Prioritize the person before their age

December 18, 2017

Today, we live longer, we are healthier, we continuously educate ourselves throughout our lives and mental age is becoming more fluid. Career-wise we also see large trends; interim employment on the rise, it is more common to change roles and also change employer more frequently. To also entirely change career mid-life is no longer part of the exception.

At the same time, however, studies show that it is more difficult to change jobs when you grow older and many experiences that it is harder to move on, even as early as the age of 40.

This is also something we can see in our recruitment assignments. Our clients often want someone who has experience, drive, digital fluency and an ability to think in new ways. And they think the candidates are likely to be around 35-40 years. This is an equation that does not always match up.

When presenting candidates, we often have those with more junior in experience and those who are more senior. Unfortunately, these are not always called for an interview. As for those with more experience, they have often actively applied for the position themselves. They have already had a good career with overall responsibility and are now looking to take on a specialist role, wanting to focus on a more specific area perhaps and feel valued as well as feel that they can contribute and apply all their previously gained experience to the benefit of the company.

So why are they not advancing in the recruitment process? I don’t think it’s just about age but more of an uncertainty about how to appropriately deal someone with such a substantial background and the unconscious biases about that type of person. The explanations we receive from our clients are that they don’t believe the person will be motivated enough to stay on, that they probably want a more strategic role, that they do not offer new ways of thinking or that they do not have the ambition and drive, or the digital knowledge required.

As a recruiter, we must continue to present these candidates and our clients must dare take the step of taking them onboard. It’s important to see the benefits instead of raising problems that are many times not even real, but more misconceptions of how someone is.

Today, a non-linear career is becoming more common switching between different types of roles from a generalist to a specialist role, going from one area to another. Most of us will have a much longer professional life than previous generations. As we live longer, we will also have to work longer and at age 40, we might only be at a third of our working lives.

A diverse group of people and varying perspectives is something companies should aim for. It is the best thing for your business results, group dynamics and individual performance. The best groups are not homogenous, as we all know, but those where individuals complement and add to each other. This applies to age, sex, personality, and experience, among other things.

We should not be so afraid of experience and age. Instead, we should learn to better use it. Curiosity, ability to think new and drive is not age-related but more person-related. Today, companies are increasingly working on a cross-functional and agile basis, allowing people to more easily change areas in which they work. A senior person learning from a more junior and vice versa, that should be our end goal. That is when we leverage the dynamics of the company in the best way and new ways of thinking are realised. That is where we get results.

Sonnica Frändberg Researcher at Harvey Nash

Sonnica Frändberg, Senior researcher
M: +46 730 95 71 02