“I, Too, Am Qualified”: Are Old People The Talent World’s Most Undervalued Asset?

Kris Dunn Business Development, candidate experience, Candidate Pool, Culture, Diversity, Generations, Hiring Bias, Talent Acquisition

Moneyball – A term describing baseball operations in which a team endeavors to analyze the market for baseball players and buy what is undervalued and sell what is overvalued. Unlike a common misconception, it is not about on-base percentage, but whatever is undervalued at that time. It is most commonly used to refer to the strategy adopted by the front office of the Oakland Athletics. It derives its name from a Michael Lewis book of the same name.

That’s the sports definition of Moneyball.  The more important application of the Moneyball concept is that in any talent economy – the one your company competes in for example – there’s always undervalued assets to be recruited and acquired on the cheap.

The point of Moneyball is this – if you can recruit the undervalued asset at 60% of the cost but get 80% of the production the higher priced asset gives you, you’re going to win as a company.

Which brings me to the point of the post. Is it any of the following?

Ivy League grads?  No, too competitive and the price gets driven up quickly.

Young college grads? Probably not – not enough experience and they’re probably valued correctly, even at their low salaries – for their skills and experience.

Generation X?  I think not. Now in their late 30’s and 40’s, they’re in their peak earning years. You may love the experience and energy combo, but this segment is not undervalued.

Here’s another thought. If you’re going to follow the Moneyball approach and invest in the undervalued asset that no one wants, let’s face it – it’s old people in the workforce.

That’s right – I said old people. Shock and awe. Some people consider me to be old. Bastards – I’m Gen X, which doesn’t qualify as old. Unless you’re a punk kid, but you really don’t have the experience to judge me – OK youngsters?

I was recently reminded of the problems that older workers face in landing jobs they are qualified for when an organization called “I, Too, Am Qualified” reached out to me for some coverage in this space. Here’s how ITAQ describes itself and its mission:

“While job hunting, my husband, Michael Lindenberger, and I noticed that we weren’t getting any responses from employers even though our resumes matched their required skills and qualifications. Fearing our age may be a factor, I suggested taking graduation dates off our resumes. It was disheartening to think that age discrimination in the workplace is alive and well, but we knew it was a plausible explanation for the lack of interest from employers. We started an awareness campaign called I, Too, Am Qualified, to bring to light that age discrimination is impacting workers 40 and older (and some even in their late 30’s). We created a compelling visual campaign through photos of people who have faced ageism. For those who don’t want their photos taken, we anonymously share their stories. As more and more people are responding to the campaign, we are continuously exploring ways to expand our reach while learning as much as we can along the way.”

Go see the full site here. When you go the site, you’ll see older candidates with written messages to the organizations who have passed them by that look like this below (email subscribers, click through if you don’t see the image below, or enable images in your email client):

OK, all my recruiters, HR pros and hiring managers out there – what music video from the past does the picture above remind you of?

Tick-tock, my friends…

TIME IS UP.  Do you have the answer or not?

If you don’t have the answer, it tells us all we need to know about your unconscious bias towards old people in the workforce.  THE ANSWER IS INXS, PEOPLE.  The video is “Mediate,” and it’s a throwaway song from a big album in 1987. Check out the video for the connection with the “words on cards” motif favored by ITAQ (click through if you can’t see the video):

INXS – as any Gen X’er could tell you – was cool, even if it all looks a bit ridiculous today. Don’t judge.

Bottom line – if you couldn’t come up with at least “INXS,” you’re too young NOT to have an unconscious bias towards old people in the workforce.

Could I call them “experienced?” Or “older workers,” perhaps?  Sure I could. But that would let you off the hook for your bias. Every time you see an ad like this one below, the company is saying that old people shouldn’t apply (click through if you don’t see the image):

Related terms you’ll hear from your managers are things like, “go-getter,” “someone to train,” “need a cultural fit” and my personal favorite, “high-energy.” All are code for “don’t bring me someone old.”

If you believe that older workers are getting the shaft in America, perhaps one of the best movements to reverse the shitty trend is the concept of unconscious bias, which is defined as something like this:

“Also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. … Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection.”

Why is a better understanding of unconscious bias a good thing for older workers? Mainly because it transcends what is merely legal and seeks to connect on a higher plane. The key to getting better treatment in the recruiting world for older candidates is including the topic in the concept of unconscious bias as it gains traction, which goes something like this for your average hiring manager:

1–I’m a good person.

2–I’m a horrible person because I have a bias I’m not even aware of.

3–I shall correct this unconscious bias by giving impacted groups of people more play than my mind is telling me to.

4–Did I mention I’m a good person?

5–I made a hire from an impacted group of people as a form of self-correction, and I’ll be damned, that ended up pretty good.

6–I’m going to keep looking to hire people from groups of impacted candidates since that went well.

7–Told you I was a great person. I’m not even sure I was part of that whole unconscious bias thing. Other people, though? Heathens…

Go take a look and support I, Too, Am QualifiedYou’ll know they (and others like them) are winning when we include age in the unconscious bias narrative.