Hiring preferences favor mature workers over Millennials: study

A reputation for reliability and professionalism is tipping the job scales in favor of mature workers. Hiring managers surveyed on behalf of Adecco Staffing said they're three times more likely to hire a worker over age 50 than they are to hire a Millennial worker (loosely defined as someone born between 1981 and 2000).

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Specifically, 60% of respondents said, if given the choice to hire either a mature or Millennial worker, they're most likely to hire a mature worker. Twenty percent would hire a Millennial, and the remaining 20% said they don't know.

Adecco's Mature Workers Survey, conducted by Braun Research, polled 501 hiring managers across a range of industries (not limited to IT) and asked about their perceptions of job candidates. (The study didn't address the legality of choosing candidates based on age.)

The survey data shows that managers attribute certain personality traits with workers of different ages. They consider mature workers to be reliable (cited by 91% of respondents), professional (88%) and good listeners (77%), and they associate Millennial workers with being creative (74%), strong networkers (73%) and motivated (42%).

Interestingly, the personality traits that are strongest in mature workers are least prominent in Millennials: Just 5% of hiring managers said they find Millennials to be professional and only 2% associate them with being reliable.

Likewise, the personality traits that are strongest in Millennial workers are least prominent in mature workers: 22% of hiring managers said they find mature workers to be strong networkers, and 17% find them creative. (See graphic)

On the room-for-improvement front, mature workers need more tech know-how, said 72% of hiring managers. Millennials have very little trouble with tech-savviness, but they need to improve their writing skills, according to 46% of survey respondents. Far fewer managers (9%) said mature workers need to beef up their writing.

When it comes to the younger generation of workers, the most common hiring challenge for managers is not knowing if a Millennial is committed to a company for the long term (cited by 46%).

Both age groups could stand to improve their interviewing skills.

When asked about mature workers' biggest interview mistakes, survey respondents named high salary/compensation demands (cited by 51% of hiring managers); overconfidence in their abilities and experience (48%); inflexibility in working style (43%); inflexibility in work schedule (43%); inability to sell themselves during the interview process (35%); and placing too much emphasis on company benefits (34%).

For Millennials, the biggest interview mistakes were wearing inappropriate attire (75%); posting potentially compromising content on social media channels (70%); demonstrating a lack of research preparation on the company or position (62%); showing a lack of interest in the job by not asking questions about the company or position (60%); high salary/compensation demands (57%); and overconfidence in their abilities and experience (57%).

"Today's economy has created a competitive employment landscape that can be difficult to navigate -- no matter what generation you're from," said Joyce Russell, president of Adecco Staffing US, in a statement. "It's important for mature workers to understand what they want out of a job and to seek out opportunities that allow them to combine their skill sets with their personal interests, while keeping in mind what hiring managers want to see during their interview."

Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz and check out her blog, Occupational Hazards. Her email address is abednarz@nww.com.

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