Workingwise.co.uk’s annual survey was published for National Older Workers Week and...read more
Laura Hunter talks about her dispiriting attempts to find a job at the age of 65 despite years of experience and outlines the kind of barriers she has been facing.
I am a 65-year-old woman who, since October 2022, has really struggled to obtain any further employment: I have been an interim Project Manager/Officer within local government since 2014 when I took voluntary redundancy as a result of a restructuring transformation programme. Prior to this I had had regular permanent employment for over 14 years. My fear is that the longer I am out of work the harder and harder it will be to get back into the workplace – it is almost like a self-perpetuating prophecy.
I must confess I am at a loss as to how I proceed as nothing seems to result in any success. I have regularly updated and revised my CV, uploading it onto the most popular job sites (Indeed, CV Library, Reed and Total Jobs) and have applied for jobs on these sites and on recruitment agencies portals. Yet I have had only four interviews in seven months, all of which were unsuccessful. I’ve applied for around eight different roles on LinkedIn – I don’t even get as far as companies contacting me for an interview. I hasten to add that I don’t include my date of birth on my CV, or any information such as CSE/O’ levels that would be an identifier of my age group.
One of the problems is recruitment agency portals which require your date of birth (this may be requested by the recruiter); there doesn’t seem to be any way around this and I wouldn’t advocate lying about it; as soon as I’ve given my date of birth I have heard nothing back. My view is that once your DOB is known the “protected characteristic” of age is one of the easiest for recruiters to ignore in favour of younger applicants, especially as “Project Management” is perceived by many to be a young person’s career. The bulk of recruitment agency staff are also extremely young in my experience. The other offputting issue is the sheer length of the online application forms you have to complete for any permanent role now, and the amount of information that is required.
The other factor is that employers often demand degree-level qualifications for even quite routine roles, such as Project Assistant/Project Officer. In my opinion, this is done to ensure only younger applicants apply and to deter older workers such as myself who do not have a degree but who have worked their way up the career ladder. Other unreasonable employer demands include expecting applicants to know countless different ICT software systems as well as data analysis for the most mundane roles; this is another way of excluding older workers who may be not quite as fast in learning all these new systems as younger people. I’ve used ICT for over 20 years and I do definitely struggle with it.
One other point is the way recruitment agencies work now; from my experience many totally rely on a system of artificial intelligence which will pick out certain key words and phrases from your CV, invariably leading to preposterous and unsuitable matchings. It seems many employers either don’t bother to read CVs correctly or rely on the AI system.
Then, if you get past the first stage, there are competency interviews with questions such as “Tell me a time when a project failed and what you did about it?”. These seem to be the norm nowadays; rather than having a conversation they are a way of making the interview process a them and me situation, and it is really quite intimidating.
It all conspires to make it difficult for older workers to get recruited at a time when the pension age has been going up and in the future older workers could suffer further given that the state pension age is due to increase to 67 between 2026 and 2028, and then to 68 between 2044 and 2046.
*Laura Hunter has been an interim project manager within the public sector for over 20 years, delivering a wide range of housing capital, Decent Homes and major works contracts from inception to completion and handover in addition to supporting workstreams for transformation and change programmes.