Despite their unique skillset and breadth of experience, when it comes to securing new roles, older employees are struggling to get hired, particularly for higher level roles. OCG Senior Consultant, Lucinda Barton, discusses the challenges faced by older candidates and the reasons why hiring from these generations can be advantageous to your business.
New Zealand is facing a fairly serious problem in regard to
the ageing workforce. Research
we conducted on the ageing workforce showed that in 2012, 50% of the New
Zealand labour force was older than 42 years of age, compared to 36 in 1991,
and 39 in 2001. By 2031, New Zealand will be home to more than a million people
aged 65+. People are retiring later and later, and yet older employees are
under-represented in the workforce and over-represented in the joblessness rate.
While the opportunities are there, organisations aren’t
always interested in bringing older people in – especially for higher level
roles. There is a perception, a fear, in the market, that many older people are
too big or too expensive to bring in, that they aren’t up to date with market
developments, or that they won’t stay for very long with the lure of retirement
on the horizon. Some don’t even assess or consider them based on these
assumptions, even though they’ve applied for the roles!
I speak to so many candidates who are around the
55-60-year-old range, who are rebuffed by employers for the reasons above.
Instead of reaching out to the applicant and having a conversation, employers
are seeing a CV with decades of experience and immediately placing them into
the “no” pile, even though they may be the perfect person for the role.
These arguments are far too often based on presumption
rather than fact. The fact is, with this approach you’re missing out on some of
the most experienced, hardworking and dedicated professionals in the market.
Opening your mind to older workers may just provide your business with the
competitive advantage it needs.
Experience. Embrace It.
There’s this perception that hiring people with a great deal
of experience will upset the team balance, as well as a concern that junior
team members might find it difficult to work alongside them. It’s time to flip
this thinking on its head.
Diversity of thought is so valuable in any work place.
Hiring someone with a depth of experience and they will nurture and mentor team
members, as well as help to grow the team’s skillset and expertise. They will
also be able to share examples about how they’ve overcome different challenges,
and help the team deliver stronger and more mature strategies and business
solutions. The fact is, these are people with decades of real-life work
experience to draw upon. Why wouldn’t you want to embrace that? Furthermore,
their maturity and business understanding can help to bring greater stability
to the team, and create a more focused work environment. They’ve seen it all
before and know the best way to navigate issues, ignore the noise, and be
effective and efficient in getting the job done.
It’s not uncommon for employers to avoid candidates who are
more senior than themselves as they’re worried they may end up taking their
position. The truth is, most of these people don’t want to step into those
shoes or have that responsibility. Most of them have already done these roles
earlier in their career, and their professional motivations have shifted
So, rather than dismissing an older, more experienced
candidate, take the time to have a chat with them and understand their
motivations. I’ve found that often those who have come from very senior
management positions have moved away from them because they’re at a point in
their life where they want greater life/work balance. So, have the
conversation, ask the right questions, and be thorough in your recruitment
screening. When done properly, you’ll be able to decipher their motivations and
allay any concerns you or other members of the team may have.
It’s Not About the
Additionally, when people see a CV that’s pages long and
filled with senior roles, they immediately think “they’re too expensive”. In
reality, money isn’t commonly a driver for most of these applicants, and
they’re often not as expensive as you think. As I’ve already mentioned, it’s
all about understanding their motivations. If money was important to them,
they’d be applying for the roles offering those big salaries. For many of them,
they simply love to work and are not ready to slow down professionally. If they
were ready, they would. So, don’t focus on their age or their years of
experience; focus on their skillset and how it can benefit you.
Successful People are
Successful for a Reason
Don’t assume someone is not going to add value to your
business because they’re a few years older than other candidates. There’s a
reason they’ve had a long and successful career. It’s because they’re great at
what they do. And the reason they’re applying for the role you’re advertising
is because they want to keep being great. Just because someone is in their 50s
or 60s doesn’t mean they’re ready to hang up their boots. Don’t assume these
people aren’t up to speed with digital technologies either. Think about it:
they’ve had long careers for a reason – people don’t last for a long time in
high level roles without being able to keep up with change.
Younger Age Doesn’t Mean Longer Tenure
Another reason employers often are reluctant to hire people 55 plus, is because
they want long tenure, and people this age are seen to be in their working
twilight years. However, when it comes to loyalty, age isn’t really a factor.
Hiring someone who is 25 is no guarantee you’ll keep them for five years, and
with younger employees there is a pressure to continue to provide them with opportunities
to progress their careers. In fact, with older employees, you can actually be
more likely to be rewarded with loyalty. More often than not, these
people are making the choice not to retire. They want to keep working and
contributing to the workforce instead. They know what they want and they’re not
at the start of their careers, meaning they’re less likely to jump ship for
that next “bigger and better” opportunity. What you’ll gain is an experienced,
loyal, committed, and reliable employee, who is keen to deliver for your
I’ve seen employers miss out on so many talented hires
because they were far too quick to dismiss them due to age and experience. Make
sure you don’t make the same mistake. Embrace the positives of older candidates
and give your workplace the competitive edge. If your business is struggling to
find the right candidates, contact me today
to discuss how I can help your company engage top talent, no matter their age!
With over ten years experience in recruitment across HR, Sales, Marketing, Communications and Research roles, Lucinda has worked in some capacity across almost all aspects of executive recruitment. Her area of specialisation is now Marketing and Communications across the Services Sector including Government.