Every time we are hiring someone I ask this question in my mind. Right now I am 34 years old and I am not that young myself and put myself more in the shoes of older people looking for a job. In this post I am going to talk about one of my concerns how I feel about it.
What’s the situation?
The average age of people working for me is about 25 years; that’s young! It may be related to the fact that we are working on a tech-related business. Every time I see someone’s resume who is more than 50 years old I doubt their abilities in working with technology, and I think that is the definition of ageism. I tend to give more opportunities to younger applicants and even have less expectations from them. I am sure many other managers also do the same and don’t mind it.
What are the motives?
To me, it comes not only from assumptions but also from some (in my mind rightful) rationalizations. I assume that younger people have less time to prove themselves, so if there are two people with different ages and same job experience I tend to choose the younger one. It sounds very logical to choose the younger one, because the older person probably wasted more time, but it also means I am not giving the older applicant the chance to prove themselves. Can we assume that just because someone wasted their past, they are likely to do it to their future? I would say that statistically we can! but the problem is that we can judge people with stats.
Older people also had less time to be exposed to technology. Depending on how old they are, they spent most of their life in the absence of things like computers, smart phones and mobiles and again statistically it means that they are less likely to know them.
Are we allowed to hire based on stats?
This is where I stop. I don’t have an answer to this question. Some may assert that it is not even a question and the answer is obviously no! but it is more complicated than that. We base all our decisions on stats, experiences and assumptions. That’s how we trust people, otherwise we had to spend months testing each person individually. It leads to another question: “Should we trust people even if based on stats and logic they are probably going to fail us?”
This is more of an ethical issue than the matter of right choice for your business. It is choosing between the right thing ethically and the most efficient way of hiring.
Is ageism really a thing?
It sure is. If we oppose dissemination of any type, we should oppose ageism as well. However, the problem with condemning ageism is that we can more easily rationalize our way around it. We accept the fact that old people are less capable and that is hard to disprove. We see all types of articles disproving sexism by showing women abilities of disproving racism by talking about ethnic groups and their achievements, but there are rarely come across an article about how old people can do things better. Apparently it is right:
“There is no country for old people”
* image by Glenn Carstens-Peters