Overqualified – Code for Ageism

The news is full of reports on how well the economy is doing; and how many jobs have been created since Trump’s election. I do not doubt that this is true. With reports of black unemployment at a 17 year low, and Hispanic unemployment at an all-time low, I am optimistic.

However, there is one group that is seldom talked about and least of all hired; Baby boomers (born from 1957 to 1964).  For the semi-silver haired folks, entering the workforce after some time off to either raise kids or tend to aging parents (or both), being hired for a decent paying job is almost impossible.

For older Americans who are let go after decades of working for companies, law firms, utility companies or other industries, finding a new job is also a challenge.  While some in this age group do not have college degrees, they are highly skilled nonetheless (many even have strong computer skills); yet they are over 50 which limits them in terms of opportunities. While employers are obliged to look at your resume, the usual response you get is either, you are overqualified, or we have decided to move forward with another candidate.  That other candidate is normally about 20 years younger than the silver-haired applicant.

Unfortunately, there is no actionable way to circumvent employers who refuse to hire older employees. There are laws against age discrimination, but a simple “we decided to move forward with another candidate” is all that is needed to get around that law.  Fair or unfair, it is the practice today, and little can be done to work around it.

The main benefit to hiring older employees are:

  • Experience—Many baby boomers offer strong corporate and business experience.  Even though employers today run their businesses very differently than even 10 years ago,  personal interactions and business management style has probably not changed at all. This type of work ethic and management style are some of the best aspects of hiring a baby boomer.
  • Dependability—Baby boomers know how important it is to be at work on time, and they are.  They are also very conscientious about being out unnecessarily and are quick to jump in when coverage is needed.  They are normally very loyal to their employer and respectful of company policies.

Yes, there are cons to hiring older employees, but no more than there are for hiring someone younger.  I have personally managed both age groups and I can tell you that the younger employees tend to show up late more often and call out on Mondays more frequently than the older staff.  I call it Monditis.  Older employees also tend to be more grateful for their current position than younger colleagues who tend to be quicker to write that letter of resignation and move on.  Of course this is only based on my personal experience from managing both age groups in an office setting.

The only way that we can stop this behavior is for employers to actually hire older employees.  Given today’s extremely high cost of living more and more baby boomers are working beyond retirement age.  They lend a great perspective to their employers and to their colleagues, and the wisdom they offer many managers is priceless. Younger workers are less risk-adverse and therefore can integrate themselves into varying professional opportunities.  They are also more tech savvy than their older counterparts.

A great company is one that hires both age groups and uses the skills each brings to the office environment as a plus for their business.  Next time an older candidate applies for a position in your company, try not to look at the grayish hair or wrinkled hands.  These folks survived the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and the millennium unscathed.  Give them an opportunity to shine in your business, for both your sakes.

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About Candie Suarez

I have been writing stories and articles for years. I enjoy putting information and research links in most of my articles, except for those written from the heart. Books have been a part of my life since I was a child. I remember as a kid reading the encyclopedia and playing with a dictionary. Word smithing is definitely my thing.

3 comments

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