On September 16th 2015, the Huffington Post published an article about the negative impact that unconscious bias can have upon recruitment, particularly with regard to age. There are very few individuals who might argue that unconscious bias is a positive factor for any business and it would certainly appear that there is a greater willingness to acknowledge and deal with it. Yet we all know that it exists and that (unfortunately) it does still sometimes play a role in recruitment.
The article raised some salient points about how we view ourselves from an age perspective, as well as the fear that some employers may have about appointing “younger” (or seemingly younger) individuals to senior positions. But the most interesting part was perhaps the Author’s perception of millennial workers. As Head-hunters, we work with a huge range of clients and candidates and have a unique vantage point with regard to respective motivations and strengths. Certainly the two factors listed (personal brand and steely determination) are excellent attributes, but they are by no means restricted to any particular section of the population.
Personal brand is a nuanced, yet critical characteristic of any job-hunter. Breadth and depth of experience will always shine through, not only in terms of actual achievements, but with regard to the confidence that the prospective candidate will have about assimilating into a new environment and delivering things that they have hitherto had no experience of. Similarly the advent of digital media allows one’s reputation to be carefully curated and presented to others in a way that “sells” you as a potential employee. And access to these tools are not limited to millennials; indeed it would appear that the use of LinkedIn, Twitter and other interfaces are universally embraced by all working generations.
Equally, steely determination is a mind-set that is not limited to mid-career candidates who may have suffered on account of the post-2008 recession. Older professionals will undoubtedly have been burnt by our boom and bust economy on a number of occasions. They know how to read the runes and they are undoubtedly aware that there is no replacement for hard-work. There has never been a point in history where rejection isn’t part of an extensive job-search. Therefore, no group of candidates have the monopoly on learning from experience (positive and negative) at interview. The article is absolutely on-point with the quote “the harder I practice, the luckier I get.” Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or any other factor, aptitude and diligence are qualities that hold firm in all sectors for all roles. It is an unpleasant fact that unconscious bias can play a role in decision-making, but the best way to counteract its effects is to be the best that you possibly can and to have the confidence to ensure people know that. Talent and hard work will always win through so pity the organisation that didn’t think to hire you on account of account of preconceptions buried deep within them and take heart that the Head-hunter appreciates what you have achieved and where you are going.
Elizabeth James is a Principle Consultant in the Education Practice at Berwick Partners
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