Avoiding Age Discrimination in the Recruiting Process

Age discrimination often happens inadvertently. After all, most of us don’t set out to intentionally exclude older workers. We can rationally recognize that older workers are just as valuable as any other worker, and may often bring years (even decades) of experience and knowledge. Yet, age discrimination—both intentional and unintentional—still happens frequently during the recruiting process.

What can a hiring company do to reduce the amount of age discrimination that may occur at any point along the way? Thankfully there are a lot of things that can be done. Let’s take a look at a few ways to reduce age discrimination at each stage of the recruiting process.

Avoiding Age Discrimination: Tips for the Job Post

Here are some things to look out for with the job post itself:

  • Be careful where you advertise. Where you advertise makes a huge difference in who sees the job post. Intentionally or unintentionally excluding specific age groups is an easy way to appear to be discriminatory against older jobseekers. Here are some examples:
    • Avoid advertising only on social media, which may skew younger, especially in terms of those using the medium for job seeking.
    • Avoid using targeted ads that select only narrow groups to see the ad. Even if choosing seemingly neutral groups—such as those who have liked a related topic or group—it could ensure that the ad is seen only by a younger demographic.
    • Avoid advertising primarily at a local university. Even for entry-level jobs, they should be posted more broadly than this.
  • Word choice matters. In the job post, be careful not to use words that exclude some older applicants by default. For example, instead of saying “digital native” or “recent graduate” or similar terms, simply describe exactly what you need the person to be able to do.
  • Be specific and realistic on requirements. If there are specific physical and mental requirements of the job, list them as part of the job post. But ensure that they truly are required; in other words, don’t say that the job requires standing 8 hours and lifting 70 pounds frequently (for example) if it does not or if there are other methods of doing the job.
  • Consider posting the salary up front. The reason this relates to age discrimination is this: Some employers are quick to dismiss a more experienced candidate who they assume will not be willing to work for the salary on offer. If the salary is listed in the job post, there’s a much greater assurance that the person applying will be willing to work for that amount—and, thus, no reason to assume they won’t. Plan the salary for the job in advance, and list the range (with some wiggle room for experience level if applicable).

Avoiding Age Discrimination: Tips for the Application

Watch out for age discrimination—or appearance thereof—in the application itself. For example:

  • Remove or reword questions that directly or indirectly ask about age. Having this info creates a situation where the recruiter could make assumptions, and it’s usually unnecessary. For example:
    • There’s no need to ask for date of birth at this point. Simply ask the applicant whether they’re of legal age to accept the job.
    • There’s also no need to require dates for things like degree completion.
    • There’s not even a need to list specific years of employment.
  • Give more than one way to apply. Avoid only accepting applications online. Even for a job that requires the ability to use technology, if the application process requires it, it may exclude those who are more accustomed to applying in person, regardless of their technical savvy.
  • Be careful how you choose to communicate with applicants. Use their preferred method if you can. For example, if you opt to only text with applicants, some older applicants may not even get the communication or may self-exclude from the process if they’re not accustomed to texting. Even for those who opt in, they could inadvertently appear less savvy in their communications because you’ve opted to communicate with them in a way that they’re least comfortable—which is likely not a fair assessment of their skills overall.

Come back for tomorrow’s Advisor. We’ll take a look at some tips for avoiding age discrimination in the interview.

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