“Age discrimination has many stereotypes,” says Ryan, a leading career expert who often appears on CNN, NBC News, and “Dr. Phil.” After surveying hundreds of decision makers, Robin Ryan’s has identified these stereotypes about hiring older workers.
Stereotype: Declining productivity levels
Decision makers note that they have witnessed a decrease in productivity with older workers. Some said a significant decrease. Managers say they want someone who can contribute now, not someone who did a lot 10 years ago.
Stereotype: Being overqualified
Employers worry about this issue. Many older jobseekers say they are willing to start lower and work their way up, but this often seems like an act of desperation and an out-of-touch, dated response to the hiring managers who hear it. Additionally, the overqualified person is often believed to want the manager’s job, and that causes major concern. Recruiters often think the candidate sees the job opening as temporary until he or she can find a better position.
Stereotype: An applicant looks and acts OLD
Most over-40 job hunters don’t realize how off-putting their appearance can be. A CEO from a major company noted, “There is a presumption that if your look is out-of-date, your information and skills are also out-of-date.” On the other hand, sometimes people forget to act their age. They try too hard to look trendy, young, and hip, and it backfires.
A top-level HR vice president said, “We see too many people who are over 40 showing up at an interview and actually losing the job 10 seconds into the interview. They seem to have lost their enthusiasm for life, let alone the job, and when they walked through the door they look defeated and burned out.”
Ryan has found that many employers commented that a bad attitude was often the reason they skipped over hiring someone over 40.
Despite these stereotypes, hiring managers did point out several very positive characteristics of more mature workers, says Ryan, including:
- Having a superior work ethic
- Being loyal to their employers
- Acting as mentors to others
- Being dependable—showing up every day ready to work.
- Their kids are typically older or grown, thus they can work flexible hours.