Younger recruiters more likely to choose candidates their own age, study finds

Report warns hiring managers could be helping to perpetuate ageism in the workplace, as experts urge firms to adopt ‘age-supportive’ employment policies

Younger HR professionals are far more likely to prefer hiring candidates their own age, research has found, raising concerns that recruitment decisions could be helping to perpetuate ageism in the workplace.

The survey of people professionals and older workers, conducted by ProAge and 55/Redefined, found that only a quarter (24 per cent) of HR leaders aged between 25 and 30 said they were very willing or motivated to recruit workers aged 55 to 75.

In comparison, almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of HR professionals aged 46 to 50 were very willing or motivated to hire workers over the age of 55.

In addition, the research found that more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of over-55s felt the job market was closed to them, despite one in four wanting to work into their eighties.

A quarter (24 per cent) of over-55s felt forced to retire before they wanted to, while three in five (60 per cent) said it was difficult to apply for a job in their chosen career.

The report also highlighted barriers for older workers in their existing roles. Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of employed people over the age of 55 said they weren’t getting leadership training, while a third said they had lost interest in their job due to lack of development opportunities.

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The research surveyed 257 workers and retirees aged between 55 and 75 and 202 HR directors and CEOs.

Lyndsey Simpson, founder and chief executive of 55/Redefined, said HR leaders and managers needed to address workplace bias urgently. “Our research reveals that over-55s want to work and progress, but feel shut out, forced out or overlooked when it comes to their later life careers,” she said.

“Worryingly, our study found that age discrimination is being perpetuated by the people that control HR policy and standards. This could perhaps be an unintended consequence of focusing exclusively on other protected diversity and inclusion characteristics.

"At a time when we are all living and working longer, it is in all our interests to stamp out this unfair and unacceptable discrimination,” she said.

Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, said that like other forms of discrimination, ageism in the workplace was usually due to “subconscious bias as recruiters seek to hire 'people like them' and subconsciously disregard the skills and cultural differences of other groups.”

But, an increasing number of employers are beginning to recognise “that age diversity and age-supportive employment policies are essential to ensure the sustainability and health of their future workforce”, Lewis said.

55/Redefined and ProAge recommended firms create flexible roles that appeal to over-55s, invest in technical training and reskilling and hire based on soft skills, behaviour, motivation, and cultural fit criteria.