A new study finds that certain phrases and language in job ads can put older workers off applying.
Advertisements for jobs that include subtle ageist stereotypes related to physical ability, communications skills or technological aptitude put older workers off from applying, according to a new study.
The study by Ian Burn from the University of Liverpool and Daniel Firoozi, Daniel Ladd and David Neumark from the University of California Irvine uses new machine learning language processing tools and an experiment on Amazon’s MTURK platform to test whether people perceive certain phrases in job ads as being ageist.
The study, presented at the 75th ‘Economic Policy’ Panel Meeting this week, found strong evidence that they do. For example, when shown a job ad phrase about technological skills – ’You must use software such as Microsoft Office/Excel or Google Sheets’– respondents perceive the phrase as biased against older applicants. The researchers say that, on its own, this evidence does not directly address the actual behaviour or intent of employers that might use these ageist stereotypes in job ads. However, in a closely related field experiment, they find that the presence of these stereotypes in real job advertisements predicts age discrimination by employers.
The researchers conclude that agencies charged with reducing discrimination in the labour market could use machine learning language processing tools to study the text of job ads and flag employers that may be discriminating. They say they could also issue guidance to employers to avoid language that might discourage older workers from applying, in addition to guidance they already offer employers to avoid explicitly discriminatory phrases, such as an age range for job applicants.