Put a Wrinkle in Your Hiring

Would you hire a candidate who was 70 years old? That’s a loaded question, I know. And I really don’t expect you to give me the answer. But this country just hired someone who is 70 years old for a job that is essentially 24/7/365 with about 40% international travel. Interestingly enough, age was not really an issue in this year’s presidential campaign. With the exception of a few broadsides about “stamina,” no one was squawking that we needed someone as youthful and energetic as President Obama.

I have talked to countless numbers of people who have had a very tough job search and who believe they have lost job opportunities because of their age. And most of them are at least ten to fifteen years younger than our next president!

But regardless of a candidate’s age, and especially when you have a candidate who is more mature, here is one critical component to consider when hiring: energy level.

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE AGE – IT’S ABOUT THE ENERGY

I have interviewed candidates who are young in years and yet, have a lower energy level than candidates I know who are 20 years older than them. I have met candidates who are of retirement age (whatever that is these days!) and have the energy of a 25 year old (I’m married to one!). Here’s what I say –“Don’t look at age –look for energy!”

Below are a few ways you can gauge energy for yourself . . . .

* In the interview, watch for a lively and enthusiastic demeanor. This is a good indication of their energy level. For example, do they have a firm and enthusiastic handshake? Are they leaning forward in their chair in anticipation of your next question? Are their responses to your questions immediate and relevant?

* Is their voice energetic, with an upbeat cadence? Do they reveal information that suggests a high energy level, such as making that extra effort to reach a sales goal or finish a marketing project? Do they have an enthusiasm for travel and taking on additional responsibilities? These are things that are no problem for some people; while for others, it is a big challenge.

* Additionally, a candidate’s hobbies or leisure time activities give you an idea of their energy level. Do they prefer to read and play Sudoku? Or do they participate in organized sports and run marathons? I have placed candidates who are still playing hockey yet they were close to Bobby Orr’s age! And my fifty-something year old hairdresser still plays soccer in a league! Those are your candidates who can go the distance!

THE “THAT WAS THEN – THIS IS NOW” FACTOR

A big deterrent to hiring an older candidate is the fear that their best days are behind them rather than in front of them. We all want to hire candidates, young or old, who look forward and embrace the future. Here’s how to assess which direction your candidate is headed . . .

With a long career comes, hypothetically, more accomplishments. While you review these accomplishments during the interview, be wary if your candidate waxes a bit too nostalgic about the “good old days.” This could be a sign that you are speaking to someone who may be resting on his laurels and living in the past. If you feel uncomfortable about the “good old days” part of the interview, you probably have the wrong guy. Go on to your next candidate.

Let’s face it, as we get older things do slow down a bit. But, what’s important is the degree that we let things slow down. Look for employees who have maintained their edge no matter what their age. Sadly for some people, time is the enemy. But for others, time only makes them better.

Look for people like my friend, Tony Merrill of Yarmouth, Maine, who after a successful international career at the State Department, at the tender age of 80, quickly adopted the PC and kept up electronically with his friends world-wide. Tony’s last single-handed sail was in Blue Hill Bay, Maine. He was 90 years old and remains, to this day, my inspiration.

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