This seems to be a recent discussion that has arisen and we are starting to notice an increasing number of applicants for legal jobs in particular where dates of birth have been removed from CVs together with the dates of education. There have been discussions in the media about employers actively discriminating against older job applicants but also evidence of companies looking to recruit and interview blind without viewing dates of birth.
I thought it might be worth writing this article simply to outline our current experience of age discrimination as opposed to previous articles we have written over the years on the same subject, as I think attitudes have changed in the workplace to age over time.
Blatant Discrimination is Rare
The first thing to say is that we don’t often come across blatant discrimination when we are recruiting for law firms and in-house legal departments. It is much less rare to get a call from a partner or owner of a law firm looking to recruit who will say to us that they want somebody aged 25 to 40 and no older, or they don’t want to recruit any old people who will just sit there and get paid without doing any work, or they don’t want a young woman in a job because they’re worried she might go off on maternity leave for quite a long time. These examples are all things we’ve come across over time, but not in recent years. Perhaps employers are a bit more careful in what they say to us these days..
Age Not So Relevant
Over the last 20 years there has been a real change in attitude towards age as a factor when it comes to recruitment and employers seem to be more focused on candidates at particular salary levels, actual experience and whether someone is a good fit for a job, rather than looking at an age to determine whether or not they would be suited.
The discussion has become more about the job and the candidate rather than the age of the candidate and whether or not someone is suited to a role based on their previous experiences, whether this is too much experience or too little experience.
This is a bit of a recurring theme in my writing, but think the key is to tailor your CV and application for the role you are applying for, and do not send in a generic CV for job applications when the CV is not tailored to the job you are going for.
So for example, if you are a senior solicitor looking to get out of the high pressure of a senior job and want to instead look at a junior job with a similar level of responsibility and also salary to boot, it is absolutely no point sending in a CV highlighting your leadership qualities and all the experience you have had to date. This will not work at all and is most likely to end up with an instant rejection, because any employer looking at it will see immediately that you are over-qualified for the role. They want to see a CV from someone who is at the level of experience they are looking to recruit, which means that your CV needs to reflect this.
Similarly a poorly written CV from someone with 40 years’ experience is going to get rejected, not because of the person’s age but because the employer cannot see the information they need in order to make a decision. We get a lot of senior solicitors who have the most dreadful CVs – poorly written, big gaps and a complete lack of information. Some can get away with it, but others simply get no work.
In summary, I suspect the best way of looking at rejections from roles is to look at whether or not the way you presented your experience actually meant you came across as the right fit for the job you were applying for.