Hiring has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels, though it is accelerating at a modest pace. But when the pandemic is over and businesses resume onboarding new staff, who stands the better chance of getting hired: the younger worker with less experience and relatively little specialization, or the devoted senior level careerist with a long and successful track record?
At the moment, it appears that older workers have the slight edge in hiring. Not necessarily in all situations, but in many cases the experience of the mature worker is more attractive to employers. This isn’t to say that younger applicants will not get a fair shot at positions being sought. In many sectors the preference for newly trained, younger employees will continue strongly. However older workers with more experience tend to have a better understanding of the ups and downs of business, having likely already experienced economic downturns, layoffs and other obnoxious circumstances, and therefore are believed to be better prepared for the constant changes we are experiencing under Covid-19.
There are multiple lines of reasoning behind the preference for more seasoned workers. Employers know that loyalty and flexibility are two of the hallmarks of older staff. They know that mature workers are not as likely to freak out if the economy tanks, as they can generally better withstand financial obstacles brought on by furloughs, business closures, etc. because by this point in their lives they hopefully have some kind of nest egg to fall back on.
Mature workers tend to be more rounded in their perspectives, having had the chance to participate in or at least observe many facets of industry – their own, and industry in general – in the course of their lengthy careers, and can more easily recognize the perspectives and needs of other departments and stakeholders, as well as spot trends and industry shifts. Those with longer track records generally need less supervision and managerial oversight, can be trusted to work independently as well as collaboratively, and function well within deadlines.
Experienced workers tend to prefer clear, concise communication rather than play with colloquial shorthand that is frequently used in many industries. Jargon in many industries evolves necessitating their preference for clear instructions, defined expectations, deadlines, benchmarks, etc. When all parties understand what is needed, the outcomes are more likely to be positive!
It is also incumbent upon older applicants to convey that they not only have the skills and industry knowledge being sought, but also the strength and stamina required to keep up with the volume of work to be done and coworkers who are participating in the completion of the same projects.
Some employers may fear that more seasoned workers may not be as up-to-date with their tech and software skills as younger workers. Unless the applicant has been away from the work world for over a year or two, that fear is unfounded. Albeit that there may be new iterations of the software or tools the applicant has used before, it is unlikely that the tools have changed so dramatically as to necessitate new training. In fact, because of their work history, it is entirely possible that a more mature worker can hit the ground running faster than a newcomer, as well as they can more quickly get caught up on tools and software because of their existing familiarity with them. And the longevity of their careers has often given them multiple perspectives on how to achieve certain goals, possibly differently but nonetheless as effective as the ones the company is currently using.
Certainly at this time, in the middle of the Covid-19 Pandemic, there are added risks to hiring older workers. In addition to the fact that they may be more susceptible to catching the virus, they may have family members who are also higher risk and therefore may need to minimize direct contact with others, may have to make arrangements for additional protections or PPE, or may need to work remotely. Regardless of where the work is to be done, employers should make whatever arrangements that will enable an older worker to be productive and participate in the goals of the company, just like everyone else.
These days, as folks are living and working longer, it behooves employers to give rightful consideration to older workers for their openings. Just like any other candidate, if the older applicant has the skills and experience to do the job well, they should be given equal consideration. And just maybe their lengthy work histories and prior accomplishments will be just the thing to tilt the odds in their favor. So, right now, the odds are pretty good.