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Over 40 – Too Old to Get Hired?

NPR recently published “Too Much Experience To Be Hired? Some Older Americans Face Age Bias.” 

After reading the article, perhaps the title should simply read “Over 40 – Too Old To Get Hired?”

The NPR article covers a study that sent out 40,000 resumes for thousands of real jobs. The resumes for any given job were identical except for age.

The study found that younger workers were much more likely to get a call-back, and the older the applicant, the more call-backs dropped.

Results were considerably worse for older women than for older men, dropping by a quarter going from the young group to the middle-aged group, and another quarter going from the middle-age group to group around 65.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Lisa Madigan of Illinois investigated the practices of job sites like CareerBuilder, Monster, Beyond, Ladders and Vault and concluded that “certain sites put older workers at a disadvantage through their resume and profile restrictions.”

A study by AARP found that:

  • Nearly two-thirds of workers aged 45 to 74 say they have experienced age discrimination in the workplace.
  • 92 percent of those who did said it was common. 
  • City Lab notes age discrimination can kick in as young as 35.
  • This despite the 50-year-old Age Discrimination in Employment Act law prohibiting blatant discrimination against older workers.
  • But long-term unemployment, being jobless for 27 weeks or longer, is markedly worse for workers over age 55 than for the general population.
  • In the US, 18.8 percent of people 65 and over are continuing to work – that’s about 9 million workers. 
  • That’s up from 12.8 percent in 2000. 
  • The number is expected to keep growing.

Older workers have many valuable strengths. Experience is one, obviously, but so is mentorship, coaching, creative thinking, professional knowledge, skills, and perspective. Also, older people often take the time to properly study process and follow systems. 

So why the age bias?

  • Employers may view older workers as less flexible and willing to learn new skills.
  • Older workers can be more expensive compared to younger workers.

In an interview with City Lab, Jacquelyn B. James, co-director for the Center on Aging and Work at Boston College said “It’s very easy to reduce this to ageism or ‘all employers are bad,’ but it’s not that simple. It’s a combination of actions of the older adults and the way that they keep at it, and for employers, being able to convince them that they need to take a different look at the kind of people they’re seeking to employ.”

This matters for Vermont. We have the second-oldest population in the US. And our population is aging rapidly. Vermonters 85 and older are the fastest growing segment of our population — followed closely by those 65 and older.

Perhaps (partly driven by necessity) our small state can yet again lead the nation by confronting this issue. 

Older workers have a responsibility to keep current with current technology and other modern skills, while employers should not automatically reject potential workers born before 1975. 

Today we have 57-year old lingerie models and 70+ rockers selling out epic weekends at Coachella (Oldchella). Still, as is often noted, society hasn’t caught up with the reality of longer lives. There are about 75 million baby boomers aged 51-69 living in the US. 

Then again, there are slightly more millennials aged 18-34 in the US. That group also experiences workplace ageism. That’s different than ageism that prevents a person from getting an interview in the first place – but more on that in the future. 

Thanks for reading! 

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