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How employers can make recruitment more age-inclusive

It should never be the case that a person who wants a job cannot find work. This is particularly true in a labour market where there are a record number of job vacancies (1.3 million). And yet, there are people that would like to work who cannot get a job due to recruitment practices that exclude certain candidates.

Older jobseekers are one of the groups that are overlooked due to standard recruitment practices. Of the working-age people who have been economically inactive for the past three months, over 70% are aged 50-64.

Many of these people will be out of work due to retirement, illness or caring responsibilities, however one in five economically inactive people state that they want to work but cannot find a job.

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Research has found that during the Covid-19 pandemic, more older workers were furloughed than younger employees, and have faced greater challenges in finding work.

With job vacancies on the rise, prospective candidates aged over 50 are often overlooked due to age bias in recruitment. A survey of 2,000 older workers found that more than half felt they had experienced ageism in the application process, and a third during the interview process while applying for jobs.

Employers may have misconceptions about the candidates’ interest in developing their careers, as well as assumptions about their skills and adaptability.

Recruitment portals filled with images of younger workers or particular language used in job descriptions can also put older workers off from applying, leading businesses to miss out on much-needed talent.

The impact of this cannot be overstated. A recent article suggested that an exodus of older workers is a contributing significantly to businesses struggling to recruit – which is likely to drive wage inflation and contribute to a future recession.

Business in the Community (BITC) believes that a key solution to this challenge is for businesses to change the way they recruit. BITC’s Opening Doors campaign is calling on employers to open their doors to untapped talent, by adopting inclusive recruitment practices which ensure jobseekers from all backgrounds can access employment opportunities.

Businesses that sign up to the campaign commit to specific actions across five key principles of inclusive recruitment:

  • Create partnerships which connect people from disadvantaged groups to your jobs
  • Show candidates that you’re committed to inclusion
  • Make sure job descriptions and adverts are comprehensive and use inclusive language
  • Focus on the essential skills and capabilities that are needed to do the job
  • Prioritise accessibility and eliminate bias

It can be resource-intensive for employers to make changes to their recruitment processes. However, it is a worthwhile investment because these principles will help businesses to fill vacancies, by opening up employment opportunities to disadvantaged jobseekers, including older workers.

In the face of stark warnings about the cost of living, wage inflation and a future recession, the benefits of inclusive recruitment will be felt across business and society.

Charlotte Gibb is employment and skills campaign manager at Business in the Community