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4 Techniques to Decrease Age Discrimination During Recruiting

Adrian Dixon

June 19, 2018

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With recent accusations against Intel and IBM and a new lawsuit alleging companies used Facebook ads to screen out older job seekers, age discrimination in hiring is making headlines.

age discrimination when hiring

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines age discrimination as “treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of his or her age.” In the U.S., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older.

According to Dice’s 2018 Diversity and Inclusion Report, a depressing 76% of respondents believe ageism exists in technology.

Research has shown that age discrimination at the screening phase does exist. One study that tested two job applicants aged 32 and 57 with equal qualifications found the older applicant received less positive responses from employers 41% of the time.

Here are 4 techniques to help avoid age discrimination during recruiting.

1. Use AI to reduce unconscious bias

Biases related to demographic information such as race, gender, and age can be triggered by information on a resume such as the candidate’s name, the schools they’ve attended, and the dates they’ve held previous positions.

AI can be programmed to reduce these types of biases by ignoring this information when screening resumes. The nice thing about AI is that unlike human biases, it’s much easier to audit and reduce those biases from algorithms if they’re found.

2. Reduce biased language in job descriptions

According to the Dice report, 40% of Gen Xers (aged 39-53) feel discouraged to apply for jobs due to their age.

Research has found that this discouragement might even start from the job description: wording used in job postings may be a barrier for attracting a diversity of candidates.

Phrases such as “new graduates welcome” are clearly age-targeted but less obvious wording such as “looking for a rock star” may also turn off older candidates.

3. Include age-related diversity in your employer branding

A Software Advice survey found that 51% of job applicants are more attracted to job postings that contain images and videos.

Create a media-rich career site with images and videos that demonstrate diversity in the age of your employees and leadership to help decrease age-related bias.

4. Use both older and younger interviewers

A recent study found that age-related cues on a resume (e.g., an “old-sounding” name or an “old-fashioned” hobby such as playing bridge), found that applicants with old-sounding names and old-fashioned hobbies (e.g, playing bridge) were rated as less suitable for the job than applicants with modern-sounding names and modern hobbies (e.g., snowboarding).

Counterintuitively, older managers rated applicants with old-sounding names and old-fashioned hobbies lower than younger managers did. To help prevent age discrimination during resume screening, the researchers suggest companies use a mix of young and old hiring managers to screen resumes.