I have been conducting some research into ageism at work recently and I’m shocked at the results.

Here’s what one candidate was told by their recruitment agency

There are younger, thinner people out there !

And then Esther tells us that

I am finding now that my reams of qualifications and life experience seem to be perceived as a threat.

I have received over 300 comments from job candidates, each of which details deplorable experiences of ageism. My concern is that ageism may actually be the norm.


Is your company ageist?

  • Do you tend not to employ people over forty?
  • Do you find you prefer to hire younger candidates?
  • Do you find yourself wondering what age each candidate is?
  • Do you include additional forms (separate from the application form) that asks candidates their age. Ironically these are often equal opportunities forms. Many employers use them as a sneaky way of discovering the candidates age. After all asking a candidates age on an application form is illegal, as it may be seen as age discrimination.

If any of the above sound familiar, then you are probably an ageist company.

And although you may not be breaking the law, you are certainly not acting in the spirit of the law.

Why Ageism?

AgeismWhat I don’t understand is why a company would be ageist? Why would you chose to hire people with less experience over people with more experience?

What are employers afraid of?

Some would claim it’s a financial issue, as younger staff are cheaper than older staff but this is rarely the case. An employer sets out what they are offering for the job and it’s up to the candidate to decide if they want to apply on those terms or not. So I think we can rule out money as the reason.

Is it competence?

Why would a less experienced person be more competent than an experienced person? It makes no sense.

Are employers threatened?

Are people with less experience frightened to hire people with more experience because they feel threatened?

Does this mean that we only hire people who are worse than ourselves at doing the job? One can only imagine how crap the company will end up with this kind of strategy. Surely the sign of a great manager is that they hire people who are better than they are.

Is it to do with illness and absenteeism?

Again, I would imagine that people who are 40+ are more reliable and responsible than young people. I doubt there are any statistics that support the idea that absenteeism is higher in the 40+ group.

So Who Is To Blame?

I think only the naive would claim that ageism isn’t common place. So who is responsible? Where does it come from?

Are the employers and line managers to blame?

What about HR?

Is it the recruitment agencies? Surely they are only meeting their clients brief.

One thing’s for sure. Ageism on this scale isn’t accidental. It’s very deliberate.

A Missed Opportunity

If your company is not actively recruiting candidates with experience, then you are missing out in a huge sea of talent.

If you are rejecting candidates because they are over forty, then you are denying your company access to some amazing talent.

What To Do Now

The worst reason for eradicating ageism in your workplace is because it’s against the law.

The best reason is because it makes good business sense.

So what to do now is first check if your recruitment process is eliminating candidates because they are over 40. The chances are you will find that somewhere in the process, this is actually what’s happening.

Check that your recruitment agency are not eliminating candidates because they are over 40. Tell them specifically that you are fighting ageism and expect to see a lot more applicants over the age of 40.

Take advantage of the situation and find talent that your competitors are ignoring. Write job adverts that clearly appeal to candidates over the age of forty. Make it clear that you are fighting ageism and welcome applicants with many years of experience.



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