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Ageism in Hiring
12/20/2005
 
ROBIN'S PERSPECTIVE: Employers - like all human beings - are “visual” and can allow their hiring decisions to be influenced by an applicant’s appearance. Despite knowing that age discrimination is against the law, an employer may reject a person with gray hair and deep smile lines as “too old” for the job. In so doing, an employer could be buying into one of more of these misconceptions: that older workers are less energetic and prone to physical problems, that they have outdated skills and cannot handle the changes in the workplace related to the new technologies, or that they are more expensive than younger workers in terms of salary, pension and health insurance (i.e., the older worker may only work another 10 years until retirement and then the company will be paying benefits for them and training someone else to take on their responsibilities). Unfortunately, by allowing this bias to influence their hiring decisions, employers are not only violating the law, but they are missing out on a truly valuable source of experience, skill and ability. The real issues in a hiring decision should be the applicant’s ability, energy and enthusiasm levels – not his age level. Insofar as gray-haired candidates are competing with hungry young lions, eager to make a name for themselves by working day and night, these older workers have to show the company that they are fit and energetic, and not likely to be burdened by issues that would make them any less productive than the young lions.

Through my experience in helping many senior level executives negotiate for new jobs, I recommend that their resumes avoid statements like, “over 25 years of experience”, or other indicators of chronological age. I coach them to define their experience with words like, “broad, extensive, or substantial”. If an older worker is concerned with how to handle tough interview questions about his or her age, consider a response like this: “I have a rich blend of both energy and experience to bring to the table. I am dynamic, and my knowledge of the industry means the company will make its targets and hit its plan. At the same time, I can mentor the younger staff, and be your champion in the bullpen.” Statements like this convey energy, a can-do attitude, and a willingness to work inter-generationally -- all of which are key objectives for many employers.

Other points to emphasize include the following: a strong work ethic (the willingness and capacity to work hard), ability to work well both in team situations and independently, excellent interpersonal skills, ability to adapt to the changing work environment, your new technological skills and/or continuing education experiences in the field, your persuasive and accurate communication skills, your healthy lifestyle (which is an indicator of general overall health), and no plans for retirement.

Check out www.grayhairmanagement.com www.grayhairmanagement.com , for mentoring and job leads for those over 50, or visit the AARP web site to check out its list of the "50 Best Companies to Work for if you are Over Age 50."
 
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Robin Bond
 
Robin Bond, Esq.
 
 
Workplace Legal Analyst


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