Recruiting older workers

In this part of Work45+ we encourage employers to:

There’s also a handy section with links to these and other useful websites:

Employers and recruiters want confident and enthusiastic applicants.1 By putting into practice the recommendations on this page, you can help older job seekers retain and express their motivation and passion.

Know your responsibilities and your applicants’ rights

Before you start any recruitment, we recommend you look at our web pages “Age equality” and “Fostering age diversity in the workplace“.

Treat applicants as you would wish to be treated yourself

The following tips will help job applicants perform at their best in interviews.

  • Always be conscious of how your tone of voice might be interpreted.
  • Avoid language in job ads and interviews that suggests the job would best suit people of a particular age.
  • Avoid language in job ads and interviews that negatively stereotypes or jokes about people of a particular age.
  • Don’t ask a job applicant’s age, or make them feel they are expected to volunteer their age.
  • Don’t ask applicants about their retirement plans – there is no legislated retirement age in Australia.
  • On the other hand, don’t discourage applicants from discussing their plans for the future if they wish.
  • Believe an applicant who has worked at a high level if they tell you they would now prefer a lower level job.
  • Try to make sure at least one of the people on the interview panel is of a similar age to the applicant.

After the interview, always give feedback

One of the strongest disconnects between older job seekers and employers we heard during our consultations for Work45+1 related to job seeker confidence.

  • Employers said they were disappointed by older applicants’ lack of confidence and enthusiasm for the job.
  • Job seekers said they were motivated to find work but felt exhausted and demoralised by the lack of guidance and feedback they received when their applications were unsuccessful.

This misalignment can become a self-fulfilling prophesy, with some older job seekers eventually becoming so disillusioned they don’t even apply for jobs they would probably get. For example, some employers said they valued older workers and were prepared to offer training, yet they had a sense that many job seekers aged over 45 lacked the confidence to apply.1

If employment service providers, recruiters and employers want more confident and enthusiastic applicants, it’s important to make the relatively small investment required to give useful feedback to unsuccessful applicants. When you do this well, older job seekers will feel more positive about continuing to apply for work, instead of deciding no amount of effort will ever pay off. With the benefit of your polite and constructive comments, older job seekers may be able to present their skills and attributes more effectively and confidently in future applications and interviews.

If you’ve received many applications, it may not always be possible to provide more than an email advising those who have not been shortlisted. However, they deserve to be notified in a timely manner.

If an applicant has been strong enough to be shortlisted and interviewed, they have earned constructive feedback.

As HR specialist Dianne Underwood explains in the video below, in a place like Tasmania word quickly gets around if employers have poor recruitment practices. When that happens, you may struggle to find suitable applicants.

Your recruitment practices are a window to your business

Anne Kirkby-Fahey (AKF), Career Options Tasmania

Dianne Underwood (DU), formerly Federal Group

DU – One thing I’ve always stressed to my teams is be really good at the basics around recruitment. I often hear at the Saturday barbeque with friends… “Oh, I applied for this job and no-one got back to me” or “They wouldn’t tell me the dates”, “I didn’t understand what the process was about”, “They were telling me to come to an assessment centre: what is that?”. You know, it’s really basic fundamentals that you forget when you’re in that industry so my advice to employers, for anyone, would be to as soon as you get an application, respond to it. Be clear about what your process is going to be and what the dates are to make people feel comfortable and it saves you in the long run. It also helps your team if you are doing recruitment internally. Be very clear about what the expectations are of those people that you’re making decisions on their lives and the importance of responding respectfully to them and certainly, I know, my experience of friends and colleagues who’ve applied for jobs that are older, it’s really frustrating for them to be mucked around by places who don’t respond, and rightly so. And that’s probably a really good indication of the types of companies you don’t want to work for.

AKF – If you had the choice.

DU – If you had the choice, absolutely. So, my advice to employers would be you have to get your basics right.

AKF – And that takes planning. Pre-planning. It’s also very bad PR for organisations if they are doing recruitment and they don’t respond, or they don’t get back to people.

Resources to improve your recruitment practices

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Video credits
  • Anne Kirby-Fahey is a career coach and Board member of Career Options Tasmania.
  • Dianne Underwood is former People and Culture Manager at Wrest Point and Country Club Casinos. Dianne is on the boards of Colony 47 and Westpac Rescue Helicopter Tasmania.
  • Curtis, J, and Frith, C, 2019, Getting to Work: Mature Aged Work in Tasmania, a report for COTA Tasmania

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