Older people searching for jobs have long fought stereotypes that they lack the speed, technology skills and dynamism of younger applicants. But as a wave of baby boomers seeks to stay on the job later in life, some employers are finding older workers are precisely what they need.
“There’s no experience like experience,” said David Mintz, CEO of dairy-free products maker Tofutti, where about one-third of the workers are over 50. “I can’t put an ad saying, ‘Older people wanted,’ but there’s no comparison.”
Surveys consistently show older people believe they experience age discrimination on the job market, and although unemployment is lower among older workers, long-term unemployment is far higher. As the American population and its labor force reshape, though, with a larger chunk of older workers, some employers are slowly recognizing their skill and experience. About 200 employers, from Google to AT&T to MetLife, have signed an AARP pledge recognizing the value of experienced workers and vowing to consider applicants 50 and older.
One of them, KPMG, has found success with a high proportion of older workers, who bring experience that the company says adds credibility. The auditing, tax and advisory firm says older workers also tend to be more dedicated to staying with the company, a plus for clients who like to build a relationship with a consultant they can count on to be around.
“Some Gen Ys and Millennials have this notion of, ‘I will have five jobs in 10 years,’ ” said Sig Shirodkar, a human resources executive at KPMG.
Many employers find older workers help them connect with older clients.
About 20 percent of the roughly 26,000 customer service, sales and technical support agents working for Miramar, Fla.-based Arise Virtual Solutions are 50 or older, and CEO John Meyer said they find ways to connect with callers.
“Having someone who is more senior, who has had some life scars, makes them much better at interacting with people,” Meyer said.
The embrace of older workers by some companies comes as the country’s demographics shift and a greater number of people stay on the job later in life, some because of personal choice, others out of necessity. Between 1977 and 2007, employment of workers 65 and older doubled, a trend that has stayed on track and is projected to continue as the massive baby boom generation moves toward old age. But long-term unemployment has plagued older adults: Nearly half of those 55 and older jobless remain out of work for 27 weeks or more.
Many companies still tend to overlook older applicants. Peter Cappelli, who co-authored “Managing the Older Worker,” said many employers haven’t been pressed to directly recruit older individuals.
Stereotypes have prevailed. Hiring managers often still view older applicants as having lower job performance, higher absenteeism and accident rates, and less ability to solve problems and adapt to change. But Cappelli said research shows older workers outpace younger ones in nearly every metric.
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