Sourcing Older Candidates as Part of Your Recruiting Efforts
We have a question for you. Don’t think, just answer: when you think about diversity and inclusion in sourcing/recruiting, do older job candidates come to mind? Probably not. But, it should.
Due to the many awareness efforts that have recently swept the nation, many employers have taken on the major task of entirely rethinking their hiring and sourcing efforts, working on the unconscious biases of their recruiters and hiring managers, and so on.
We’ve also been thinking hard about our own diversity and inclusion efforts – even taking to writing several blog posts that discuss different aspects of it. And one thing we’ve found is that D&I is about more than making sure we work on our biases against minorities and people of color but also about the “-isms” we all tend to have, including ageism…the one that pertains to older job candidates.
Hence this blog post.
Strategies to source older job candidates as part of your recruiting efforts
- First, admit to yourself that you could be biased against an over-40 job seeker.
Age discrimination is widespread in the U.S. You may think your company works hard to hire older people – and they could be doing so. But there’s always room for improvement.
In fact, age discrimination/ageism arguably is worse now due to the COVID-19 pandemic: a professor at the New School for Social Research predicted that up to 20 percent of workers 50 and older would lose their jobs due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
In addition, the article linked above boldly states that “[a]geism is alive and well in the hiring process,” with older job seekers reporting that it feels as if a hiring manager during an interview is “looking at them as if they are looking at a consumer good with an expiration date on their forehead.”
- Work hard to overcome ageist attitudes
Ageism often is fear of our own aging projected onto someone older than ourselves. Our culture looks at aging as one of constant loss: loss of beauty, energy, health, friends, and our very minds (dementia). We’re told to fight against it, as if it’s a necessary battle.
And so, we look away from older people, afraid that we’re seeing our future selves. Even though person may still be sharp, savvy, creative – and have skills we don’t – they’re still closer to retirement than we are and act as a reminder that we, too, someday will be 45, 55, 65, etc. and ever closer ourselves to the thing we fear so much.
The solution: think about your reaction when you see someone older than you. Figure out what fear it triggers in you and fight it.
You also might want to look to the strategies that help you overcome other unconscious biases, one of which will be critical in the next step of finding older candidates…..
- ….source older candidates where older candidates are.
One of the ways to overcome any unconscious bias is to increase your contact with the relevant group. In this case, to reduce your bias against older job candidates, you need to increase your contact with….older job candidates!
- Reach out to senior centers.
- Talk to college alumni associations.
- Approach community colleges that offer retraining programs for mid-career adults looking to add or change skill sets.
- Post jobs at AARP.org, SeniorJobBank.org and other job boards specifically geared for older candidates.
- Skew your “normal” recruiting tactics toward an older demographic.
For example, if you offer internships to college students, why not offer them to mid-career professionals looking to either change careers or gain new skills? What if you were to focus the internships particularly on people who need a leg up after a career or job setback?
Ask your older employees if they have friends they could refer. (Tell them you’re specifically looking for older adults and just watch the esteem your older employees hold for you rise.)
Ask younger employees if they could ask their parents if they have friends they could refer.
All job candidates appreciate a flexible schedule, so if your positions have flexibility, make sure to post those on pro-senior/mid-career job boards.
- Watch your language.
Job descriptions can inadvertently discourage older candidates from even applying. Avoid terms such as “energetic,” “digital native,” “rock star,” and so on.
In fact, as we mentioned in a previous post (linked above), once you start looking through resumes, consider asking someone on your team to black out names, addresses, years of graduation, years worked at jobs, etc. This helps ensure that all applicants become “age neutral.”
In addition, when you conduct screening interviews, consider skipping the video and instead call all candidates on the phone (no visual) or even asking everyone “preliminary” questions via email.
Have you been making an effort to source older candidates?
If so, have we missed any sourcing techniques you’ve found useful?
If the answer is yes, let us know what they are! We’d love to do a follow-up post on diversity and inclusion sourcing best practices.