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(From left to right - Rob Bruce, Katy Green, Karen Brodie & Sally Bennett) 

There are 10.2 million workers aged over 50 in the UK – yet age discrimination is a problem.

In our regular team discussions we looked at a very real issue in the workplace. Sharing their views on age discrimination were Sally Bennett, Executive Manager, Rob Bruce, Technical Manager, Karen Brodie, Commercial Manager and Katy Green, Recruitment Consultant Coach from Centred Excellence.

Steve Gray, Technical & Engineering Recruitment Partner also shares a candidate experience from his side.

Belonging To A Culture

Is ageism prevalent in business today? “I don’t think it’s blatant discrimination,” says Katy, “I think people automatically buy into people that they feel belong to their culture.

“Line managers recruit based on who they want to recruit, not skills, not getting deep into ‘What do I really need in this role?’. Too much of their own opinion is counted in the recruitment process.”

Karen adds: “People look for a mirror image of themselves, so they recruit identical Mini-Me’s, because what you like in yourself, you look for in other people.”

Sally Bennett, agrees that managers often hire people who remind them of themselves.

“There is the fear factor for a younger leader taking an older person on, which is becoming more and more prevalent. For instance, the fear that someone else knows more,” Sally stated.

How Important Is Experience?

Experience alone does not necessarily make an older person attractive to an employer.

“Sometimes, the right attitude and willingness to learn can overpower experience,” says Rob.

“In some engineering capacities, a new employee thinking they ‘know better,’ can cause more damage to the business than employing somebody who is willing to listen and do it the way the company needs to do it.

“But there’s a flip side where a client does not have time to train somebody, so they will lean towards experience.”

Advice For Older Candidates

You do not need to put your age on a CV, and some people even leave out their earlier employment history.

But your employer or agency will see your date of birth (this is always required) when they check your eligibility to work – and you can’t control the judgements a recruiter will make when they meet you.

However, emphasising your relevant experience helps. So does showing how adaptable you are and what transferable skills you bring.

Katy has a radical idea that involves dispensing with the traditional CV.

“I would say film a video clip of yourself,” she says.

“If somebody looked at my CV and they saw my age, they may make a judgement. If there was a video clip where I could grab their attention in the first 30 seconds my aim is for a recruiter to think, ‘I’d love to see this person.’ That’s what I would do.

“I’d create myself a personal advert.”

A Success Story: The 65-Year-Old Job Hunter

Steve Gray, Technical & Engineering Partner, recently placed a 65-year-old candidate as a factory production supervisor. This was against competition from people whose ages started in the 20s.

Steve’s candidate had moved from South Africa and had secured care work. However, he demonstrated his love of the industry he had spent most of his career within.

“I spoke to him and he just demonstrated that level of passion and drive still,” he says.

“Experience-wise, he was the best. He was by far the oldest candidate but the way he came across to me, hands-down he was the best.

“I have stayed in touch with him and he’s really enjoying the job. He's now our contact at that client so we put bookings through him now. There is a solid relationship.”

The Advantages Of A Diverse Workforce

There are definite advantages to having older people on your staff.

“If companies embrace diversity as they are starting to, I think we might strike a little bit of a balance,” says Sally.

“If they understand diversity drives better results, you might see things coming around, but I bet there is not one company out there that will put a figure on age. Many UK business are frightened to.

Sally concludes “When you are employing someone who is older and has a lot of experience, they come into your business with an abundance of ideas.

“All businesses should be open to change and new ways of working.

“A business has to be open to either younger leaders managing younger team members or older leaders who are bringing in experience from elsewhere.”

Diversity of age, like any other kind of diversity, can only be a strength for a business who has it.

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