“Age should not be a gating factor in hiring decisions, just as race, religion or sexual orientation should not be.”

I RECENTLY stumbled upon a claim on social media that Public Relations (PR) practitioners over the age of 50 are finding it increasingly difficult to secure employment despite their extensive experience.

The assertion suggested a pervasive ageism within the industry, raising questions about whether this perception is grounded in reality.

It is alarming to think that seasoned professionals, at the pinnacle of their careers, may be sidelined solely due to their age.

This claim not only challenges the integrity of hiring practices within the PR field but also underscores a potentially significant waste of invaluable talent and expertise.

While I cannot definitively state that ageism is a pervasive problem in this sector, the anecdotal evidence from numerous highly qualified individuals over 50 suggests that the job market is particularly challenging for them.

As the PR industry continues to seek innovation and expertise, it is important to examine whether these perceptions of ageism hold true and what implications they have for the future of the field.

The issue of perceived ageism is unfortunate, and if true means a significant waste of experienced talent at a time when the industry can greatly benefit from their expertise.

Age should not be a gating factor in hiring decisions, just as race, religion or sexual orientation should not be. It is essential to evaluate candidates based on their skills, experience and potential contributions rather than an arbitrary number. Yet, the reality is that age can influence hiring decisions in various ways, some of which are more justified than others.

In any industry, including PR, age can matter depending on the specific position and the company’s budget. Younger employees may be seen as more adaptable, technologically savvy and less costly in terms of salary and benefits. Conversely, older employees bring a wealth of experience, stability and often a strong network of professional contacts.

The key is to balance these factors appropriately, ensuring that hiring decisions are made based on merit rather than stereotypes or unfounded assumptions.

The notion that age alone is not a primary factor in employment decisions is generally true. However, it cannot be ignored that some employers have reservations about hiring older individuals due to perceived or actual past issues, such as health concerns or resistance to change.

These concerns, while valid in certain contexts, should not be applied universally. Each candidate should be assessed on their merits, considering their health, adaptability and specific circumstances.

Reporting to a younger person can indeed be a challenging dynamic for some older employees, especially when the position is not a senior one.

This is another valid consideration for employers, as it can impact team cohesion and productivity. However, this should not be an insurmountable barrier.

Effective communication, respect and mutual understanding can bridge generational gaps and create a harmonious working environment.

The employment history of candidates over 50 should be scrutinised carefully, not with an eye towards their age, but towards understanding their career trajectory and the reasons they are seeking new opportunities.

This context is crucial in determining their fit for a new role and ensuring that their transition is smooth and beneficial for both the employee and the company.

Starting a new career later in life can be challenging and it often requires specific skills suited to senior positions. The age range within the over-50 demographic also matters. The needs and capabilities of someone in their early 50s can differ significantly from those in their late 50s.

Employers should recognise these nuances and not paint all older candidates with the same broad brush.

From my experience as a 58-year-old running a communication and media business, I have witnessed both sides of this issue. I have encountered older employees whose performance was hampered by health issues or an inability to adapt to new environments. Yet, I have hired individuals over 55 for senior positions who excelled without any issues.

These experiences underscore that age is not a reliable predictor of job performance, it is about the right fit between the individual’s skills and the job requirements.

Even at my age, I continue to receive headhunting offers for senior positions with substantial compensation, indicating that valuable skills and experience are highly sought after regardless of age.

This reaffirms my belief that with the right skill set, attitude and health, age should not be a barrier to employment.

The industry must move beyond ageist stereotypes and focus on the unique value that each individual can bring to the table. Only then can we ensure that the best talent is utilised effectively, benefiting the industry and society as a whole.