5 Employer Biases Hinder 50+ Job Seekers

Why are so many 50+ professionals failing to convince employers to hire them, losing heart, and dropping out of the search process far too soon?

According to Ron Jamieson and Karen Tulk, of the Toronto recruiting firm, Hire Gray Matter, in addition to reversing their search tactics and being prepared to search for as long as 12 to 18 months, mature job seekers must also be able to successfully neutralize five critical employer age biases in order to land a suitable position.

While Jamieson and Tulk make a strong case for the importance of these biases, as the inventor of Authentic Personal Branding, I remain convinced that understanding and effectively communicating the value you bring to the table is the key to being the candidate of choice, at any age.

(If you’re not clear on the benefits you offer prospective employers, you won’t stand a chance of convincing them to choose you. Don’t delay! Grab my free 4-step Value Proposition Development Exercise and get started!)

Combining our perspectives makes it clear that the most successful job seekers are:
a) Self aware, and able to skillfully
b) Match the benefits they offer to eash specific prospective employers’ needs

c) Identify recruiters’, hiring managers’ and prospective bosses’ biases, and…
d) Deconstruct these biases as soon as they show up

So let’s take a look at the biases Hire Gray Matter cites as key deterrents to the employment of mature, experienced professionals.

5 Employer Age Biases:

  1. Lack of Drive and Energy:
    50+ applicants must battle the stereotype that pigeonholes them as old, tired, and ready for the rocking chair. Staying fit, dressing appropriately and presenting with youthful vitality all go a long way to over-
    coming this perception. Adding active personal interests and hobbies to resumes and LinkedIn profiles is also a plus. “After all,” Tulk quips, “No one thinks of a kayaking enthusiast as over sixty.”
  1. Technology:
    To avoid coming across as a dinosaur, it’s critical that older professionals stay current with the latest technologies. They must set aside their own biases against texting or Skyping, and jump in with both feet.
    Many free online tutorials offer updates on social media tools, the latest smartphone apps, technology trends, on-line networking sites, and much more.

    3. Skills:
    Whether they were “grandfathered” into their former position, or have all but the latest credentials, Tulk advises older workers to consider updating their certifications.  Recruiters looking for key certifications, such as a PMP (Project Management Professional) tend not to select an older applicant with 20 years experience and no credentials over a younger applicant with their PMP certification and 10 years experience.  However, when choosing between equally credentialed candidates with unequal experience, the applicant with more experience will have an edge.

  1. Salary:
    The belief that older, more experienced professionals cost more is accurate.  Tulk counsels senior professionals to be flexible in their salary expectations, such as opting for shorter hours (3 – 4 days a week, vs. 5) or longer vacations to make themselves more affordable. For older workers wanting to change their life/work balance, this may be appealing. However, if that is not the applicant’s goal, there are alternative approaches.
    Mature professionals could offer to work on a consulting basis. Not having to provide health, pension and other employee benefits makes a worker more affordable, without reducing their professional value in the employment marketplace.
    Negotiating a lower base salary paired with a higher, performance-based bonus demonstrates the candidate’s confidence in their ability to deliver value.  But… this approach should be used only by those applicant’s who are very confident, because… While it reduces the employer’s risk, it also provides a sort of hiring insurance. If the employee doesn’t hit their performance targets, not only won’t the employer have to pay their bonus, they gain cause to replace the under-performing employee.
  1. Younger Bosses:
    Older workers will end up reporting to younger bosses. It’s inevitable, given current demographics. Tulk advises older workers to show younger bosses the same respect and deference they would to a boss of their own age or older.  She also cautions older workers to resist urges to lecture the young pups on what the old dogs can teach them.

Join this discussion!

If you’ve faced these age biases or others in your job search, take a minute to add your comments.
Tell us about the situation you experienced it, and how you handled it.