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Forget Millennials—Why You Should Hire Someone Over 55

Source | FastCompany : By Gwen Moran

If Silicon Valley companies are supposed to shy away from hiring people with gray hair, no one told Maggie Leung.

The senior director of content at NerdWallet, a San Francisco-based financial information website, has made a point of seeking out experienced hires since she joined the company in 2013. She was “immediately at least 15 years older than most people” at the roughly 50-person firm, which has since grown to more than 300 people.

“When considering applicants, we look for candidates with experience at outlets with high standards. This tends to include older people, because they often spent years working to reach that level,” she says. Since her arrival, Leung has added about a dozen people over age 55 to her team.

THE 55-PLUS JOB SCENE

While the unemployment rate for people age 55-plus was just 3.9% in March 2016, there are also some harsher realities for mature workers.

Labor force participation in this age group was just north of 40% in March 2016, versus 81.5% of people aged 25 to 54, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

Forty-five percent of job seekers 55-plus were out of work for 27 weeks or more in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A 2015 report by AARP found that almost half (48%) of the re-employed respondents said that they were earning less in their current jobs than their most recent job before unemployment.

And while those numbers paint a pretty dismal picture, there are two contradictory trends going on, says Ruth Finkelstein, associate director of theRobert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center at Columbia University. People are staying in the workforce longer for a variety of reasons, which includes enjoying their jobs, wanting to delay retirement, being healthy and physically able to do so, or economic reasons.

But if you lose your job after age 55, it can be much harder to find another one, she says. Finkelstein says that research indicates employers worry about older workers’ ability to perform job functions or their health care costs. But overlooking the benefits of hiring older workers is being shortsighted, she adds.

UNDERESTIMATED VALUE

Mature workers offer some important advantages, including staying in their jobs longer, Finkelstein says. BLS data backs this up. The 2014 Employee Tenure Report found that 58% of older workers had 10 or more years of tenure compared to an average of 37.3% of people in their 40s. That loyalty can mean lower turnover costs.

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