How Hiring Managers Can Combat Ageism in the Hiring Process

This is the second in a four-part investigative series on age discrimination in the hiring process.

In our last article we shared the prevalence of age discrimination against older workers in the U.S. workforce. Workers 50+ are concerned that their age hurts their chances of getting hired and research shows that those fears are warranted.

But like disability, race, national origin, and gender, age is a protected category in hiring under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In plain terms: it is illegal to discriminate against employees based on age, whether the perception is that they are young or old.

And because you are a well-meaning, thoughtful individual, we estimate that age discrimination is something you would like to actively avoid–not only because it is illegal but also because it is simply unfair and indecent.

It’s important to do our part in educating ourselves on the hidden ways ageism can manifest in the hiring process. In an effort to renew your commitment to avoiding ageism in the hiring process at your company, implement these five recommendations.

How Hiring Managers Can Combat Ageism in the Hiring Process

  1. Be mindful of the language you use. The following words signal that you may have age specifications in mind: “digital native,” “energetic,” and “high-potential.”

  2. Don’t include test score or GPA requirements in a job posting. Minimum scores are only relevant to recent graduates. Requesting scores signals that you are looking for a candidate that has recently completed college or graduate school.

  3. Be careful of the gray area between culture fit and age discrimination. Age discrimination can often be masked as “culture fit.” Flesh out why someone appears to not be a culture fit. Is it because he is the only candidate who has gray hair? If you are sure it’s about personality or soft skills, double check your motives to make sure there are not biases and assumptions that have crept in under the surface.

  4. Consider using an objective evaluation form after each interview. This will help make sure you clearly articulate the skills and experience of the candidates fairly across the board. That way you can compare candidates using an identical measurement system, no matter their perceived age.  

  5. Don’t check social media. While it’s common to check out candidates on social media to make sure they present themselves in a professional manner online, don’t do this until after you meet a candidate in person. By snooping on their social media before that first interview, you may accidentally have implicit bias based on perceived age.

Age discrimination can be eliminated with a thoughtful and sensitive approach in the hiring process. It begins with an awareness of the issue and a proactive approach to avoiding it.

Our exploration of age discrimination first originated in the 2019 marketing hiring trends report. Download the full report on trends in the marketing hiring landscape here.

by McKinley Marketing Partners