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Is the workforce ageist against experienced employees?

Many recent graduates entering the workforce are often told their lack of experience is a deterrent in getting a job in their desired industry. While they may possess the proper education and a solid theoretical understanding of the field, employers may be reluctant to train an applicant from scratch who has no practical experience. Increasingly, even job descriptions listed as “entry-level” require a few years of work experience.

While the workforce seems to be getting more cut-throat for the younger, less experienced generation of workers, there is evidence of similar discrimination against older workers with a wealth of experience. Based on the above rationale to exclude applicants with insufficient experience from consideration, the decision to weed out highly experienced candidates is somewhat baffling. What is the root of this tendency?

Reasons for employment ageism

Rather than using tangible grounds for disqualification, a hiring manager may overlook an experienced applicant based on their own personal biases and assumptions surrounding what a candidate’s age and experience mean.

If a job is ostensibly beneath the applicant, it may cause the hiring manager to question the implications of hiring the applicant. Will they get bored? Will they stick around, or are they just looking for a placeholder job until the next big opportunity comes along? Will they be flexible to change, or have their decades of experience given them a fixed idea of how things should be run? Would it feel strange for an older employee to report to a boss who is much younger?

Is ageism legal?

Hiring managers need to understand that there are many reasons an experienced worker would be willing to take a job that is a step down from what they did previously. Perhaps a worker has decided to embark on a new career path mid-way through their career. Perhaps they have decided to steer into a position that provides greater work-life balance. Jumping to conclusions about an applicant based on age is neither fair nor legal.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has made it illegal to discriminate against any applicant based on age (40 and above). Knowing your rights is the first step to protecting yourself in the face of workplace discrimination.

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