A new research study conducted in the United Kingdom found flagrant age, gender and race discrimination related to the interview process.
In the study, applications for 811 jobs in England were submitted by fictional job seekers. U.K. resumes are traditionally different than the format used in the United States. They will include photos of themselves, along with personal details.
To set the controls, the fictional job candidates wrote that they were all employed and had similar educational backgrounds. The only differences were the job seekers’ gender, race, age and length of work experience.
The data reflected that 55-year-old job candidates were up to three 3 times less likely to be chosen to interview for a position compared to younger applicants who have less relevant experience competing for the same role.
A highlighted example pitted 28-year-old white men who possessed 9 years’ of relevant experience competing against 50-year-old white and black men and women with 31 years’ experience, researchers noted that the applications from young white men were:
- 1.8 times more likely to be selected for interview than ones from 50-year-old white men
- 2.3 times more likely to be selected than those from 50-year-old white women
- 2.6 times more likely to be selected than those from 50-year-old black men
- 3 times more likely to be selected than those from 50-year-old black women.
The study also revealed that younger men were asked to interview for jobs that paid better than the ones that 50-year-old men were called in to interview for. Fifty-year-old women were selected to interview for jobs that offered a 14% lower compensation than those for 28-year-old white men.
At the British Sociological Association’s Annual Conference, Dr. Anna Paraskevopoulou, one of the architects of the study, said,
Despite the growing participation of older workers in the labor market, many employers are prejudiced against older workers. Older applicants might not receive invitations for an interview, or they might receive invitations to interview for lower-paid jobs. The results of this study also showed that this ageism was worse for older black men and much worse for older black women. These results originate from stereotypical beliefs that the physical strengths and job performance decline with age, and earlier among women than men. They are also in line with general and persistent racial prejudices.”
The study reflects somewhat what I’ve seen in my practice as an executive recruiter. While I haven’t conducted official studies, it clearly appears that seasoned people in the workforce are far more likely to be downsized and not selected to interview. To be fair, the reasons could also be financially motivated. Employees who are in the 45-years-old and higher range tend to earn significantly more than their younger counterparts. It is a much larger cost savings for a company to layoff an experienced worker, who happens to be highly compensated, and hire a younger— and significantly cheaper—person to replace them.
I notice a far different attitude held with respect to gender and race. The vast majority of the companies I work with, who are primarily large, top-tier and global corporations, specifically request that we source diversity candidates. They seem sincerely very eager and motivated to hire women, people of color and members of the LGBT communities. The companies will also prefer to interview diversity job seekers with less relevant experience compared to a white male applicant in the hopes of increasing representation of certain groups within their organization.
Interestingly, I very rarely—if ever—get requests to source candidates with 25 or 30 years or more of work experience.
The study, along with daily observations, reflects that we are still a long way from creating an unbiased and fair interview process.