I have a friend, a seasoned Human Resources Manager, who recently found herself unemployed. In the process of job hunting she was approached by two headhunters for potential positions. Both recruiters asked her how old she is. They said their clients were looking for a younger person who they can hope to employ for at least ten years. My friend was in such shock from hearing this question she didn’t know how to respond. What would you say if asked that question?
This question is troubling for a number of reasons. Most obvious is the illegal nature of the question. We have a Human Rights Code that states employers cannot discriminate on the basis of age. Given the elimination of mandatory retirement, that applies no matter how old the person. Recruiters should know this and it is appalling to me that a recruiter would have the nerve to ask the question not to mention they are not advising their clients about the law and the risk of discriminating based on age.
The other area of concern to me is the short sightedness of the recruiting standards. I always advise my clients to keep an open mind when beginning the recruitment process. You never know who you will find. If employers go into the process determined to find a specific skill set, or in this case age, they may miss out on excellent potential candidates who will bring valuable experience and skills that they hadn’t even considered.
The other error in this approach to recruiting is thinking that you can find someone that you will employ for ten years. Times have changed and no longer do people stay with one employer for their career or for any great length of time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labour, in 2008 the median number of years that wage and salary workers stayed with their employer was 4.1 years. So recruiting for a 10 year employee is a fantasy and again is going to be detrimental to finding a person that can bring great value to your organization.
In the case of my friend, these organizations missed out on a great HR Manager because they used criteria that is not only illegal, but very limiting. My advice…don’t make hiring decisions based on age and how long you hope they will stay. Hire the best person for the job right now. If you are a good employer and offer opportunity for personal and professional development, the person will reward you with commitment, engagement and high productivity. At the end of the day that’s the best you can hope for.
By: Elizabeth Hill,Founding Partner