Taking on Seniors – No need for sentiment or pity

Taking on Seniors – No need for sentiment or pity

By Martin Ellis

EMPLOYERS: Let’s get something straight from the start, I’m not advocating 50-plus year-olds for the sake of it. Far from it. It’s your responsibility to take on the very best candidate you can, and let’s face it, some 50-plusers have taken to living in the past, let their skills age and tut too much.

If you’re going to take on a 50 plus for all the proper reasons (and not the shit reasons that get peddled about experience – after all, 30 years experience isn’t very useful if it’s really 1 year’s experience repeated 30 times) you need to be able to look for something that can give you encouragement to start with. I’ll tell you what that is…..

I worked this out when Paul Roskilly joined us earlier this year. This is Paul and me at work. He’s 59. I am 62. He’s an ex-copper and joined us as Office Manager with no experience in recruitment. It’s his job to manage our resources and make sure we are all focussing on what’s urgent and important. What on earth had Mandy Brook (the business owner) been drinking the night before she made that decision? The same she was drinking the night before she offered me a job I guess……

I’ll tell you what he brings.

Child-like Curiosity.

I expect being a copper helps. He knows how to ask questions. And he’s not afraid to ask. He also doesn’t know much about recruitment per se, but he wants to know how everything works, and “why do you do it like that”? He digs. He probes. All with a smile on his face and has the honesty to explain “I don’t understand” without giving the slightest hint of embarrassment.

He’s peeling things back and revealing a lot of stuff we can change to make things better. And along the way he’s working out how recruitment works – Although to be honest, it’s not that difficult (he’s already concluded that contingent recruitment is nonsense). He also challenges. If he learns something, he grunts and moves on. If he doesn’t learn anything, he keeps asking.

Being 50-plus doesn’t make you a good employee

Let’s be straight, being 50-plus doesn’t make you a good employee, nor does it make you curious, but it does give you time to learn that you won’t lose face when you ask simple questions younger people reckon exposes them as idiots.

Do not take on a Senior because they’re a Senior. Only take them on because they are the best candidate for that time. Don’t take on a Senior for all the stuff that’s peddled about experience, because that experience might be frozen in 1995.

I can be awfully rude about Seniors because some of them deserve it. It’s their responsibility to keep themselves marketable. You are not a charity. But is is your responsibility to look a seniors with open eyes for what they can really bring to your organisation.

I have no time for seniors who feel sorry for themselves and have let things slip, but neither am I very patient with employers, especially employers who are desperate for good people, and let Seniors slip by because they think they risk taking on a burden. That’s just lazy thinking.

A good Litmus Test…

We have a shortage of good people in the market. Some of that gap can be filled with older workers who still have ambition, energy and look ahead.

I reckon, the best giveaway of good people is a sense of child-like curiosity – and for older workers to ask themselves if they can rekindle it if it’s been diluted by life’s ups and downs.

It’s a good and easy Litmus test for employers and workers alike.

Ignorance and lazy thinking killed the cat – Curiosity was framed!

Martin Ellis and Paul Roskilly both work at the RSE Group. The RSE Group is not a home for the Bewildered.



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Here at the RSE Group, we are curious to understand what will give organisations the best ROI on their investment in their people.

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