Age bias in the recruitment process

Sarah Jordan talks to about her struggles finding a job in higher education during the pandemic.

Graduate, University


In late 2021, ran a survey which found that many older workers feel the recruitment process is biased against them. We speak to one about her struggles to find a new job in higher education.

When Sarah Jordan* was made redundant in February 2020 from her job in higher education administration she started looking for work immediately. Sarah had worked on student loans and debt and, in the three years before her redundancy she had been working with study abroad students and on university partnerships at a London university.

She was convinced she would find another job in no time. That has not proved to be the case. Over a year and a half later, she has had some interviews, but no job materialised as a result. There were not many jobs advertised during the lockdowns, but she reckons job volumes are at least 25% up now.

Sarah has looked outside the sector, but she didn’t even get shortlisted for those jobs. She has also worked with Reed employment agency which has a special programme for over 55s. “They helped me with updating my cv and covering letter to avoid anything that would indicate my age,” she says. However, as soon as she got shortlisted she was asked for a copy of her passport to prove she had permission to work in the UK.

Unconscious Age Bias

She feels that asking her to provide her passport ahead of the interview creates the possibility of unconscious age bias with the employer already prejudiced against her before the interview. “The minute they got that they would know I am 63,” she says, adding that getting rid of any signs of your age on your cv does not address the essential problem of ageism.

Sarah, who did not qualify for Universal Credit, has been living off her private pension, but is worried that she still has several years to go until she can draw her state pension. She says she takes each rejection very personally. “It affects me really badly and it takes me a while to recover and get back into the state of mind I need to apply again,” she states.

*Not her real name

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