One of the nice things about the social networking sites such as LinkedIn, is that they allow me to reconnect with people I worked with years ago. I recently re-met a colleague from my undergraduate days, and a colleague I worked with 25 years ago.
I mentioned to one of these colleagues’ peers that I’d know this person for over 30 years. His response was, “You don’t look old enough to retire.” !!!! My silent response: I’ve got news for you, buddy: people who start to work at 22, work for 43 years if they retire at 65. Maybe you missed addition in elementary school.
What I actually said was, “I’m not. Hey, with one in college and one soon to be, Mark and I may never retire. Even if I was ‘old enough to retire,’ why would I retire when I’m still learning and having fun?”
If this had been the only couple of conversations about ageism over the last couple of months, maybe I could ignore it. But when I met a colleague of long-standing (an old friend) at a conference, his hair was dark brown again. I asked him why. “I’d been passed over for a promotion to the C-level, so before I started my new job search, I dyed my hair to look younger.” Another C-level colleague asked me to explain to his staff we’d known each other for a few years, not the 15 years we’ve actually known each other and worked together.
Once I have more than one hand’s worth of data, including, Age and Agile Are Orthogonal, I decided I wasn’t nuts about this, and people in our industry are discriminating about people over 40 or 50 or 60. (Until they meet me 🙂
HR folks: you and I know it’s illegal. Hiring managers, not only is it illegal to discriminate based on age, it automatically removes people from your consideration who may turn out to be some of the best employees you can hire. Some benefits of hiring a mature candidate can be:
- With any luck, the candidate has emotional maturity. That makes the candidate more able to ease into a team.
- More often, I see more mature candidates who are happy where they are. They don’t want your job. They don’t want to backstab you to get ahead. They want a reasonable job for a reasonable pay. Moving up the ladder makes no sense to them.
- They want to do good work, and they know what that is.
- They know how to pace themselves.
- They know (more than young candidates) how to evaluate options and not just pick the first option that appears.
Not all mature candidates are perfect. I’m certainly generalizing here. But let’s be clear: Turning 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 does not prevent someone from being a great employee. Will you have trouble getting that person to work a lot of overtime? I hope so–lots of overtime means lots of mistakes. Will you get someone who may have more adaptability? I hope so. Will you get someone who doesn’t have to be taught what a good job is? I hope so. I can’t guarantee these things, but in my experience, a more mature candidate can be a great employee.
Don’t discriminate based on age or what you think the person requires for salary. At least do a phone screen. You won’t be able to hire someone cheap to work all hours, but remember, you get what you pay for. Don’t rule a candidate out because you saw the date he or she graduated from university. You might get someone with one year of experience many times, see What’s a Year of Experience? But you might just find a great candidate who can help your team jell and help create a great product. Ageism is not helpful. Don’t help make it part of our industry.