There are so many -isms today impacting our professional and personal lives. Many that intersect across gender, generation, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, and more. The one in particular that I want to discuss here is ageism. Many of us who are in our 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, and are still employable in today’s world of work, have most likely experienced ageism (or will) — being passed up for employment and/or advancement due to our age. In fact, according to AARP, of which I’ve been a proud member since I turned 50, about 3 in 5 older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.
Whether it’s a human bias or an algorithmic bias, ageism is real. And it happens every single day. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 may have been written to prohibit age discrimination in employment, but like all the other -isms, it’s still systemic today.
In the age of COVID-19, however, the overall job positive candidate experience sentiment is actually higher than ever — 24% higher in North America in 2020 versus 2019 according to our latest Talent Board CandE benchmark research. 13% higher in EMEA. 45% higher in APAC. And 15% higher in Latin America. Meaning that, the candidates tell us they’re more likely to continue to associate with the companies they applied to — even when over 90% of them did not get hired for the job.
But, and there’s always a but, there continues to be a growing sentiment of ageism in our candidate experience research — those who comment in the open-ended questions that they believe age was the reason they didn’t get the interview, or the offer, or the job.
This year in North America, Gen Z (born in the mid-to-late 1990s) said they had a 92% better candidate experience in 2020 than Gen X (born between 1965 to 1980). In 2019, Gen Z said they had an 87% better candidate experience than Gen X.
When we break it out by gender, males have the worst candidate experience. Gen Z females said they had a 71% better candidate experience than Gen X females. Gen Z males said they had a 107% better candidate experience than Gen X males. And even Gen X females said they had a 62% better candidate experience than Gen X males.
These are all significant differences, and while there are many variables we can’t control for in our research, we continue to see these patterns of disparate experience (our 2020 benchmark research will be released at the end of the year).
I just turned 55 and currently run this candidate experience research organization. Each year we work with hundreds of employers big and small across industries focused on identifying their recruiting strengths and weaknesses. They definitely want to improve the candidate experience for all their candidates, otherwise, they wouldn’t reach out to ask them for feedback, and there are still too many companies wary of asking their candidates for feedback. They just don’t want to know what they don’t want to know. They should know, though, because the only way to be better is to know better.
What if I found myself suddenly in need to look for a job like so many older (and younger) people have had to do in 2020? I’ve been in this job for over five years now, but what if like so many others I had to find a new job after 10, 20 or 30 years working the same job?
I’ve had quite an experiential career to date across many different incarnations, and I’ve kept up my continuous learning year after year, always stretching myself, always learning new skills. I’m currently completing an HR analytics course online through Cornell, and I’ve been seriously learning how to play the drums this year, practicing every day (which I love!). There are also many folks of my age launching new businesses and changing entire careers.
I won’t be touring with a rock band anytime soon, or ever, so if I qualified for one of your jobs, would you hire me? Sure, that’s a rhetorical question, but would I need to try and downplay my age as much as possible like some career coaches recommend just to get your attention? Would I be passed up because in today’s economic climate, companies are slashing budgets (and people) and I may cost too much (compared to entry-level)?
Why are so many of us seen as a competitive disadvantage? Too set in our ways and lacking needed technology skills today?
Whether full-time, part-time, or contract, older workers can have a wealth of knowledge and experience, especially when they continue to learn and grow, and are given the opportunities to do so. They can be mentors to younger employees (think college interns and entry-level employees) and bring rich, multi-generational experiences to the workplace. Companies that conduct candidate skills inventories can better understand and harness this kind of diversity to help them not only sustain their businesses but to grow and thrive as well.
No one in business leadership should ever be heard saying “we just can’t find the right people” when there’s so much potential everywhere. Even though the candidate journey for older workers isn’t commensurate with their experience, older candidates and companies alike can and should figure out what works for them both, securing employment for many and enriching everyone in the workplace today.
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