Removing Age Bias From The Hiring Process

Ageism has plagued the staffing and recruitment industry for a long time, and despite the introduction of various age discrimination legislation over the years, it is still impacting candidates.

Unfortunately, bias is part of human nature – it is usually unintentional but difficult to avoid all the same. This is why technology can be so helpful during the recruitment process.

The good news is that a computer won’t discriminate unless you ask it to. With applicant tracking systems at their disposal, recruiters are able to remain impartial when setting candidate sourcing criteria.


How big is the age discrimination problem?

Both ends of the age spectrum are affected by age bias, but it is older candidates that come across it most frequently. More than 60% of over-45s have experienced ageism at some point in their careers and when compared to those under the age of 28, over-50s are more than twice as likely to remain unemployed for two years or more if they leave their current job.

The impact of age discrimination on younger candidates has been harder to measure, but it is widely believed that ‘reverse-ageism’ is an increasingly prevalent behavior among employers.

Either way, rejecting candidates based on age can lead to a lack of diversity in the workplace and tarnish the reputation of an employer.



What causes age discrimination?

Discrimination is largely based on misconceptions. Stereotypes are a key driver of age bias within the recruitment process and will vary depending on the age group in question.

Older job applicants will be overlooked for a number of reasons, many of which are born out of unfair assumptions.


Poor computer literacy

Most jobs involve at least some interaction with technology, and a lot of employers are quick to assume that the older generation lack the competency required to operate the relevant computer systems. This is a dangerous assumption to make, as an experienced individual is likely to have encountered a wide range of software over the course of their career.

Less adaptable

Recruiters will sometimes question the adaptability of older candidates, particularly if they have spent a large portion of their career in the same role. This should not be a reflection of a candidate’s willingness to learn – older employees are generally very dedicated and hardworking.

High salary expectations

Employers sometimes assume that older, more experienced workers are likely to demand a higher salary than younger counterparts. This is not always the case – in fact, many candidates will have reached a stage in their life where they are no longer driven by earnings.


A popular misconception is that older people take more time off due to illness. Research actually shows that workers over the age of 50 take less sick days than younger colleagues. They are also less likely to lie about illness in order to get a day off.



Nearing retirement

Employers looking for long-term placements will shy away from recruiting older workers due to the risk of retirement. The last thing a company wants to do is hire a candidate that is going to leave them shorthanded again in the near future.

However, the reality is that not everyone over the age of 50 is getting ready for retirement – far from it. Financial pressures have led to more people working beyond retirement age – in the United States alone, there are over 10 million workers aged 65+ and studies have shown that 31% of non-retired adults intend to remain employed beyond the age of 68.



For younger candidates, the problem mostly stems from the opinions of senior managers involved in the hiring process.



While experience does generally come with age, it is common for younger workers to develop expertise quickly through on-the-job training. Candidates in this age group also benefit from switching roles on a regular basis through the early stages of their career, gaining exposure to different roles and work environments in a relatively short space of time.


Many workplaces reward seniority over talent, and this creates a barrier for young candidates because hiring managers will often dismiss them as being over ambitious and over confident.

Change can be deeply unsettling for senior management, and any ideas put forward by younger employees are frequently deemed to be too radical. An ill-conceived perception of entitlement also damages older employees’ trust of younger counterparts.


Young candidates have been labeled as a flight risk due to the current job-hopping trend. What recruiters need to remember though is that this is not a new phenomenon – U.S. Bureau of Labor stats actually indicate that the average tenure for workers in their 20s is the same now as it was in the 1980s.

Gen Z and millennial workers are moving around in search of experience and development opportunities. Instead of avoiding candidates from these groups, employers should ensure that there is a solid progression path in place for entry-level staff, reducing the need for them go elsewhere as they climb the career ladder.

Poor work ethic

Younger generations are often accused of being lazy, disrespectful and rude. Most of the time, this criticism is due to a clash of generational norms – such as communication style, body language, and even dress sense.


What legislation is in place to prevent age discrimination?

Countries worldwide have introduced their own employment legislation to combat the issue of ageism.

The United States passed the current Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) over 50 years ago, but employer compliance is still inconsistent, with a significant increase of age discrimination lawsuits being brought forward in recent years.

Even the world’s largest corporations have become embroiled in legal action. For example, in 2017, accountancy firm PwC was subject to a class action lawsuit based on the company’s exclusion of older applicants in favor of recent graduates.


How can applicant tracking software help?

Technology is a simple way to remove recruiter bias from candidate sourcing. Mindscope’s applicant tracking software gives recruiters a head start by allowing them to accurately parse information from resumes into individual candidate profiles within the database. From there, it becomes easy to filter candidates based purely on skills, qualifications, and experience.

Mindscope will automatically calculate the number of years’ experience an individual has in their particular field, as well as provide a summary of qualifications and educational background. All of this information then becomes filterable as part of the database search function.

Mindscope’s Boolean advanced search feature can be used to specify multiple criteria that focus solely on the requirements of the job. Not only does this maintain impartiality regarding candidate age, but it also improves the chances of finding someone who genuinely suits the role.



For more information on how Mindscope’s recruiting software can transform your approach to staffing, get in touch