You are old, Father William, the young manager saidAnd your energy levels must be lowIn our fast moving industry with paradigm shiftsMost likely your brain is now slowIn my youth, said the sage, I sold up a stormBeing noisy, unguided and crassBut today it's quality I regard as my normSo I close 'em without being an ass(With apologies to Lewis Carroll)A recruitment consultant gets to hear many sad tales - companies with so much promise being mismanaged and going bust, others struggling for capital (why is it that our government pays such scant regard to helping IT com-panies get off the ground?), or people out of jobs because of a takeover and subsequent retrenchments.
And the problem is that very often the people out of the job are the ones who have the poorest chance of quickly finding another, no matter how good they might be. Having the right experience is not always the passport to ongoing success.
It is an absolute fact that it is illegal to discriminate against someone on the grounds of his or her age, but you would have to be naive to not realise that age does play a part in a recruitment process. That is not necessarily unreasonable - sometimes a company may have good reasons for wanting someone in the early stage of their career, or someone with existing battle scars, but what is unfair is when candidates get rejected before they have even had a chance to speak with the recruitment consultant, let alone the client, simply because they are perceived as being of an age where they probably "lack energy".
Again let's be realistic - sometimes candidates do lack obvious energy and enthusiasm, but these can be aged from twenty to sixty. However, quiet experience and maturity should not be mistaken for lack of ability - in fact experience usually equates to focus, which means a more productive employee simply because they've "been there, done that" and now know what not to do, as opposed to "let's give it a go and see how we do". This way the result is quality, not quantity, and the conclusion is reached sooner rather than later. Or the previous experience and maturity results in a much better level of customer or project management, with contentious issues being resolved sooner and with less angst.
What is also true, however, is that people who have been in senior roles, and who have been retrenched, should think carefully about whether they should accept a slight drop in position/salary in order to get a job with opportunity rather than hold out for a role at the same level they had before.
The higher up the ladder you go, the fewer the opportunities, and even highly skilled and competent people can find themselves battling to find another role. That is not necessarily the time to hold out for the same title and package you previously enjoyed after some years of working up the ladder in the one company.
So, the next time you're considering hiring for a position, don't automatically exclude anyone over a certain age from your thinking. They can not only bring experience to your company, you can also very often use their maturity to help build a better team spirit amongst the staff, by having them provide wise counsel behind the scenes.
I have always liked the story of the young bull and the old bull ambling through the countryside together. Reaching the top of a hill they spy a group of lovely cows grazing peacefully in the field below them.
"Quick," says the young bull, "let's rush down there and take one or two."
"No," says the old bull, "let's go down quietly, and take them all."
I rest my case.
Graham Young is the managing director and co-owner of recruitment agency Anagram International, which specialises in the IT industry.
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