While many organisations have strategies in place to be more inclusive of all genders, races and those of different sexualities, age can often be forgotten. A global survey by AARP last year states that 53% of organisations do not include age in their organisation’s workforce diversity and inclusion strategy.
The best way to avoid unconscious age biases or discrimination is through training, set hiring procedures and awareness at the interview stage and beyond.
Cpl encourages people from all backgrounds, age groups and nationalities to apply for roles and this mix has really added value to our success, growth and development as a business over the years. Speaking to Jenn Roche, Cpl's internal TA manager she advises:
“At Cpl our staff span over 4 decades in terms of age, from 21 upwards. Many recruiters join us at the beginning of their careers and learn directly from our experienced managers and leadership team – some of whom have been with Cpl for 20 years plus. It’s also so important that we encourage creativity and sharing of invaluable ideas from new generations coming through Cpl. It’s a real win-win.”
So how can you be sure to avoid age bias in a job interview and attract a diverse range of talent?
Interview techniques to avoid age bias
We all think and feel differently, and we all have an element of unconscious bias that may impact who we hire and who we promote.
For example, if you are a man in your 40s and interview another man in their 40s it’s likely you’ll have some things in common and form more of a connection than if you were to interview a younger or older person.
There are ways to limit age biases, particularly during interviews. Other than being the right thing to do, the benefits of this are clear – fairer interviewing processes, more diverse teams, continuous innovation and better company culture.
We’ve collected some best practices which you can implement when hiring and interviewing below:
How can we stop age bias in hiring?
Avoid googling candidates and do a phone interview first
Remove the option for visual bias by stopping yourself from googling each potential employee until after you’ve had a phone interview.
This helps minimise any visual or age-based biases and allows you to focus on the person's talent, experience and communication skills. Using ‘blind CV’s’ with age and gender removed can also be really helpful.
Have a mixed age and gender interview panel
Don’t rely on just one opinion. Invite colleagues to join you on an interview panel (2/3 people) and have at least one female interviewer for a female candidate if possible.
Asking junior staff to sit on interview panels can also provide helpful insights, especially if they’re the people who will be working with the person.
Mix up where you advertise job posts
Where do you currently find your talent? Different age groups will often use different platforms to find new job opportunities so think carefully about where you advertise live roles. By diversifying your job adverts you’re more likely to get a wider pool of candidates applying.
For example, use a mix of online and offline. Likewise, make sure the imagery you use showcases a range of ages to attract both young and old. If you’re working with a recruitment agency emphasise age (and other kinds of) diversity as a goal when hiring.
Ask for feedback from the people you interview
After the interview process, ask successful and unsuccessful interviewees how they found the process. Asking for feedback will help you see the process from the perspective of the interviewee and help you improve future interviews and interactions.
For example, you might notice common feedback from one age group that you could alter to make the process friendlier for this demographic.
Consider what requirements you really need
Many companies will list years of experience or the necessity for a university degree. Consider whether these are actually valuable to the role or whether you are listing them out of habit.
For example, are there certain soft skills that are more important? If you would rather keep education and years of experience why not list them under the ‘nice to have’ section rather than ‘must have’.
Similarly, don’t assume someone has “too many” years of experience or is too qualified. If they are applying there could be a good reason why they want to take a step down or a lateral move.
Use interview scorecards or a score sheet
A scorecard standardises questions and helps focus on the key skills needed to succeed in a role. They also help avoid interviewers swaying towards a candidate simply because they like or don’t like them.
For example, if you are marking each applicant on 5 different areas it will be easier to compare each person fairly afterwards. You might also notice you’re better at judging certain criteria, while a colleague is more in tune with other criteria.
Cultural fit and personality can also be listed on a scorecard, but it should not be the defining factor.
Mull it over
Give yourself time to think about your decision. A gut feeling can be powerful, but you don’t want to make a decision based solely on instinct.
Review each applicants’ strengths, weaknesses, and potential alongside your colleagues’ opinions. Give yourself at least an hour to consider a decision.
Retaining a diverse age range of employees
Ask for suggestions and ideas from junior team members. This is particularly important in a remote work setting where communication is less flowing.
Invest in technology that facilitates communication. For example, Microsoft Teams which we use within Cpl or other platforms such as Slack.
Create a workplace that is open to different ways of working. It can be a good idea to include a dedicated space for knowledge sharing to facilitate this. For example, a dedicated channel on your chosen communications platform or an anonymised survey.
Host awareness-raising events. Include speakers and contributors from different generations to these events and within your CSR and diversity and inclusion plans.
Encourage ‘reverse mentoring'. We support a number of clients with their mentoring and D&I programmes, and they all have realised the benefits in terms of talent retention, development and reduced attrition.
Speaking about the value of reverse mentoring CEO of AXA, Guillaume Cabrere sums up the benefits of a multi-generational workplace nicely:
“It’s mutually beneficial. Of course, the senior execs learn stuff. But the younger generation also gets direct access to some of our top leaders and can benefit from their advice and insights, even outside of the program.”
Finally, keep the topic of age inclusivity top of mind through regular workshops, training, sharing relevant content and tips or inviting speakers from different age groups in to speak about their experiences.
If you’re interested in learning more about creating a diverse and inclusive workplace or would like to talk about any of the ideas mentioned in this piece get in touch, our D&I Lead Siobhan would be happy to advise.