Valuing experience, valuing later life, should CV's be age blind?

Rachael Saunders, Age at Work Director, Business in the Community comments on the practicalities of having 'age blind' CVs.

The way in which we see age depends so much on our culture, on how we see family and work life – it is fascinating to see research from different parts of the world.  The United States is in many ways ahead of us when it comes to age discrimination – working longer is normal, and the culture of respect for “seniors”, whilst doubtless not perfect, gives a language for valuing experience and valuing later life. 

All the more frustrating, then that evidence of age discrimination in recruitment has been published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research. 

A study which involved submitting 40,000 fictional applications and CVs for open positions found that younger applicants with the same qualifications and skills were more often invited to the next stage in the recruitment process. The results showed that overall fictional workers aged 49-51 received 19% fewer responses compared to those aged 29-31.  The results also revealed a stronger bias against older workers - those aged 64-66 had 35% less invitations to interview than the 29-31 age band.

There has been a public debate about the use of name blind applications to tackle race discrimination.    It is difficult to make job applications “age blind” – the names of qualifications, or just the length of a career history, make it easy to guess how old someone is likely to be.   Our Missing Million – Recommendations for Action report sets out how to tackle age discrimination in recruitment.  For example, ensure your recruiters have had unconscious bias training that includes age.   Your business can benefit from stamping out age discrimination in recruitment specifically by adapting hiring strategies to be age-neutral – doing so will attract a wider and more diverse pool of talent.
A great next step is ensuring to monitor recruitment, progression and redundancy rates by age to identify areas of under-representation and unconscious bias in your process and decisions.