Before I started the retirement planning website, GangsAway.com, I was an executive recruiter in the media industry for many years. I have worked with people of all ages, but the challenges of helping older workers were many. Without question, there is an age bias out in the hiring market. Job candidates over 50 (who fall into the Baby Boomer bucket right now) definitely have a few hurdles to overcome. Some valid, some not. Here are some of the reasons that I believe influence companies when considering older job candidates.
Older Job Candidates --
1. May have higher salaries and larger vacation packages but bring a lot of experience to the table and are worth a company's investment -- Depends
2. Are less enthusiastic about travel for work and business entertaining -- True
3. There may be a significant age gap between older employees and their customers -- Depends
4. Older job candidates may be stuck in their ways or not up to date on the latest technologies -- False
5. Boomers may only plan to work for a few more years and are not worth the training or investment -- False
Truth 1: Undeniably, older workers bring a tremendous amount of experience that can be a real asset. But, in some jobs that may not be required. In certain careers, 30 years of experience doesn't help performance or outcome any more than 5-10 years of experience. At some point, the law of diminishing returns may set in. Older employees with higher salaries, vacation time, and support expectations may not be worth it for a company. So that's why it depends.
Truth 2: When a profession requires travel or entertaining,, there are lots of older people who are willing to do it. The operative word is "willing". I've had many an older job candidate admit to me that they "did all that stuff in their 20s and 30s" and now they really just want to go home at the end of the day. The fear on the part of hiring companies is that the older employee won't be on the road enough or entertaining enough. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, a lot depends on the individual. I've also known some people in their 50s and 60s who really enjoy traveling and entertaining, but they seem to be more the exception.
Truth 3: In some industries the age gap between buyers and sellers is something companies need to consider. For example, let's take media sales. While someone in their 40s or 50s would likely have a great network of contacts (and possibly at more senior levels), typically the actual buying is done by younger buyers. In this instance, a large age gap between buyer and seller isn't the most advantageous for making the sale happen. However, there are careers, like law or medicine where being more experienced brings a sense of confidence to clients or customers. And there are other jobs like telemarketing where age is inconsequential.
Truth 4: Boomers are absolutely not "stuck in their ways". I think that's patently false. People are who they are. You can find 20-something's who are stuck in their ways and 70-something's who are early adopters. That isn't an age thing, it's a personality thing. If you are someone who has been a life-long learner, an early adopter, and possess an inherent sense of curiosity, that doesn't leave you just because you blew out your 50th birthday candles. Curiosity will stay with you to your dying day. And that curiosity will continually fuel exploration, education, creativity and productivity.
Truth 5: This generation of Boomers is here for a while and retirement today looks very different. Sure, some will want to pack it in, but the vast majority of this group wants to stay connected and engaged and may very well need an income for a good long time. In fact, older employees grew up with the notion of staying with a company for a long time. If anything, younger employees are looking to move up the ladder by moving on and seem more comfortable changing jobs more frequently than older workers.
My advice to companies considering Boomer candidates? Forget the number and hire the person. I'd say the same about a 20 or 30-something candidate as well. It's the quality, commitment and character of a person, young or old, you need to look at. My experience is that the creative, committed and curious soul will never let you down, no matter what their age is.