5 Reasons You Should Hire an Older Worker
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed a proclamation stating, “We all know grandparents whose values transcend passing fads and pressures, and who possess … wisdom…” In that same document, he set aside the first Sunday in September as National Grandparents Day.
A lot has changed since then. Today’s grandparents are not only living longer, healthier lives. They’re living in a digital age that has made it easier than ever for our grandparents to learn new things quickly, share their observations and ideas more broadly, and participate in a vibrant, fast-moving workplace. Jimmy Carter himself, now age 92, has been famously described as moving from the U.S. Presidency to “far greater things,” continuing to serve others as a visionary leader, continuous learner, and hands-on contributor throughout the later stages of his life.
So the next time you see a resume with an unusually long work history or you’re startled to discover that the candidate you’re interviewing is sporting a shock of gray hair and a sweet set of wrinkles to go with it, take that candidate seriously. They may be the best hire you ever made. Here are my top 5 reasons for hiring older workers.
1. They bring the wisdom that comes from rich and varied experience.
Unless you’re interviewing people for the NFL or other work that requires heavy, physical labor, years of experience don’t decline in value as they grow. Treat this person’s resume as you would anyone else’s. Look at the types of jobs they’ve held in the past, ask what their key accomplishments were, how they achieved them how those skills translate to the job you’re trying to fill. Then listen for the layers of depth and wise perspective this person is likely to share with you. If they were a supervisor in their twenties and a midlevel manager in their forties, they’ve developed a refined understanding of what motivates people to do their best (and what doesn’t). There’s an ugly little myth circulating about the senior workforce. It goes something like this: “they’re so set in their ways.” If you’re interviewing someone with solid experience, an eager and curious approach to new challenges, and an authentic interest in the job, you’re talking to a front runner.
2. They’ve got a track record.
Unlike the eager but untested new graduate, the mature worker has been to battle and emerged victorious, several times. Look at their work history. Use background checks. Talk to their references. Where did they work the longest? Where were there breaks in employment – and why? What were their greatest strengths? How eager were they to embrace new processes and systems and technologies?
3. Their interpersonal skills are likely superior.
What did people do before texting, emailing and constant phone access? At work, they looked each other in the eye and talked. In whole and meaningful sentences. It’s a dying art, friend. An older worker can breathe new life into it – to the benefit of your entire team. Great leaders – of any era – are able to connect with people on a personal level. If you need strong interpersonal leadership, look into the eyes of that older candidate.
4. They’re more likely to want this job.
Older workers are more likely to be applying for the jobs that will bring them genuine satisfaction (and, to a lesser degree, a paycheck that’s commensurate with the role). They’re not eyeing the job as a stepping stone to your job or the one above yours. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 54% of workers age 65 and older are “completely satisfied” with their jobs, in stark contrast to only 29% of workers between the ages of 16 and 64. Furthermore, 54% of these 65+ employees are working because they want to, not because they need the paycheck. What does all of this mean for you, the hiring manager. It means you’re far more likely to retain this person longer, saving you the costs of recruiting, hiring, onboarding and training new hires – and the other headaches associated with employee turnover.
5. They’re unfettered, focused and flexible.
Older workers, especially those in the 65+ set are less likely to have small children depending on them at home. No school commutes, homework dramas or softball practices leave older workers free to put their focus where they please. They can arrive early or stay late – in a way that blends in quite comfortably with your millennial employees.