We surveyed over 100 recruiters and hiring managers and found that the vast majority (88%) believe age discrimination in hiring is a problem.
The primary purpose of this study was to confirm a chief concern we hear from jobseekers: that recruiters and hiring managers often pass on older candidates because of age. While the study did confirm this, it also showed that workers at the other end of the spectrum, young workers, face age discrimination, too.
Here’s what we found.
Age discrimination is common but difficult to enforce
When we asked 105 hiring professionals if age discrimination was a problem, 92 of them said yes. Anecdotally, recruiters reported being asked to source “energetic” candidates, “young and pretty” candidates, and in one case, a “blonde and attractive female.”
Multiple recruiters told us that they often advocate for older job seekers only to see hiring managers turn them down, while hiring managers cited culture fit, lack of drive, and outdated skillsets as reasons for not hiring older candidates.
Age discrimination in hiring is illegal and although there have been several newsworthy victories, such as Google’s recent $11 million settlement, ageism usually goes unpunished or undetected. In fact, as one recruiter reminded us, many hiring managers are not even aware that it is illegal.
87% of surveyed hiring professionals know colleagues who have discriminated against candidates based on age
Most survey participants (87%) knew other hiring managers or recruiters who had passed on a candidate because of their age.
However, only 24% of hiring professionals admitted to ever passing on a candidate based on age.
Over half of hiring professionals said they’d been instructed to pass on candidates because of age
According to survey results and anecdotal accounts, it is not uncommon for hiring managers and/or recruiters to receive ageist guidelines from clients or managers. 58% said they’d been instructed to pass on a candidate because of age.
24% of American workers believe employers have turned them down because of their age
Nearly a quarter of Americans believe they’ve been the victim of age discrimination during the hiring process. Numbers changed only slightly when we segmented the results by age group, suggesting that age discrimination is a concern for both old and young workers.
- 20% of workers age 18-24 believed they’d experienced age discrimination
- 26% of workers age 55+ believed they’d experienced age discrimination
Methodology: For the hiring professionals portion of the survey, we sent surveys to hiring managers and recruiters and received anonymous responses from 19 hiring managers and 86 recruiters. For the job seeker portion of the study, we used Google Consumer Surveys to survey 1,231 Americans. Post-stratification was applied to ensure accurate representation.