Stereotypes have prevailed. Hiring managers often still view older applicants as having lower job performance, higher absenteeism and accident rates, and less ability to solve problems and adapt to changes. But Capelli said research has found older workers outpace younger ones in nearly every metric. And in jobs where age might be a detriment — say, a highly physical job beyond a particular older person’s ability — seniors tend to exclude themselves from applying in the first place.
“The evidence is overwhelming that they’re better,” Cappelli said. “But the hiring managers are just going with their guts, and our guts are full of prejudice.”
Paul Lugo, 69, of Kendall Lakes, Fla., has felt that prejudice. After decades of work in business development and customer service at various companies, Lugo found himself unemployed about two years ago. He needs the money, but no one wants to hire him.
“I’ve been to every mall, I’ve gone to the TSA, I’ve gone through thousands of applications,” he said, “but I get the same thing: ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you.’”
Lugo relies on occasional jobs as an extra in movies and television shows to supplement his Social Security check. He has even offered on job interviews to work for free for a week to prove he’s worth hiring, but no one has taken him up on it.
“With my experience, I’ve learned so much,” he said. “As a senior citizen, I have a lot to contribute to a company if they allow me, but they never give me a chance.”
But older workers are just what Michelle Benjamin, CEO of TalentREADY, a New York-based consulting firm, is looking for. She holds open houses specifically aimed at recruiting them. About three-quarters of the company’s senior employees are over 50. They often cost more to hire, Benjamin said, but they don’t require much training or supervision, and end up paying for themselves with the quality of work.