Is Age a Factor in Today’s Hiring?

Dale Rensing, Porter Consulting Senior Market Analyst

With the economy slowly recovering, it’s time to start hiring again. There’s a great pool of resources available, but there’s something different about its demographics than in previous hiring cycles. It appears to be markedly polarized in terms of age. It was a prolonged recession when millions of people lost their jobs at an age too early to really retire and during which students graduated with their degrees. The result is that we now have two equally large, but different, pools of resources vying for employment.

The age factor

Generally, age shouldn’t matter. In fact, age discrimination is against the law. Yet, there are tons of articles today discussing whether or not millennials make good employees and others pointing out how age stereotypes are affecting hiring decisions.

I recently read one blog on LinkedIn entitled, Age Discrimination in the Workplace is on the Rise – But It’s Hard to Prove. In another blog, the writer includes research from the University of Kent which sought to prove that age stereotypes can strongly affect people’s choices about who to hire. The research found that if one of two equally well qualified job candidates is described as having stereotypically young characteristics (such as being adept with IT, quick and creative) and the other has stereotypically old characteristics (like understanding other’s views and being careful) the younger candidate is more likely to be selected.

Other articles explore the hazards or benefits of hiring millennials and focus on how to engage with them or how you might need to adjust your organization in order to work more successfully with them. Are the generations truly at war with one another? Is one side destined to win over the other?

Popular gizmo familiarity versus experience

It seems that our values as a society have changed over the last decade or so. Where experience and quality were once highly regarded, we now live in a time where periodic upgrades are the norm, constantly replacing the outdated. People are seemingly being viewed in the same way as the technology that created this phenomenon.

Today’s hiring decisions are being influenced by this change in values. Consider the following scenarios:

  • Your systems have just been upgraded to the newest operating versions. It just happens to be the same version a student you’re considering hiring used while attending the university.
  • You’re integrating new cloud technology into your business and you need people who are up on it. Millennials grew up using it. It’s no big deal to them.
  • Social media – it’s the public relations department of today. Kids these days use it all the time – older workers — not so much.

At first glance, the obvious answer is to hire a millennial. They’re young, energetic, filled with enthusiasm and, truth be told, pretty familiar with technology. And… perhaps a dime a dozen? If one doesn’t work out, you can quickly find another. However…

  • When that operating environment runs into issues, does he know what to do? Or will he spend hours just trying to figure out what the problem is?
  • When the cloud provider starts charging more for their services, will your new hire know how to negotiate for a better price? Will his or her knowledge of how the system works enable them to make tradeoff decisions that help you to determine what data to place in the cloud versus what needs to be retained in-house?
  • When posting on Facebook or other social sites, is your employee diplomatically astute enough to avoid social gaffs that could alienate your customers?

You see, there are more qualities to be considered than whether or not the employee can operate the newest techno-tool. Oftentimes, greater levels of experience lead to higher levels of productivity. Older, more mature workers can easily sidestep issues through their experience of having been there, done that. As beautifully portrayed in the 2015 comedy “The Intern”, starring Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway, there’s a lot the older generations can offer a business.

Every business needs a variety of talent

There’s no doubt that today’s job market, particularly in the area of high tech, has changed. The pace is faster, technology is everywhere, organizations have flattened, and hardly anyone ever wears a suit and tie anymore. But there are some things that never change when you are trying to run a successful business. You will always need to optimize productivity and minimize expenses. You’ll always need to appeal to customers and retain their loyalty. There’s a constant need to stay one step ahead of the competition. Having the right mix of talent is what will get you there.

Our blogs have already covered some of the unique aspects of millennial employees. My colleague, Mike Airosus, did a great job of pointing out their strengths and weaknesses in his recent millennial blogs that can be found at http://porterconsulting.net/index.php/category/staffing-and-team-extension/.

Now let’s look at the benefits of hiring the experienced worker. There are many myths circulating about older workers that have been proven to be untrue, such as being slower and missing more days of work. In fact, studies have shown that 65-80-year old workers’ performance was more stable and less variable than that of younger employees. Indeed, there are some significant, unique advantages mature, experienced employees can lend to an organization. I’ll delve into more detail in my next blog – The Advantages of Hiring for Experience.

Whether you hire them directly or decide to contract out, older employees can bring specific skills, organizational knowledge, and experience to the table can be a real benefit to an enterprise. At Porter Consulting, our seasoned team of professionals can help companies grow revenue and market share by virtue of their experience and by utilizing the latest marketing and sales methodologies. Learn more at: http://porterconsulting.net/index.php/our-services/


Dale Rensing has been helping customers envision the benefits of technology, from local area networks to cloud technologies and IoT for over 25 years.  You can find more blogs and content from Dale at www.porterconsulting.net.  Porter Consulting is a marketing services consulting company who can you help you grow revenue.

1 Comment

  1. I just received a very nice rejection letter from a company whose work I am vey familiar, and have done…in that company. My initial response was a feeling of being unhirable because I am way past the millennium era. Thank you for the article. It helped to inspire a little hope.

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