Older? Do You Have Modern Amenities?

Time to talk specifically to older candidates again. I’m still hearing complaints about companies not wanting to hire older workers. It’s hard to put a number on what age qualifies a person to be “old.” I’ve heard it from 40 and beyond.

Is age discrimination really about your age? Age could very well be the true issue in some instances. I saw true age discrimination most often when smaller companies were fretting over how to reduce benefit costs. Smaller firms top heavy with older partners struggle with the temptation to hire a younger candidate to keep premiums from becoming prohibitive. Can you blame them? Of course, it’s not legal to go that route. Let’s be honest and admit they’d be stupid not to give it some thought. They have a business to run. Businesses live and die based on the ability to reduce expenses.

The example above aside, age discrimination, in my experience, is rarely about the number of years the person has spent on the planet. More significant than actual age is how equipped the candidate is with modern amenities. Modern amenities are what make the sale happen. Too often older candidates haven’t updated what they have to offer. Just like older homes are less likely to sell if they haven’t been outfitted with cable and air conditioning, older candidates who aren’t strong on the computer and staying on top of current trends will soon find themselves undesirable. It makes sense. It’s not about being unfair. If employers have options that won’t require upgrading or doing without, they will take them. The only thing likely to sway them is if the option lacking in amenities comes at a low enough price to make it worth while. As tacky as it sounds, if your skills are out of date you are a fixer-upper and can’t command top market price.

Many of the individuals I meet who are in this situation dig in their heels. They are quick to talk about age discrimination, but slow to accept what they could do to change their circumstances. There are more resources than ever available to people interested in upgrading their skills. When I talk to them about social media, Excel, PowerPoint and the like, they wave their hands at me. “I shouldn’t have to learn that at this point in my life,” is a common response. Really? Why ever not? If you truly wish to continue working, where is the logic in not learning the modern way of doing things?

It really is a tricky situation. I know it’s frustrating. Keep in mind we all have similar criteria when it comes to buying things. We want modern amenities. I don’t see older candidates driving cars without radios and power steering. Are they discriminating against 40+ year old cars? No. Age isn’t the true factor. We all expect those who want our business to provide the comforts of today. Be fair to employers and realize they share the same expectations.


  • Cindy Kraft says:

    Great assessment, Lisa.

    In my opinion, age discrimination definitely exists. But as you said, it is rarely the reason. It’s often the excuse. If a candidate has what a company needs/wants and is willing to pay to get, age probably won’t be the deciding factor.

  • Lisa says:

    I agree, Cindy. I’d add too that another factor is how candidate and hiring manager relate to one another. I frequently tell older candidates it is so important they are reaching decision makers up the ladder. They are more likely to find their peers there, versus relying exclusively on an entry level HR professional. We look for ourselves in other people and find comfort in common ground. How much common ground is a younger, more entry level person going to have with a 20+ year professional? Not a lot. If the modern amenities aren’t there, the gap is even more pronounced. That’s not saying anyone is being unfair. It’s human relationships 101.

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