On a recent Sunday afternoon, I was shopping in a hipster travel accessories store in San Francisco. As I entered, three twentysomethings who were hanging by the cash wrap greeted me and offered help if I needed it. What I overheard next stopped me in my tracks and has been on my mind ever since.

I was contentedly browsing for a Sonic travel toothbrush when I heard the manager say to the two other sales associates, "That woman I interviewed for the job...She's not going to work out. She was great and could have done the job, but I'm not going to manage some 40-year-old. She'd never fit in. Just look at us. We're all about the same age."

I literally stopped and stared because I was kind of in shock. Um, hasn't she heard of ADEA? And, by the way, I'm a fortysomething myself so I guess if I were qualified, she wouldn't hire me either. I ended up finding my toothbrush, paying for it and leaving, but I really wanted to let this manager know that she:

1) Could have been practicing age discrimination

2) Could have been losing out on a really great employee who was good at selling. (After all, that's the job, right?)

What was she afraid of? Was she insecure or just uncomfortable or just wanted to work with people she could relate to? It reminded me that at my e-mail marketing company, VerticalResponse, we spend a ton of time and energy to find the best employee for the job. I don't bat an eye if the person is 26 or 66 years old. If you've got the skills and know-how and want to be part of our culture, then c'mon in.

Here are a few tips to help you cull what could be your next great hire.

Put the Job in Job Description

When presented with a hiring opportunity, many companies just whip together a job description and get it out as fast as they can. They need a body and they need it pronto. Yikes! Make sure you put as much thought into your job descriptions as you do any product or service you offer. You want to attract A players who will love your company and love what they do. Will they be attracted by a snooze-ville job description? Not.

Kick the typical bullet pointed list to the curb and replace it with some personality. It'll help your company culture shine through from the start and bring better matched candidates to your door. We recently revamped our listings and have seen a huge spike in the number of quality potential employees that came calling.

Keep an Open Mind

While your hiring manager may have an ideal candidate in mind, make sure you all keep an open mind throughout the process. Screen applications and be open to a variety of personalities, skill sets and backgrounds. You may find your perfect match isn't who you first thought it would be.

For instance, a friend who runs a retail store selling baby clothes thought that high school students could make for great sales associates given many were working for the first time and were full of enthusiasm and energy. Then she hired a few grandmothers because she saw potential and they had much greater flexibility in their schedules. The grandmothers outsold the high schoolers 10-1.

Why? They were able to leverage their personal experiences when helping all the mothers and other grandmothers who came in to buy clothes and gifts. It's not a matter of age, per se, as it is who is the best fit for the job based on their skills and abilities. A teenager who had experience babysitting or working with babies and kids could easily have been a great fit, too.

By making sure you know what you need done and keeping an open mind about who can do it, you may just land your next great hire.

What other advice would you add? Share in the comments.

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