How to Attract More Over 50 Job Applicants

Considerate adverts can make a big difference

One in three employees will be over 50 by 2025.

I'll repeat that ...

One in three employees will be over 50 by 2025.

Despite the Equality Act 2010, which says that employers mustn't discriminate against anyone because of their age, it does seem to be the one 'ism' that's widely accepted and practised.

It's odder still considering that everyone hopes they'll be alive and well in their 50s.

Personally, as a 50-something I find the thought of being considered old, over the hill, out of touch, past my best or irrelevant, horrifying.


And not because I'm delusional or sensitive.

But because many of the people I know in this age group are amongst the most broadly skilled, resilient, and positive individuals who are changing and evolving as professionals all the time. Many are at the top of their game, entrepreneurial and cannot relate to thoughts they are no longer useful!

They can offer an employer stability, the commitment to turn up every single day, on time and to give 100%. They are self-motivated, can be left unsupervised, possess immense loyalty, have the ability to communicate with people of all ages and backgrounds, and have many useful working years left in them.

Look at seminars, training sessions and networking events - they are filled with willing over 50 participants. There with their life experience, confidence, the ability to see different perspectives and provide valuable, thoughtful feedback.

So it's strange that so many experience discrimination in the workplace and in the hiring process.

These are people the smart employers want and need on their team and I'm going to help you attract them through carefully curated job advertising.

Why would you want to actively attract more over 50 applicants?

  • They make up a large percentage of the skilled UK workforce, many are now immediately available for work post-pandemic That's a lot of talent going to waste.
  • Far from disappearing on their 65th birthday, the expectation for an increasing number of older workers is that they will be working past 65 and, with many looking to reduce hours before retirement rather than leaving the workforce altogether. This is an old study which offers more insight.
  • Research and experience say older workers are more reliable. They turn up on time, are less likely to call in sick and are far less likely to move jobs than their younger colleagues. Apart from the apparent benefits of reliability, it means employers should feel confident that any re-training that's required will be time and money well-spent, with new skills learned being a long-term benefit to the business. What's not to love?

What are the challenges that older workers face?

(1) As we age, the issue around caring for other people does not disappear. Indeed we now have what is called 'the sandwich generation', a group of people looking after elderly parents, supporting their offspring and even providing childcare for grandchildren.

(2) Dealing with the misconception that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. The phrase You can't teach an old dog new tricks originates around 1636 and is a variation of It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks from John Fitzherbert's Book of Husbandry (1523), where it was used literally. So not only was it never intended to refer to human beings but, for context, life expectancy in the 17th century was 30 years old making it nonsense in 2023. Instead, let's adopt the truth, which is the over 50s are willing and absolutely capable of learning new skills. Look all about you and you'll see lots of examples.

(3) Employers make assumptions about what age older workers will choose to retire and need to be replaced. Even if people wanted to retire at 65, a study almost a decade ago said that many older people intended to work beyond this age. And if we look at the current climate, many people who might have planned to retire at 65 can no longer afford to. The state pension age has been pushed back in recent years with suggestions that this trend will continue, with state retirement looking more like 67 or 68 years old. In my own experience as a recruiter, I see lots of people returning to work after a period of retirement and being bored.

(4) Experienced people are expected to be more expensive than taking a junior person on and training them into the role. I talk to lots of mature job-seekers who will tell me, genuinely, they don't want the level of responsibility they have earned in the past. Maybe that's staff management or a job that required long hours. Those are looking to utilise a wealth of skills they have doing a job they love for less money. And a reminder here, you don't pay Employer's National Insurance for an employee over state retirement age. Also, if the employee is over the State Pension age, you don't have to automatically enrol them into a workplace pension. They do, however, have the right to opt-in up to age 74 (depending on their earnings).

(5) They won't gel with a younger team. People over 50 don't live under a rock. They have had half a century or more of learning the art of communication, with people of all ages. The age of the body does not determine the age of the mind, with people at this stage of their lives often well-travelled, with a wealth of life experience, and interaction with young people every day. The will adapt their communication style to their audience.

(6) It's a time in life when people start to get sick and take lots of time off work.

(7) Menopause: One in 10 women have left work because of symptoms of menopause, research has revealed.

(8) They've been loyal, earned good holiday benefits as a result of being long-standing and cannot 'afford' to move to a new company to start again on 20 days plus 8 bank holidays.

(9) Insecure managers who can't handle an older, maybe more experienced person, working for them.

How can I write my job adverts to address these challenges?

(1) Be sure to mention any flexible working policies.

Remote or hybrid working are not the only solutions so consider whether 37.5 hours could be worked over four days instead of five. Maybe someone can start early in the day and finish early or start later and either work through part of their break or finish later.

Maybe a solution could be found for someone to leave work early, say for school pickups, and log on to finish their working day at home.

