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Age 45+: an unwarranted bias is at work

July 19, 2022

Recruiting leaders hold a negative view of older candidates during selections, despite valuing their performance, when hired, as high as that of younger peers. The analysis appears in global research conducted by Generation, a nonprofit organization focused on training and employability, founded by consultancy McKinsey.

The report sheds light on the reality of the jobs market for those aged 45-60 in seven countries — Brazil, India, Italy, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States — with a particular focus on those seeking or working in entry-level and intermediate roles with no formal post-secondary educational background and low-income levels. The findings highlight the stark unemployment challenges faced by midcareer workers across the world, offering insight into why they struggle.

According to the survey, 63% of the 45+ professionals have been unemployed for over a year, compared to 36% of those aged between 18 and 24, numbers that may indicate the greater value of one group over the other in the screening process.

Regarding the recruiters’ distrust of experienced candidates, the perception is reinforced by evaluation factors such as “relevant background” and a better “fit” with the company’s culture.

For 24% of the recruiter managers, the younger group is better evaluated by the experience portfolio, compared to 18% who prefer the older group. As for cultural adaptation, the difference widens: 41% believe that the younger generations are more flexible, compared to 15% who defend the senior teams.

On the other hand…

Asked about the performance of age 45+ individuals compared to their younger peers, employers respond that 87% of their age 45+ hires are as good — or better — than younger employees in terms of their overall performance on the job. They add that 90% have as much — or more — potential to stay with the company long term. 

“This highly favorable job performance is comparable to that of the 35-44 age group, even though the younger group is far more appealing to hiring managers than age 45+ individuals”, the authors say.

Solving the challenges that face midcareer job seekers and workers requires a number of initiatives. The report proposes four starting points:

  • Improving national and global employment statistic tracking and reporting to reflect narrower age brackets that better illuminate the unique issues faced by the 45+ population.
  • Linking training programs directly to employment opportunities and providing stipends to support age 45+ individuals who are hesitant to engage in training.
  • Changing hiring practices to suppress potential age biases and better assess the potential of age 45+ job candidates by allowing them to show their skills through demonstration-based exercises.
  • Rethinking current employer training approaches to make it easier to fill new roles with existing age 45+ employees, versus relying solely on new hires.

Source: Generation