People Hire For Acceptability Not Capability

Inequality of the sexes has been on the agenda for years, but I think it is now vital to look at the huge issues we have with ageism as well. When managers are looking to recruit new employees nowadays they are often more concerned about what is thought of them by hiring an older person, than considering the capabilities of the older applicant. This is a trend that I see more and more when speaking with managers. Highly regarded men and women are displaying total disregard for potential employees nearing retirement age.

A strong set of skills, expertise and loyalty are being overlooked and lost to industry because of old behavioural conditioning. Isn’t it better to trust our judgment and think only about the job spec and the applicant? Perhaps focusing on the fit of someone in terms of contribution is all that is needed.”

There is, however, an exception to this trend. Managers seem able to hold their head high if they are seen to hire older people as interims just to exploit them for their contact list within their business network. This information has a ‘shelf life’ as contacts move on. This means that there is a bit of a lather to hire an older person when they are recently out on the job market, but only as an interim. This may result in a quick fix for employer and employee, but there is no thought of what else they can bring to the table. It is also a terrible waste of talent.

If we continue to treat people like this, they will lose interest and either retire, start a business of their own or change course completely. This is dangerous for industry.

We are just beginning to witness a massive brain drain as the ‘baby boomers’ start heading to retirement. High unemployment figures and students fighting for work have given us the illusion that there is plenty of talent out there. This is both shortsighted and misleading. Take university fees, for instance. Here in the UK they are now very expensive and our young people are being seduced to foreign soil with the promise of less debt and a more attractive CV because of the enriching experience of learning in a different country. What is the chance of them coming back? We are at risk of losing talent at both ends of the scale, both older and younger people.

We urgently need to engage every age group in order to have strong work forces to ensure growth and development. Part of this means hiring older people for their capabilities and ignoring spurious discriminatory thoughts.

Considering the opinions of others is of course an important factor to consider in any decision making process, it suggests a good level of emotional intelligence. Employing someone substandard simply because they fit the companies’ youthful demographic will only cost businesses more money in time and training in the long run.