How Assessments Help Prevent Age Discrimination in Hiring

Prior research has shown how cues on resumes can lead to gender discrimination and racial discrimination in hiring.

A new study conducted by Derous and Decoster found that resumes can lead to another type of hiring bias: age discrimination.

age discrimination

How resumes can lead to age discrimination

Researchers Derous and Decoster asked 610 supervisors and managers to read a job description and then evaluate four equally qualified resumes that differed in:

  1. Name: old-sounding vs. modern
  2. Hobbies: old-fashioned (e.g., playing bridge) vs. modern (e.g., snowboarding)
  3. Date of birth: included vs. excluded (Note: This research was conducted in Belgium where it’s common for an applicant to include date of birth on their resume)

The results found that applicants with old-sounding names and old-fashioned hobbies and applicants with modern-sounding names and old-fashioned hobbies were rated as less suitable for the job than applicants with modern-sounding names and modern hobbies and old-sounding names and modern hobbies.

Counterintuitively, older managers rated applicants with old-sounding names and old-fashioned activities lower than younger managers did.

Derous explains that the ‘activity cue’ may be stronger than the ‘name cue’ because your name is generally given to you whereas you typically choose your hobbies and “managers might assume that your activities reflect certain life choices or even competencies.

How to help prevent age discrimination

To help prevent age discrimination during resume screening, Derous suggests companies:

I’ll go even further and argue you shouldn’t be relying on resumes to hire in the first place. When asked if resumes predict performance, Google’s SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock replied:

I haven’t seen anything to suggest they do. Resumes are a very poor information source.

So what should we be using to screen job applicants instead of resumes?

Job matching based on a scientific psychometric assessment. Compared to a resume, a personality assessment that uses cold, hard data doesn’t care what gender, race, and age you are. Companies that use personality assessments in their hiring have more diverse workplaces. A personality assessment is designed to only measure whether you have the job-related traits correlated with success in the role.

The takeaways

Age discrimination in hiring happens on both ends of the spectrum but a lot of the attention is focused on discrimination against older workers. Using a personality assessment helps avoid negative age-related stereotypes from biasing the hiring process.

In fact, research shows the personality traits that companies desire the most when they’re hiring – such as conscientiousness and agreeableness – tend to increase with age.

Conscientiousness increases with age

(Srivastava et al., 2003)

So if we want a less biased and more fair hiring process, we need to say good bye to the old process of resume-screening and hello to the new science of assessment and job matching.

Learn how Ideal Intelligent Shortlisting prevents age discrimination and encourages workplace diversity.

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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices in data-based recruitment. She writes about research and trends in talent acquisition, recruitment tech, and people analytics.
Ji-A Min