Older workers left the workforce in greater numbers during the pandemic lockdowns. As we mentioned recently, the percentage of the population that is retired increased by 1.3 percentage points in early 2021, compared to .3 percentage points in the 10 previous years.

For many open positions, older workers can be a good fit. But how can they be enticed out of retirement to return to the workforce?

Some don’t need to be enticed, they just need the right opportunity. Retirement, especially when forced by something like a global health event, wasn’t in their original plan. Some retirees would be happy to return to what they were doing pre-pandemic.

Others would be willing to return with some accommodations. The main preference is for a flexible work schedule, according to a study by economists from Vanguard, the Federal Reserve, and several universities.

Companies who want to recruit from this large pool of willing workers need to work on being age inclusive. That can include the above mentioned flexibility, sabbaticals, time off for family caregiving, and access to training or retraining. Having an age diverse interviewing panel can help uncover some unconscious biases and make older workers more comfortable with the hiring process.

If you find that you are not attracting older candidates, review your job posting. Certain language can contribute to older workers not feeling comfortable in applying for your role. Phrases such as ‘college graduate’ or ‘recent graduate’ tend to filter out older workers. Terms like ‘energetic’ and ‘digital native’ also unconsciously indicate that younger candidates are preferred.

Here are a few other things to reconsider:

  • If you recruit mainly on college campuses, you will attract that age group. Consider diversifying your channels to diversify hiring.
  • Employee referrals are a great way to recruit, but people tend to recommend others that are like themselves, so don’t depend solely on referrals.
  • Ask each candidate the same questions. Even well-intentioned sidebars can present problems.
  • Keep in mind that unconscious bias is, well, unconscious. Invest in some unconscious bias training for your hiring team.
  • Make sure that your screening people or tools aren’t accidentally enforcing age bias. Don’t ask for graduation or birth dates. Only ask for information relevant to the role for which you are hiring.

In the current tight labor market, hiring managers will benefit from scrutinizing their hiring practices to make sure good candidates aren’t being ignored based on age (or any other factor). Older candidates have a wealth of experience and skills to offer. Experienced talent acquisition specialists can be helpful in recruiting older workers with the skills you need for your open positions. A generationally diverse workforce will be a benefit to your teams and to your bottom line.