Age discrimination in hiring hurts us all

Salt’s APAC CEO Jacqui Barratt shares her thoughts on the perception of age and years of experience.

I felt compelled to share my thoughts on age with you after talking to many candidates at both ends of the spectrum who are being actively discriminated against.

All the research tells us that diverse teams and organisations produce better financial returns, so why are we still focused on age? I’ve been in recruitment for 27+ years and I cannot tell you how many times when taking detailed briefs the request for a candidate at a specific age was made.

I have had clients tell me that we don’t want anyone over 30 and I have had clients roar with laughter when they have told me they hire people as old as 40. Given I clearly fall into a bracket outside of both of those I assume they believe I have reached my use by date.

Equally, I get that people at the other end of the employment scale also get discriminated against all because of a number.

Why is it, when we are supposedly so open-minded and willing to adopt and adapt that we struggle to get past someone’s age or the number of years of experience? When will we get over the number and look at whether someone has the skills and competencies to perform the role?

Someone can have performed the same role for 10 years and, yet demonstrate less skill and competence than a person with 5 years in a similar role. It all comes down to what you did in that time, including the frequency and the outcomes you have delivered.

In a career landscape that is continuing to change with people having multiple careers over their lifetime, we need to embrace the transferable skills that people will bring from job to job as opposed to just the number of years.

Similarly, let’s bust open the myth that the new generation are more tech savvy. Are we saying that they understand social media, can shop online and use more features on their phone, because they have grown up with those tools? Digital literacy and using technology is not an ‘age argument’, it is a ‘competency argument’.

It’s worth checking your own bias isn’t stopping you from attracting the best talent you can have. Likewise, are you unconsciously putting barriers up as to reasons not to develop the current talent you have?

Whether you are beginning your career or like me have racked up some good mileage, ultimately our age doesn’t define who we are or what we can contribute. Dig deeper and find out just what people have experienced; it might just surprise you. Age is not a competency!
 


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