Photo of white haired woman reading paper to illustrate age discrimination.

It’s essential that companies avoid age discrimination in their hiring process. Older workers are an important and fast-growing part of the labor market. Overall, people are living longer and healthier lives. Many are not ready to retire in their 50s, 60s, or even 70s. Yet too often, they face age discrimination in the workplace. Some employers believe that older adults are unable to handle daily job duties, or that they cannot adapt to new technology, or simply that they cost too much.

But giving in to these biases can deprive you of some excellent workers. The truth is that the world of work is only growing more complex, and seasoned employees may be just what you need to help you manage complicated challenges. If you’re ready to hire some older workers, but are concerned about how best to recruit and keep them, here are some tips.

Avoid Age Discrimination by Restructuring Your Recruiting

Does your application process require candidates to reveal their date of birth, graduation year, or other age-identifying information? This can stop older candidates in their tracks, as they assume that you’re only interested in younger workers. It can also tap into unintentional biases in your hiring team. There is no upside to requiring this information, so remove it from your applications.

Also, make sure that you have an age-diverse hiring panel. A group of people of all ages can hold each other accountable for practicing age-blind hiring and throwing out unconscious assumptions.

Make sure your recruiting website includes photos of your age-diverse team. If everyone on the website is 30 or younger, older workers may naturally assume that there isn’t a place for them at your company.

Make Age Part of Your Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

Diversity and inclusion have become powerful issues in the workplace, but few companies consider the unique issues surrounding ageism. You can adapt many of the same strategies you are already using to promote gender and cultural diversity to improve age diversity. Foster a welcoming culture that rejects stereotypes based on age, just like it rejects stereotypes based on race or disability.

Change the Terminology

Unfortunately, many common phrases used in job descriptions and interview questions can exclude older workers. If you’re asking for “digital natives,” the assumption is that you only want people who grew up in the Internet Age. “High-energy” often means “young,” while trendy words such as “guru” or “ninja” are tailored to the way younger people speak. Even noting that meals are provided at work can send the signal that you only want young singles without families at home.

Don’t Make Assumptions

One of the biggest ageist assumptions many employers make is that older workers cost too much. But how do you know unless you ask? That experienced high-level manager may be ready to step down to a position with less stress, and to take a proportional pay cut. Or she may be changing career fields altogether and looking for an entry-level job with an entry-level rate of pay.

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