One such employee is 60-year-old Ashley Roland, who got a marketing job at the Vermont Country Store last year after the company she previously worked for shut down. She dreaded the thought of a marathon of unsuccessful interviews, but the store ended up recruiting her.
“When I was being hired, I didn’t feel any kind of concern about my age,” she said. “I believe in experience. I think you’re crazy not to hire someone who’s older.”
Even when the customers themselves might not be seniors, employers find older adults bring a level of life experience that helps them in their work. About 20 percent of the roughly 26,000 customer service, sales and technical support agents working for Miramar, Fla.-based Arise Virtual Solutions are 50 or older, and chief executive John Meyer said they often find ways to connect with the caller on the other end of the line.
“Having someone who is more senior, who has had some life scars, makes them much better at interacting with people,” Meyer said. “This is a chance for them to use the skills that they have built up over their life.”
The embrace of older workers by some companies comes as the country’s demographics shift and a greater number of people stay on the job later in life, some because of personal choice, others out of necessity after their retirement savings took a hit during the recession. Between 1977 and 2007, employment of workers 65 and older doubled, a trend that has stayed on track and is projected to continue as the massive baby boom generation moves toward old age. But long-term unemployment has plagued older adults: Nearly half of those 55 and older who find themselves jobless remain out of work for 27 weeks or more.
Many companies still tend to overlook older applicants. Peter Cappelli, a University of Pennsylvania professor who co-authored “Managing the Older Worker,” said because the economy has remained relatively weak and demand for jobs has been so high, many employers haven’t been pressed to directly recruit older individuals.