People over 50, or even 60, may be our best hires

When you hire someone, how long do you hope she or he will work for you? How many years of service would you be happy with? Two years? Five years? Ten years? How many people currently working for you have been with you for more than five years?

My friend Doris just lost her job. She is a geophysicist and she works in the oil patch here in Calgary, Alberta. With the current global oil glut, Calgary alone has seen more than 40,000 people lose their jobs. Doris, a married mother of three (all mid-to-late teen boys) who is the primary income earner for the family, finds herself in her mid-50s with no job, no income, and a bleak future. Why? She is experienced, smart, capable, hardworking, enthusiastic, a solid team player, fit (she runs marathons in her spare time), loyal, possesses no sense of entitlement, and more. She would be the ideal employee, as far as I am concerned. But she tells me that people have been citing her age as a barrier to future employment.

I am astounded by that statement. I revisited all of the questions listed in my first paragraph above. In the oil patch, an employee who works for one company for five years is considered a veteran in that company. So with 10 to 15 years of useful productivity left in her career, why is her age a barrier now?

Carol applied to my office to work for me on my administration team (many of you call it a reception position). She was 57-years-old with 30 years of experience. She was experienced, knowledgeable, a good team player, loyal, married with an adult child, possessed no sense of entitlement, and more. Her personality testing showed her to be a great candidate with leadership potential. Her salary requests were reasonable. I hired her.

We recently celebrated five years of working together and to mark the milestone, I gave her and her husband two nights and dinner with wine pairings at a luxury hotel in Banff (a 60-minute drive from our home…we are so fortunate to live where we live) as a thank you for the five years of service, and hopefully many more. She has never called in sick and she’s a great team member.

When people heard that we had been working together for five years, they were surprised, because so many dental offices do not retain staff for that long. I was surprised to hear that, since I have lots of long-term members on my team…one at 19 years, two at more than 15 years, and so on. I have eight staff on my team and their ages range from early 20s to early 60s. Although all female, my team members are of four major religions: Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim. I love this team who I get to work with every day.

So don’t overlook the older applicant. How many years do you hope she or he will work with you? Can that older applicant fit the bill? Can she or he fit into your office culture and practice philosophy, which is way more important than age anyway?

Think about it, and share with me your older applicant stories.

Warm regards,

Larry Stanleigh, BSc, MSc, DDS, FADI, FICD, FACD


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