Younger interviewers, 9 reasons why you shouldn’t discriminate against older workers

As a followup to 6 reasons why older workers should not discriminate against younger interviewers, this is the flip side of age discrimination.

I hate seeing trepidation in the eyes of my older workers. It concerns me and then I get angry. The reason for their trepidation is because they fear that employers will pass them over because of their age.

Job interview

I assure them that only a few interviewers will practice age discrimination—usually the ignorant ones—but sometimes my words will fall on deaf ears. The doubt has already been planted in their minds.

They’ve heard stories about how older job candidates are asked question that are designed to figure out how old they are. An obvious question about age is, “So, when did you graduate from high school?” They nod at the transparency of this question.

This is the kind of crap my older workers face. This is the reason for their fear, even before the interview has begun. Essentially their chances of doing well during the interview are slim to none because they are already psyched out. And then I get frustrated because of their fear.

So younger interviewer, here are some things to consider.

1. Older workers know more about the job than you do, but they’re not there to take you job. A common complaint of my older workers is the hiring managers’ lack of knowledge, which is reflected in the questions they ask. Beyond that, older workers have been at their career for 20, 30, or more years. It reasons that they have more experience than younger workers.

But they also say that they simply want to be hired for the job for which they’re applying. They’re not interested in taking the hiring manager’s position. Some of them want to step back and rid themselves of management responsibilities, they don’t want the stress.

2. Older workers are dependable. You’re mistaken if you think older workers will miss work due to illness, mental health days, child care, and any other excuse you can think of. They have a work ethic and commitment to work that is ingrained in them.

My father worked six days a week, and I try to emulate his work ethic. I arrive early to work, even though I don’t have to, and am willing to come in early and stay late, if necessary. This is because they can; I don’t have the commitments younger workers have, namely children.

3. Older workers also are not interested in jumping from job to job. They believe in loyalty. You can be assured that they will want to make your employer’s company their second home. So there’s no sense in asking them where they plan to be five years from now. They plan to be with you.

In a Forbes article, it states the average tenure for older workers is approximately 4.4 years, whereas the tenure for the millennials is half that. Here’s a great post from my valued connections, Catherine Miklaus, that explains the job-hopper mindset.

4. Older workers have life experience that helps them solve unusual problems. Some older workers have experienced loss. In some cases they’ve lost loved ones and or jobs, which has forced them to adapt to adverse situations.

The ability to adapt to adverse situations makes older workers natural problem solvers. They think calmly under pressure because they’ve seen the problems and have learned from their mistakes. Practice makes perfect, as they say.

5. Older workers want to work. A common misconception is that older workers are waiting until retirement comes. The fact is that if the work is stimulating, they will work years beyond retirement age.

One of my colleagues is beyond retirement age, yet she says she would work as long as she could, because she enjoys the responsibilities and the people with whom she works. Trust the older candidate when she says she has no plans to retire.

6. Older workers can be a great mentors and may teach you a valuable thing or two. People who want to progress in their career understand the importance of a mentor who can help them with the technical, as well as the emotional, aspects of their job.

Older workers, who have more job-related experience, also have developed emotional intelligence (EQ) that comes with the trials and tribulations of their work. Older workers know themselves and others’ limitations.

7. Older workers will make you look good because you hired the best candidate. Come on, would you rather hire someone who you’re not threatened by, or someone who can be a great asset to your team? Okay, that’s a difficult question to answer.

But here’s the thing; when you hire a poor worker, that person doesn’t work out and the company loses between $25,000 and $50,000 finding his/her replacement. And you look really bad. Trust me when I say older workers don’t want your job; they just want to work. Period.

8. Older workers may not be as fast as you, but they works smarter, not harder. So you take the stairs two steps at a time, you work 12 hours a day and see this as productive, you never take vacation (idiot), you multi-task your ass off.

Older workers don’t do any of that foolishness, because they do the job once and get it right. I used to be in a hurry to get nowhere, until I realized that it’s better to work smarter, not harder. It may seem like a cliche, but it works. So don’t laugh when I’m walking down the hall and you’re running. We’re both getting there.

9. Older workers don’t think they’re all that. I’ve had the privilege to work in a young, vibrant environment, and a more mature professional one. I’ve enjoyed both, even the Nerf Footballs zipping by my head. But I have to say that the younger workers were more concerned about their pride than the older workers with whom I’ve worked.

Rest assured, younger interviewer, that we older workers have experienced our successes and the peak of our career. We’re not into the fast cars, perfectly manicured hair style, and taking credit for your work (at least I hope not). You can be “all that.” We’ll look on with admiration.

When you’re interviewing the man with grey hair sitting across from you, don’t judge him before getting to know him. He possesses many of the attributes I’ve described, plus some. Ask the questions you’d ask anyone applying for the job. It’s likely that he’s expecting you to demonstrate bias, as he’s experienced it before, so surprise him and be the better man.

8 thoughts on “Younger interviewers, 9 reasons why you shouldn’t discriminate against older workers

  1. Susan Jepson

    Important stuff here, Bob, and I often wonder what would happen if interviews were conducted without the parties being able to see each other. Good workers are good workers, regardless of age, Employers who hire for attitude, resilience and problem solving skills are rewarded by the excellent solutions and output older workers can bring to the company.


    1. Things Career Related Post author

      It’s funny that you mention interviews conducted without being able to see the candidate. Phone interviews hide the identity of the applicant, but this can be done at an interview as well. In Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, he writes about how an orchestra conducted try-outs without seeing the musicians. They found that no bias was used in selecting the musicians, e.g., gender, nationality, age, etc.


    2. Phil Tighe

      Great article and insightful comments. Susan’s question around “blind” interviews raises some significant points; however, so much value is gleaned from seeing into the candidate and past the content of the answers and comments provided. We must all remind each other, when interviewing, what we really want from our people. Attitude, resilience and problem solving, agreed, and most of all we need team players who value communication and betterment of colleagues. We need to target the people who help others make sense of their tasks and their world, whether their working learning journey has spanned one decade or many.


  2. Gina

    It was great to read this information as I just turned 50, moved to Florida from Indiana, I have great references and GREAT attendance, but I cannot get a job. Everyone around me (family) tells me that these interviewers are afraid that I will take their job. I sincerely don’t feel this way in the interview, however, I never get a call back. A year without a job is hurting my finances tremendously and not sure what I can do differently in order to even get a job as a cashier.


    1. Things Career Related Post author

      Gina, I just read this again. Have things changed for you, first of all? Second of all, it doesn’t hurt to tell the younger interviewer that your intention is to do the best job you can for the position at hand. Many people think they have to show their ambition by saying they want to move up, when it’s perfectly fine to say you’d like to remain or move to an individual role.


  3. Ashton Applewhite

    A quibble with the phrase that ends your first paragraph: “. . .they fear that employers will pass them over because of their age, whether warranted or not.” Rejecting someone on the basis of age alone is *never* warranted. It may be warranted on the basis of skills, salary, location, etc., but age alone says almost nothing about an individual’s capacity to do the job.


    1. Things Career Related Post author

      Not a quibble at all, Ashton. Perhaps the phrase should be deleted. Because if it is true they’re not qualified for the job because of age, they would understand or accept it. For example, a 64 year-old man with a bad back would most likely not keep up with 30 somethings on a construction site. If he’s proven his ability to do so, then age discrimination is not warranted.


  4. Pingback: 4 areas in your job search where you’re broadcasting your age | Things Career Related

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