4. Avoid making assumptions
At age 53, William Wages interviewed for a computer technical position at a local college. Although the position paid almost 20 percent less than his previous computer job, he still wanted it because of the potential for advancement. But by the time he returned home, an email was waiting for him from the college, stating that they had hired someone else.
"They hired two more guys who were in their 20s," says Wages. "Because of my age, I guess they didn't think I would drop down to the lower salary. They made [wrong] assumptions."
Many mature candidates are interested in opportunity, not just income. Wages says the salary decrease was acceptable because there was potential for growth and learning. In the long run, he says the college short-changed itself and him. He says mature workers are there for the long haul and typically don't job hop for better wages.
Experienced job applicants and employers should remember that it's often hard for employers to replace the wide skill set of an experienced worker with that of a new college graduate with little to no work experience.
5. Appeal to a broad customer base
As a 68-year-old pharmacist, Jerry Welenc worked full time at a supermarket chain and one day a week as a pharmacist at a national warehouse chain.
He recalls how recruiters began "circling [pharmacists] like buzzards in the desert" when the supermarket began closing its stores. But Welenc was hoping to land a full-time pharmacy job at the warehouse. Little by little, his hopes began fading. Pharmacy jobs were being offered to younger people. Even the warehouse's print ads reflected its preference for youth — "Come to our pharmacy and visit our fresh, young faces."
Fortunately, one drugstore actively recruited Welenc, at age 71, for one of its Chicago stores. The main reason he accepted the job was because of the recruiter's attitude toward mature workers. The pharmacy valued Welenc's experience, which was also reinforced by a benefits package that appealed to experienced workers. They recognized several "soft" skills that employers often say they value in experienced workers, such as better communication skills, better work ethic and lower attrition.
Recruiters need to cast a wider net to snatch workers of all ages. Not only can employees learn from each other, but they can also attract a broader customer base. For example, mature individuals who need prescriptions may be more comfortable with a pharmacist closer to their own age — they may be more familiar or able to empathize with their health issues.
As for companies that blatantly advertise for "fresh, young faces," such recruiting tactics risk running afoul of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of, among other things, their age (40 or older).
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