Is 55 is the new 45?

We are a maturing workforce. Fact.

According to the ABS, the workforce within the 45–55 age group (and I’m proudly part of this group) has been steadily growing since the late 70s, to nearly 2million in 2021 and the 56–64 age group has risen to 1,321,442 in full-time employment for the same period.

There is too much knowledge and experience to simply dismiss as being the ‘wrong cultural fit’ or ‘over-qualified’. With talent shortages across numerous industry sectors, we can not wait for the next generation to meet our current and future employment needs. So what are we (yes us) going to do about it?

A number of older job seekers have recently told me they feel let down by the recruitment process. Some older candidates have explained they’re discussing their skills (with Recruiters or directly with a company) and being told they’re a perfect fit. With high hopes for an interview, they send their CV only to hear nothing. I also know of instances where candidates have changed their names on the initial call to avoid being ‘found’ on LI to at least get a foot in the door. Now, I’m not condoning this behaviour at all but this is a woeful situation. What are we doing?

Through our actions, we are forcing some candidates to use deception as an application tactic…..

Older Australians’ unemployment rate 2010 – 2021


  • What policies, workplace practices, programs or incentives do you have in place to assist with the inclusion of older workers?
  • Studies show that a diverse workforce compliment each other and by blending skills and experience will achieve higher performing teams. Embrace a mature worker’s wealth of knowledge and varied life experiences. They can often bring a fresh perspective to challenging situations.
  • For those hiring managers who’ve in the past overlooked more experienced candidates, try considering the most qualified applicant. Discuss your apprehensions. Be declarative and if those concerns can be satisfied, proceed to offer.
  • Research has debunked the myth that older workers have difficulty adapting to new ways of working or upskilling, just as not every Millenial is needy so abandon the common misconceptions and consider the individual, not the label.

Internal Recruiters/ Agency Recruiters

  • Ditch the prosaic ads seeking ‘passionate, enthusiastic ninja rockstars’. Write engaging copy without the naff words and lists of requirements. Readers (of any age, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation) want to picture themselves in the role, to understand what’s in it for them and the values the company stands by.
  • Build trust. Be genuine and most of all be an advisor. This could be their first application in a long time, offer guidance and support. Remember, for some, there will be a mix of anxiety, embarrassment and courage just to get to the stage of calling/applying.
  • During the screening, if their experience is strong but the CV doesn’t reflect those skills or their communication style will hold them back, be honest and specific. Every conversation I’ve had recently – even the difficult ones is gratefully met with a willingness to take on the feedback and address the points raised.
  • Be clear on how to describe the team culture of your company or the client you’re representing. Is it sport-focused, or family-orientated? If office-based/ hybrid do they have dress-down days? How socially connected are they? Let the candidate decide if they want to work in that environment, based on the facts.
  • Don’t over-commit and give false hope. Show respect and professional courtesy. If you’ve indicated they’d be a good fit don’t then drop them like a hot stone once you’ve received a CV (this goes for any candidate actually). Let them know where you are in the screening process (still have other applicants to call etc) or if you know they aren’t suitable, let them know now and explain why.

Whilst most organisations suggest they are committed to supporting an ageing workforce, very few reported they have a clear and achievable plan for doing so, and unconscious bias hiring is still common. For organisations to be ready to embrace change, there should be a level of awareness of needing to change. Because I for one am not ready to be put out to pasture.

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