Hiring in the Recovery: Time for Some Honest Answers

by Michael Haberman on April 6, 2011 · 7 comments


There was an article published on April 1 in U.S. News & World Report entitled Why the Middle-Aged Are Missing Out on New Jobs. (I don’t believe it was an April Fool’s joke.) The author, Rick Newman, talks about the hiring statistics of various age groups. His statistics show that the over-55 age group is doing well in getting jobs (though the experience of many friends does not support that) and the  under-35 crowd is doing very well. The age group of 35-44 is experience some growth but not very strong.

The one group that is losing job, however, is the 45-54 age group. He surmises that there may be several reasons. This is the age group that had higher salaries, was largely male, was largely middle management or was largely factory or construction workers, or some combination thereof. Many of these workers are now discouraged, having been unemployed for awhile, and are now facing the reality that they may not see any return to their prior “normal” for a long time. Many have dropped out of looking for work entirely. The questions I asked myself is “How real is this? Are employers avoiding that age group? And if so, why?”

So here are my questions for anyone who is hiring, be it recruiters for larger companies or small business owners:

  • How much does someone’s prior salary play into your decisions on hiring when someone has been unemployed for a longer period of time? Why?
  • If you are hiring older workers in the 55+ age group, why?
  • Do you avoid hiring people who have been unemployed for over 9 months? Why?
  • Honestly, how much does someone’s age come into play when you are making hiring decsisions? And why?

I would like honest answers. You can comment anonymously if you would give more honest answers that way. I really want to know the reasons for the statistics that Newman found.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Ryan April 6, 2011 at 10:58 am

Interesting post Mike, I had not seen the article. As I contemplated commenting, I was thinking about your question. What if I say we don’t hire anyone over the age of XX. We don’t like older workers because they drive up the cost of healthcare. And to round it out let way we only hire left-handed Christians under/over age XX.

I think my comments could come back to haunt me at some point. Question – are blog comments admissable evidence? 🙂

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Michael Haberman April 6, 2011 at 11:02 am

Dave I thought that might be an inhibiting factor in commenting, that is why I suggested you can post anonymously.

And although I am not an attorney, I am sure that they would tell you that comments might be admissable as evidence. So use ANON. 🙂

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Dave Ryan April 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm

I am just one paranoid dude – but only because everyone is out to get me. I will wait for a few more ANON comments to show up and then I will bare my soul.

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Cybele Rioux April 6, 2011 at 1:17 pm

We get the same problem here in Canada, even if employers don’t have to pay for healthcare. It seems that they don’t want to hire people over a certain age, because these people don’t learn fast, are unable to catch with technos, cost too much in salary/benefits, etc.

The official excuse is often “they’ll take their pension in a few years”, but when I ask the average length of stay in the job, they answer “if they stay for 2 or 3 years, we’re happy”. So they’re not really coherent about this… Here it’s a problem, as general unemployment rate is going low while the rate for people above 55 is still pretty hign.

Thank you for your post about it.

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ANON April 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm

You bring up good points Mike. To address your questions:

How much does someone’s prior salary play into your decisions on hiring when someone has been unemployed for a longer period of time? Why?

–The salary issue does not come into play due to length of time unemployed, it comes into play when someone who has been unemployed from, let’s say, a management position, and then applies to a management position with us and expects to pick up at the point s/he has left (with the salary) just “because I was in management”. Not due to the relavence that what they had previously managed and what we look for in management. Quite frankly, the understanding that we, as a company, are also not seeing a lot of profitable growth at this point in time and our budgets have also been cut so we don’t offer as high salaries as in the past needs to be understood (at least in our case). And yes, we can be choosy because they are one of many candidates. If they have kept up with present managment trends and practicies is a big plus, but doesn’t equate into more money.

If you are hiring older workers in the 55+ age group, why?

–Usually becasue this age group, when they qualify for a position are more reliable and have a strong work ethic and are reliable than younger workers (in their twenties). Most of the 55+ positions hired for are not in tech areas.

Do you avoid hiring people who have been unemployed for over 9 months? Why?

–A bit tricky to answer. 9 months is not a benchmark, however we usually look for something that indicates that a person was improving their skills (especially if looking for work outside of their previous work skills arena) – even if just taking and getting a level on the GA Work Ready test which is free. The standard answer of “I was looking for a job all that time” sometimes is used as a motivational indicator. Again it is because of the amount of applications received and we can be choosy. Even on our most basic entry level positions.

Honestly, how much does someone’s age come into play when you are making hiring decsisions? And why?

— It comes into play as an internal, un- spoken indicator. We look at the population that person will be serving and interacting with. Older workers, if they are experienced and have the connections (or ability to make valuable connections) that will assist us as a company, would more likely be put in a sales-type of position (not in sales, per se, but that they have interaction that “sells” how good a company we are and why you want to do business with us). However many of our entry level positions, stamina and schedule flexiblity don’t tend to be something older workers want. Especially if they had a higher level position and are now applying for an entry level position.

But we realize that to maintain a fair and objective standard of interviewing, we have actually changed our method and are now using a standardized way of interviewing that assess compatablity and have various levels of standard questions to assess a particular area. It’s longer but helps us choose the best candidate based on ablity to perform the job fucntion they apply for. However, that is done in an interview. Submission of a resume and application need to be spot on just to get to a face to face.

Honestly, being in one of the tougher age groups, I wouldn’t want to be unemployed and in the market looking for new job.

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Greg April 6, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Great Questions Mike.
I participate in networking groups and attempt to help folks in transition usually senior level folks in the 50+ age bracket. A topic that often comes up is the issue of Age Discrimination. Candidates/Applicants have little if any chance of ever proving any bias in singular decisions and it would take a systemic analysis to really prove this. The issue from the candidate’s side is what do I do? Dye my hair; get a facelift, attempt to look younger? There is an interesting study from the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College your readers may find interesting. This was also a lead story on one of the Sunday morning shows last week.
http://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/research_sites/agingandwork/pdf/publications/IB25_NewUnemployed.pdf

The consensus on doing any of the above is not to. The value an experienced person brings to a new opportunity and company should be seen as that; a return on investment. The development of talent in the organization, applying lessons from similar situations to save a company time and/or money, improve efficiencies and processes. These are the items companies should be looking at for these potential employees.

The salary question is a valid one. Candidates need to be realistic about current market conditions and value in the market, not where they were in prior positions.
The employers out there would find “The New Reality 2011: Preparing For The Coming Talent Storm” white paper by Birkman International and Stanton Chase International interesting in light of your post.

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Michael Haberman April 6, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Thanks Greg for the links. The two resources should prove to be valuable to all concerned.

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