Ask James Caan – Issue 69
Last week’s column regarding youth unemployment got a fantastic response from you all. Appearing on ‘Up for Hire’ was a terrific experience; it was a great showcase for young people and the talent they can offer. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay around to talk afterwards, so apologies to Claudia and anyone who wanted to have a quick chat, but if you’d like to pose a question, please get in touch via my email address below.
Returning to the column and this week the theme is ‘are we finished at fifty?’ thanks to an email from Michael. Michael, who turned 50 last week, asked:
‘As I rapidly approach my 50th birthday, am I finished so to speak? After over 800 applications (all specifically chosen knowing that I can do the job and deliver what’s required, rather than just blasting applications out), we constantly read about recruitment companies not selecting candidate’s because of their age. Is this actually the recruitment consultant’s decision or is it actually the employer’s wants themselves?’
Age discrimination is something I’ve been writing about for several years now. It seems that despite it being against the law many job seekers are still feeling the brunt of businesses that aren’t seeing the true value the elder workforce can deliver.
There are a number of contributing factors adding to this endemic of ageism and discrimination. UK unemployment has risen to a 17-year high, and from April, the retirement age will be phased out. Add to this other factors such as youth unemployment and public sector cuts – it has all had a big effect on job hunting.
Discrimination – whether it’s age, race, gender – is an area that many people must ensure they are compliant with when identifying the right candidate for the job. Of course ‘saying’ and ‘doing’ are obviously two very different things, but I believe the root cause is based in the preconceptions attached to older workers – many of which I find hard to believe, but do exist.
Deciding if it is the recruitment consultant or employer who has stood in the way of an older worker not clinching the job is a difficult task. Do you look at the recruiter who is tasked with delivering a shortlist of CVs, the company who knows their culture and business aims, the attitudes held by society in general or even interview performance? There are so many factors that you can’t isolate one party or area.
I think the culture of business and the attitudes held by some employers need to change rather than the aging workforce having to adapt to market attitudes. We must stop making assumptions about a candidate’s ability to do the job, and start thinking long-term.
Harsher market conditions mean everyone has had to up their game; no one can afford to not learn new skills or try new initiatives. You only need to look at the ageism threads within our group to see a forward-thinking lot who are active bloggers, social media enthusiasts and inspirational people who I’m sure wouldn’t shudder at the idea of using something that will add to their skill set.
Another assumption is that if a business has a ‘young’ culture, an older worker will struggle to fit in. In this instance, I offer this to recruiters and employers to mull over. Surely a more diverse workforce would create a new perspective? Not only would it provide different ideas and experiences, but in many cases, it will reflect your customer base more accurately.
Overall, it’s important to realise it’s not all doom and gloom, and remember that with age comes experience. Every demographic within the growing number of unemployed workers has its own set of challenges, but it’s how you distance yourself and show your true worth that will ultimately help.