Back to resources

The over 50s workforce – too old to work?

As a recruitment specialist, I look for skills and proven experience. I try to meet with all my candidates, I talk to them, find out about them – their career, their knowledge, their aspirations. I look for the ‘whole package’.

So here’s the thing, when a highly skilled 50 year-old candidate says he feels he is ‘on the shelf’ with regards to work, I’m concerned. And when another candidate in his 50s tells me that when he arrives for interviews, he can see an immediate ‘no’ on the interviewer’s face, my concern turns to dismay.

I’m going to come straight out with it: we will all be over 50 at some point and we will all want to continue working (unless we retire early or win the lottery).

As a society we need to remember this, and as businesses we need to dispel misconceptions.

Misconception #1. Length of service could be limited

Life expectancy and therefore working life expectancy have increased which means you could expect 10 to 20 years of service from a person in their 50s. Bearing in mind the average length of service currently which stands at just 2 years. For the Millennials (born between 1977-1997) where job-hopping is the norm, 10 – 20 years seems like a generous amount of time.

Interestingly, a few years back BMW realised their ratio of workers who were over 50 would increase from 25 per cent to 45 per cent by 2020, so they made a decision to open and equip a factory entirely skilled by over 50s. Clever stuff.

Misconception #2. Knowledge and skills could be out-dated

If an older candidate is out of touch, then they won’t be right for the job! This applies to someone who is in their 30s as much as someone in their 60’s. Just because someone is over 50 doesn’t mean they have lost their appetite for learning.

In our local areas of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Avon and Somerset, finding skilled people in certain sectors can be difficult. Engineering, for example, is a sector that suffers from a skills shortage and is doing all it can to bring in new life through apprenticeships. But let’s not forget those older engineers who have that experience.

Misconception #3. Wage/salary expectations will be higher

According to the Department of Work & Pensions, there is a perception that older workers are more expensive than younger workers, but this is generally only true in certain professional roles. Average wages peak in the late 30s for women and in the 40s for men, thereafter they decline.

Circumstances change and older candidates may no longer have the mortgage or other financial commitments they once had. The candidates I meet who are over 50 are open to a salary that reflects the market rate for that role. These individuals aren’t all seeking to be CEO or MDs, they’re looking for interesting work that they enjoy, and they appreciate it doesn’t come with a senior salary.

Misconception #4. They won’t ‘fit in’

I’m not sure any business can be sustained entirely on a ‘young’ culture. We are living in a time where four generations could potentially be working in the same office, shop or factory. The new entrants into a business need to be mentored and trained. Who better to do this than someone with years of experience?

As for a ‘fit’, how many workplaces really, and I mean really, have the perfect ‘fit’?

Domestic & General said of their workforce, “We find that older workers bring a positive work ethic and are loyal. This impacts on staff attendance and retention figures… they have a positive influence on younger staff members.”

I’d say that sums things up nicely.

There are several individuals registered with us who are over 50, and could bring reliability, commitment and experience to your business. Please do get in touch to talk through your requirements.

Click here to contact us now!


3 min read