Older MICE job applicants are likely to face age discrimination, says Dawn Penfold, president, Meetingjobs. But the reasons why are not what you think.
“I feel that there absolutely is age discrimination in our industry,” said MICE recruitement powerhouse Dawn Penfold, speaking at a recent Prevue webinar. She should know: as president of Meetingjobs (a Cadre company), Penfold keeps a keen eye on the nuances of the job market. But the elephant in the room isn’t about age per se, Penfold said. “I would rephrase age discrimination as experience discrimination,” she proposed. The differences drill down to the bottom line and the perceptions of recruiters.
What Experience Discrimination Means
According to Penfold, the reasons companies may not want to hire applicants 60 years of age or beyond, are often due to:
1. Salary perceptions. An industry professional with 20 or more years of experience is perceived as likely to demand a higher salary than a less experienced applicant.
2. Work perceptions. A job applicant who has “been there, done that” handling the nitty gritty meeting planning details of packing boxes, sorting badges and so on, is often perceived as unwilling to do the hands-on work.
3. Technology perceptions. Older workers are believed to be tech-shy and not tech-savvy.
Job Search Strategies
However, there are strategies for older job applicants to combat experience discrimination, said Penfold. “Before an interview, write a clever cover note saying you are strong in technology,” she advised. During the interview, she added, proactively talk about your technology proficiency. As well, those looking for an operations position should emphasize their interest in hands-on and on-site work. “Make a sincere effort to say that you are not looking for a management position, and that you thrive on the operations aspect of the job. Show your proficiency and that you are seriously willing to do the work.”
And, since the higher salary demands of experienced applicants are an issue with recruiters, Penfold recommended that older job seekers lower those expectations by not listing more than 15 years of experience on their resumes. “Leave out details of the earlier jobs,” she said, “and summarize the prior experience in one line. People want to know what you did recently and what your current skill sets are.”
Faced with age discrimination, older applicants should stay patient, positive and not give up, advised Penfold. “If you’re 60 years old applying for entry level positions it can take a long time. You might get 20 or 30 ‘no’s’ before getting an offer. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and keep moving on to the next job opportunity.”