Why Older Stars Can’t Get Hired?

Hello Boomers.

This morning I read two articles that really caught my attention.  The first was about a book written by Peter Cappelli, Director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources and Bill Novelli, former CEO of AARP.

Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order looks at managing older workers from the employers perspective.  The authors show employers the benefits of both hiring and of keeping older workers while also guiding them through some thorny issues such as much younger managers capably leading and interacting with older subordinates. 

One of the authors describes the incredible amount of discrimination older workers face today.  In his opinion, such discrimination is more prevalent than that for race or gender.  And while older workers are often exactly what the company needs in terms of talent, experience, knowledge, etc., younger hiring managers often won’t hire them.  Sound familiar?

The second article talks about hiring and retaining talent and mentions a recruiting adage that warns that A employees hire other A’s.  A’s are those employees who are rock stars.  They are the ones who have real talent and whose resumes are loaded with relevent experiences and achievements.

Really good people aren’t afraid to hire other really good people.  They are not intimidated.  They don’t fear the hot breath of an equally talented candidate upon their backs.  They are secure in their knowledge, in their position, in their worth to the organization.  They look for and hire only the best.

The rest of the recruiting adage is that B employees don’t hire A’s or even other B’s.  They hire C’s.  Wow.  Do organizational leaders know this?  Are they certain that those they have entrusted to secure talent for the good of, and the future of the organization are hiring the best?   

If a hiring manager is young, time is not on their sides relative to experience and knowledge.  An older applicant may just be too intimidating for that manager to hire.  They may fear that the older candidate may have better ideas, stronger solutions and may ultimately gain the ear of upper management to their detriment. 

Is it possible that younger hiring managers aren’t hiring older applicants because they fear the experience and talent may make them look bad, that they will find it more difficult to feel safe and secure in their position, harder to continue to look smart and remain indispensable?

I hope that isn’t happening.  I suspect that sometimes it is.  Most organizations have long ago taken measures to eliminate race and gender discrimination.  Perhaps it is time to turn our national attention toward the seemingly culturally accepted discriminatory hiring practices based upon age that we are seeing today.  

If we can’t convince companies and hiring managers that ignoring age is in their best business interests, perhaps it is time to convince them in more direct and  costly ways that age discrimination is still illegal.


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