HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — Age discrimination exists. It is alive and well in so many industries, some more than others. Sometimes I think healthcare is in the “some” category.
Talent selection seems to be governed by conventional wisdom — that is to say if you are old you must be slow, technologically inept, forgetful, inefficient, set in your ways… the list (read: excuses) goes on and on. When I talk with corporate recruiters, here is what I hear: We want someone who will fit in, we want to hire someone who will stick around… I have heard all of that before, and more.
In the interest of transparency, I am now a man of a certain age and after years of listening to those vague age discrimination “selection criteria” statements, I have come to understand that recruiters who discriminate on the basis of age are if not thoughtless, at least sadly misguided.
I apologize. Let me rephrase my assessment: those recruiters are victims of “conventional wisdom” and the problem with conventional wisdom is that it is seldom right.
The bigger problem is that most recruiters are “order takers.” They are not always willing to challenge their client or, if they are internal, their boss, to hire the right person, versus the conventional wisdom of hiring someone who is bright, energetic, current, someone who ‘gets it’, someone who will stay a long time. Not to preach, but a person’s age is not a reflection of their ability to do the job, and many older candidates are just as bright, they are just older and more seasoned with a wealth of experience and solutions that only having been around a while – and having seen it before – can offer.
Listen to what they have to say. Listen to how they respond to your questions and then think about their experience and their potential. Do not be blindsided by conventional wisdom. Please do not fall into true age trap.
Some older executives cannot cut it. True. But there are many more who can.
Just ask any Brit about Winston Churchill. He was a 64 when he rallied, with great emotion and style, the United Kingdom against the forces of Fascism. If the UK had fallen into the age trap in recruiting a leader, the Battle of Britain might not have ended with such courage and glory.