategy, it can also be a big mistake. Simply put, approaching any recruitment effort with a canned idea of what sort of person would be ideal for a given position can limit your ability to seriously consider candidates outside of this narrow frame—including folks who may ultimately turn out to meet and even exceed your expectations.

A key demographic that often gets placed out of focus and relegated to the sidelines during recruitment initiatives are older workers. It’s an unfortunate reality of today’s modern workplace—older workers run into a range of biases that work against them when out in the job market, and they often face a real uphill battle to be taken seriously when in between jobs and looking for their next opportunities.

According to a recent study by AARP, “Two out of three workers between ages 45 and 74 say they have seen or experienced age discrimination at work, and job seekers over age 35 cite it as a top obstacle to getting hired. And if you happen to work in the high-tech or entertainment industries, your chances of experiencing age discrimination are even higher.”

Clearly, this is an issue that deserves more attention—especially since most of us plan to be gainfully employed and reach this demographic at some point in our career journeys.

They come with a wealth of skills and knowledge

Beyond a desire for fairness, there are real benefits to taking older workers seriously. Experienced workers typically come “pre-loaded” with a wealth of hard-earned abilities that they’ve likely acquired across a wide range of professional opportunities—all which can be put to effective use for your business if they’re given the opportunity. Also, it’s time that some of the clichés about older workers finally got put to rest and placed in the dustbin of history, because they simply don’t stand up to the evidence. These include the notions that older workers are stuck in the past with rusty, outdated skill sets and lack the energy and drive needed to keep your business agile and running efficiently into the future.

They’re motivated to stay current and engaged

The truth is, many people well older than the millennial age make a real effort to keep their skills and abilities current and cutting edge in their industries. And in terms of energy and motivation, many older workers have their younger counterparts beat, as they’re driven by a desire to squash the old notion that older = out of the loop. They also often come backed by a temperament that includes a level of appreciation, maturity, patience, and flexibility that they’ve honed over years of experience.

They’re often less fickle and more dedicated than newbies to the industry

Older workers can also typically be counted on to use sound, careful logic, and rational thinking when making key decisions. And when it comes to longevity, older workers are more likely to stick it out and help your business grow over the long haul, as compared to younger employees who tend to jump between jobs more often. Given the considerable expense of replacing and onboarding new employees, hiring older workers may just be a sound financial investment for your business.

When you take all of the factors listed here into consideration, it’s clear that a case could—and should—be made for taking older workers seriously when making recruitment and hiring decisions. Keep your options open and your biases at bay the next time resumes of all ages cross your desk.

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.