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How to Avoid Ageism in Hiring

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Ageism is a real challenge that we find in the marketplace as recruiters. A recent AARP study found that, “..about two in three adults age 50-plus in the labor force (62%) think older workers face discrimination in the workplace today based on age”. Ageism in hiring is always amplified by economic downturns that create additional pressure within organizations. Hiring managers and HR team members should help to foster an unbiased approach to avoid ageism in hiring.

Start With Your Culture

To avoid ageism in hiring Harvard Business Reveiw says companies must first help foster a culture that embraces all levels of diversity. A company should set a healthy foundation for more senior members of the current team. Doing an initial audit of sentiment towards older employee should reveal information about your culture in hiring. If you can remove any negative stigmas in your day-to-day company culture, the positive impact will carry over into hiring as well. A company that truly appreciates and embraces the differences people can bring to the table will be more open-minded and motivated to hire competent individuals regardless of age. Our false assumptions and biases lead to poor ideas, decisions and connections with others. Being a more open-minded organization will help alleviate any of those initial biases when interviewing candidates.

Remove Inherit Bias

Once you have a strong understanding of your culture you can look to remove those biases in hiring. The most simplistic change you can do to avoid ageism in hiring is to remove a cap on years of experience. Stop requiring candidates to put in years of graduation, or requiring a candidate to include their entire work history. Removing this age-specific information will keep you from filtering out certain candidates and keep you focusing on candidates through a different lens. Preferably a lens that is based on the relevant experience they bring to the position. It is also recommended that hiring managers and HR avoid coded words like “active” or “energetic” in job descriptions. These seem harmless but can certainly be subtle bias creeping into a position description.

Ask The Important Questions

In the interview process screening individuals using the same criteria and questions is important. Avoid asking individuals about their ability to work under a younger manager, about their retirement plans or how long they plan on working. Keeping interview questions and conversations centered on the responsibilities and requirements for the role are how you will find the most appropriate candidate.

Conclusion

Ageism continues to be a real issue facing candidates as they navigate the hiring ecosystem. These small adjustments can make a large difference in a company’s culture and hiring practices. A stronger day-to-day culture fosters better hiring practices. The elimination of outdated requirements in job descriptions is a small change that can lead to major impact for your business. Opening doors to qualified candidates you didn’t consider before can only be a positive for your firm.

Interested in hiring or talking about your career? Contact Smith Hanley Associates’ Consumer Insights and Market Research Recruiter, Daniel Wilberschied at dwilberschied@smithhanley.com

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