SI Review: August 2013

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The Other Side

Employing Grey

Staffing firms shouldn’t dismiss candidates based on age

By Sandra Bazzani

I am a baby boomer who had worked in retail for nearly 20 years before going back to school to pursue another profession. I took various computer and other classes that would pertain to office work. One of my advisors suggested I sign up with a staffing agency.

I was fortunate, and quickly got placed as a traditional employee; unfortunately, that company was acquired after a year and my job was eliminated. The same staffing firm helped me find another office job that lasted five years before it, too, was acquired.

That’s where my struggles began. Here I was, several years older and already part of the aging workforce. I turned again to staffing firms, this time thinking I would become a bench player for a staffing firm, to be sent on brief gigs with clients as short-term office help and the like.

Instead, I was left feeling unsupported by my staffing providers. And this sentiment hinged entirely on my age. This was during the recession, so jobs were hard to come by to begin with. I understood that. But during what few interviews I landed, I was actually asked whether I would be retiring and when. As I was interviewing for what were expected to be short-term placements, I failed to see the reasoning behind that question.

For starters, it left me feeling shaky. I had the training and the experience to do the job. It didn’t help when my recruiters doubted my abilities based on my age. There is something wrong with that scenario. There are plenty of studies and news reports of the benefits of hiring baby boomers, about our work ethic and knowledge retention, not to mention how many of my generation have to stay in or return to the workforce because the Great Recession wiped out our retirement accounts. This hesitancy on the part of the agencies and their clients was in poor taste and revealed their lack of understanding of the workforce and current trends.

And it’s not just about age. During this time, I did have a successful relationship with one recruiter who sent me to fill in for people going on vacation and needing help for short periods. I really enjoyed doing that, meeting new people and seeing new places. But when the recruiter left to go back to school himself, the calls stopped. I reached out to get another contact at that firm, but never heard from them again. Staffing firms should have policies in place to ensure exiting recruiters pass along their candidate and client lists, and those recruiters to whom those lists are assigned are actively working on them, rather than letting them fall through the cracks.

Perhaps the people left behind in that office simply weren’t interested in filling short-term jobs. I don’t know, but my experience proved to me there are clients that have such needs. But staffing firms that are filling those needs either aren’t interested in focusing on them or are not marketing themselves so they can be found.

At the end of the day, I expected support from my staffing providers in a variety of ways, but especially when my age came into question. They should have brought up with their clients the benefits of hiring older workers. They should have been well versed with facts and numbers on the advantages of using older works. In short, they should have had my back, but they didn’t. Staffing firms would do well to build strategies to promote the idea of hiring older workers. After all, baby boomers comprise about 20 percent of the workforce, according to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

We’re here. We are not going away. We want to work. And you need us. If we come to you, we’re counting on you to be on our side and educate your clients.

Sandra Bazzani is a home care provider. She can be reached at sbazzani@comcast.net

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