By Melinda Juneau, iStock_000009610742web

In the past, generational changes within the candidate pool would happen in a nice, orderly fashion. Older workers retired and younger workers “came of age” to take their place in the workforce.  It would be noticeable in some jobs, when (suddenly) more young people started applying for the available jobs.  Sometimes, the technology changed dramatically, or the long hours caused too much strain, or the physical labor required became too much.  Sometimes, it was simply time to retire and start a new phase of life.  Whatever the reason, older workers would retire, and the younger workers would replace them.

However, that has changed.

Today, workers of all generations apply for new jobs in almost every area within the healthcare field.    Many workers have taken a hit to their retirement portfolios in the last recession.  Many lost home values and may have had to put off retirement.  Whatever the reason, many older workers have to continue to work or have to return to work in order to maintain their lifestyle. They still hope to retire within several years, but for the time being, they remain active in the workforce.

There are also many young people graduating and looking for a job in the medical field.  They may be just out of school but they are hungry for their first opportunity. Some hiring managers have personal preferences for the type of worker they want, but regardless of preference, workers of all ages must be considered equally.

As someone who will be conducting the hiring interviews, you should be cautious to not ask the wrong questions.  Ageism is the discrimination against someone for their age, and in today’s work environment, it is a serious issue.

By 2016, workers age 65 and over are expected to account for 6.1% of the total workforce, compared with 3.6% a decade earlier, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Age is a protected class; ageism is similar to the other forms of discrimination that are not permitted in the workplace yet it can be harder to identify.

It can happen to the young and the old.  The young are not thought to have enough experience while the old are not seen as energetic enough for the workload.

The best way to avoid a lawsuit or any sort of problem in your facility is to just avoid any age-related questions.

Here are some specific guidelines as to what questions could “cross the line”.  This is not an exhaustive list, but it will provide you with some solid reference points:

Don’t ask about graduation years or specific years pertaining to school that might give away their exact age.

  • “What year did you graduate from high school?”

Don’t refer to them by their generation. 

  • “Oh, I see you are a baby boomer
  • “You seem to know a lot about technology: you must be a Millennial.   

Don’t insinuate they may have a problem with their boss, who is older or younger.

  • “Your boss may be younger than you are. Will that be a problem?”

Don’t act as though they are the only person in their age group working there.

  • “We don’t have many grandparents who work here.”

Don’t assume they are desperate for a job because of their age.

  • “Why would you want to work at your age? Don’t you want to be relaxing somewhere?”
  • “Did your parents demand that you get a job or move out?”

Be cautious in your interview questions. Keep them directed toward accomplishments, work styles, and their overall fit with your facility.

If you are interested in learning more about the hiring process and want to find a qualified pool of candidates, visit us at:

NOTE:  A full-color, downloadable PDF is available.