"I wouldn't recommend placing your college graduation date on that resume. You wouldn't want anyone to discriminate against you before they even get a chance to meet you."
That's the advice given by counselors at MUST Ministries in Georgia to job-seeking clients who are using the computer lab to create or revise their resumes. They're not alone. All over the country, that's common counsel given to older workers. Advisers know that age discrimination is real and impacts the gray-haired set's ability to find work.
Once a worker turns 40, they are considered part of the aging population. But that may be just when many are hitting their stride, and reaching the pinnacle of their professional skill set. While many companies focus on hiring hotshot, tech savvy Millennials, what could your business accomplish faster, more efficiently and with additional creativity fueled by employees in this more mature category? Probably a lot.
Here are my top 5 reasons to hire a "mature" employee:
Reason 1: They're a known quantity.
When hiring an older employee, you have access to tools like background checks and previous employment history. This is a great way to see if the potential hire can both talk the talk and walk the walk. With a quick scan of their work history, you can quickly determine a track record of loyalty. Do they job hop or were they a loyal and dedicated employee for their previous employers?
With graduates just entering the workforce, you are taking a risk. It is difficult to determine if they will appreciate the opportunity you are giving them or if they will leave quickly, after you invest in their training, onto what they perceive to be the next, more interesting job for them.
Reason 2: Their benefits costs less. (Yes, you read that right.)
That's right, I said less. Lots of people think a mature employee will bring higher benefits costs. This is simply not true.
In most cases, mature employees have few or no dependents to cover on their insurance. With Medicare eligibility beginning at age 65, these employees may even have their own insurance and choose not to participate in the company's benefits plan.
Depending on your company's policies, an older worker may not even require benefits coverage; in my experience, many mature employees prefer to work on a project basis or part time instead of full time.
Reason #3: They're flexible.
With no small children at home, mature employees are not rushing out at the end of the day to prepare dinner by 6pm or take their kids to soccer practice twice a week. They can work at times when other employees with family obligations may not be able to. That's a major benefit for many companies, like those who need to fill odd shifts outside of the typical 9 to 5 schedule.
Reason #4: They're wise.
Remember when you were a teenager and thought your parents didn't know anything? Then you grew up, got married, had kids of your own and before you knew it, you were on the phone asking your mom how to give medicine to your sick baby or calling your dad for advice on how to install a ceiling fan. Well, the same trajectory applies to business.
Consider the varied work experience a mature employee has. All the people they've met and the things they've learned over the years can still be applied in the business world today; many things in this world change, but people, at their core, remain the same.
Mature employees can mentor younger employees. Your team can benefit from the previous experiences of these seasoned workers. "Hey Bob, do you have any advice on how to handle a difficult customer?" or "Did you ever run into this problem when traveling on a business trip?" He probably did.
Reason #5: They're eager.
Mature employees are eager to learn new skills. Take my in-laws for example. My father-in-law still conducts business internationally and travels frequently to foreign countries. Anytime a new technology is introduced, he finds out everything he can about it and before long, he is using it as a new tool to assist in making his work more productive. My mother-in-law embraced Facebook as a way to connect with family and friends. She was bragging just the other day on Facebook about her new iPad. Before we could finish reading the post, our daughter's phone beeped: a request to FaceTime with her grandmother.
A person's age doesn't determine their ability to understand and apply new skills and technology--it's that person's DNA. Anecdotal evidence from colleagues tells me that the mature workers who are still actively employed tend to be those who want to continue learning new skills.
In order to be successful in this changed economy, we must embrace all aspects and personalities of the varied workforce. As the saying goes: "Age is just mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."