(2) Mention in your advertising that you're looking to provide full training.

(3) Detailing your flexible working practices is key here and consider whether this job could be done by two part-time workers. This will ensure the reader feels safe to apply for a job for an organisation that welcomes people wanting to work a shorter week, and that they are valued, supported and encouraged.

(4) You need to pay people what the job is worth (and not discount mature individuals as over-qualified which happens all too often). You could mention that as an equal opportunities employer, you welcome individuals who want to re-skill since training will be provided. Ones that want to return to work after a period away from the workforce and make a valuable contribution to a team. That reads well to a whole host of job-seekers, including those wanting to step-down or return to work. Without fear of exclusion or judgement.

(5) If you have a diverse team of people already, talk about it. Not that you are 'equal opps' if you have no evidence. Talking about your Friday nights down the pub will reduce applications from this age group, almost certainly, but saying you offer a balanced workplace of people from all ages and backgrounds, valued for their individual contributions. If you have cake on birthdays and allow employees to bring a dog to work, you'll talk to all ages.

(6) This is true to some extent. But let's have a look at the reasons why

Work pressures were one of the greatest strains on respondents’ physical and mental health (21%), alongside money issues (35%). And we learn that this can be 'fixed' with better communication and education around well-being. I suspect that a great number of respondents will have fallen into the category of women in menopause, an area that needs a lot more education and understanding.

Money issues are not expanded upon but imagine that you're having some health challenges and your employer doesn't accommodate paid time for sick days or appointments. Or the fear that because you are not in a workplace that is safe to communicate your problems, you'll be forced to give up work before you can afford to. If only you had someone internally you could talk to.

Employers can do so much more to alleviate this problem, rather than blaming the employees themselves.

Provided you're making these allowances and have a healthy culture, mention it.

Tell the reader you have a management team that values its people, has an open-door policy and educates about mental health and menopause. And that you have sickness benefits and private health care.

I cover Menopause separately below.

Oh, and if you're committed to the well-being of all your employees, you might find this interesting.

Firms stick to four-day week after trial ends:

(7) We're finally talking about it, thanks to people like Mariella Frostrup and Davina McCall. And you might think a job advert cannot be used to attract women with this as a concern.

If you're choosing to make a statement in your advert around the fact you're an 'equal opps employer' you can go as far as to demonstrate this by mentioning your training and policies around menopause.

And that all-important flexible working we've already covered. It gives women the ability to choose to work around their symptoms and attend support networks and medical appointments during the day, whilst remaining committed and present in their jobs rather than having to choose between work and well-being.

What peri-menopausal and menopausal women need is a workspace where they can operate efficiently without having to do too much explaining to their colleagues about embarrassing symptoms and appointments.

(8) I've never quite understood this. The golden handcuffs of holiday entitlement.

Why would anyone over 50 who likely has a job of great responsibility move to a business for the statutory minimum holiday?

At a time in life when they're being expected to take care of elderly parents, grandchildren, a sick spouse, with maybe a health challenge themselves, we want them to come and work for us with the barest of breaks through the year.

So they stay where they are. The place they hate but gives them 33 days plus bank holidays.

If you're not offering more holiday days to attract applicants, ask yourself why? Rested employees are productive employees.

Is there a mechanism to sacrifice salary for holiday, perhaps?

Mention it in your advertising. "Whilst the business automatically offers statutory holiday entitlement, we operate a flexible benefits scheme which allows employers to purchase a further x days per annum."

Or just simply accept that your holiday offering might be ideal for a trainee role but not for someone with qualifications and experience that you'll need to attract from a competitor and adjust it accordingly for that level of job within the business.

(9) A tricky one to directly tackle in advertising, perhaps, unless you're comfortable stating "You'll be working for a manager who doesn't have hangups about being outshone."

But we are talking about culture. So talking about a genuinely inclusive, supportive culture where employees are all considered to have something important to offer, will be heard and understood. That's the same thing. So if it's true, say it.

This blog was inspired by this news item on the BBC website

Contact us now for a free, no-obligation chat. Contact Clare here.

You might also find this blog useful:

Reducing the Chances of a Bad Hiring Decision

Clare Wight is the founder and Managing Director of Clarity Appointments, an independent recruitment specialist. She served as a Regional Director for The Employment Agents Movement, supporting other independent recruiters.

She remains an active member of Recconnect (formerly Members Only), a recruitment leadership network promoting high ethical standards, collaboration, diversity, equity and inclusion.

She believes business owners are more fulfilled and higher-performing when they provide emotional and professional business support to other business owners, even those they deem to be competitors. She does this actively, whilst challenging and updating her skills and knowledge of the recruitment sector, enabling her to offer the best advice to firms looking to make their next hire.