The benefits of hiring retirees and mature workers for small businesses

April 27, 2016 Pete Jansons

Attend a party in your honor, receive an engraved pen set, and move to a warm destination to enjoy your golden years — this used to be the typical route taken by workers when they retired from a job. But factors ranging from longer life expectancies to financial necessity to the desire to keep active are leading many 21st century retirees to rewrite that script. They want to find meaningful work, and your company might be wise to consider what they bring to the table.

Some establishments are already thinking along these lines. In an early 2016 CareerBuilder survey, 44 percent of small business employers said they were likely or very likely to hire retirees from other companies this year. Furthermore, opinions about over-qualification – traditionally seen as a strike against older workers – may be changing. The vast majority of small business employers (78 percent) would still consider a mature worker (50 and older) who applied for a job for which they were overqualified. Among the reasons they would consider the applicant:

  • Mature candidates bring a wealth of knowledge to the organization and can mentor others (58 percent)
  • Mature candidates know how to weather a tough economy (32 percent)

While these findings bode well for seasoned candidates, many still attest that their age feels more burdensome than beneficial when it comes to landing a position. Employers and applicants alike recognize the illegality of flat out age discrimination, but the issue of “fit” remains relatively subjective. Level the playing field by putting stereotypes to rest and instead keep an eye out for these hire-worthy qualities, which are typical of older candidates:

  • The importance of being on time, dressing appropriately, speaking and acting politely, and meeting deadlines should be second nature by this point in their career – sparing you headaches and providing a good model for others.
  • Soft skills. What people have learned through decades of being a member of the workforce can’t be discounted. Look for examples of conflict management, negotiation, leadership, effective communication, calmness under pressure, and other soft skills that would enrich your staff.
  • Technology and industry-specific practices change over time. Instead of worrying that an older employee might not be able to keep up, examine his or her past commitment to lifelong learning as an indicator of future willingness to try new things and bridge gaps.
  • Don’t fall prey to the mindset that mature workers aren’t worth hiring because they will leave within a few years. (The same could be said for job-hopping millennials.) Smart employers know that forecasting the tenure of any staff member is virtually impossible, regardless of age. Focus on evidence of commitment and service to previous employers as a better gauge of what to expect.


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