Candidates may suffer ageism by showing 'older' characteristics

70% of participants preferred the young profile

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Candidates applying for jobs can suffer ageism simply by promoting characteristics associated with older people, according to new research.

Psychologists from the University of Kent have found that people are more likely to select candidates who are described with characteristics stereotypical of younger people.

The participants in the study, led by Professor Dominic Abrams of the university's school of psychology, were more likely to choose those with "young" personality descriptions such as creative and IT literate rather than those with "older" descriptions such as careful and considerate.

They were asked to select the candidate they felt would help maximise profits.

A university spokesman said: "Participants were told about two equally qualified job candidates, whose strengths had been rated as equal by an independent set of judges, but whose age was not given.

"One candidate was described as having strengths that matched the 'younger' stereotype -- being good at using IT, creative, good at learning new skills. The other candidate was described as having strengths that matched the 'old' stereotype - being good at understanding others' views, settling arguments, and being careful.

"The researchers found that participants consistently favoured the young profile. In fact, regardless of whether the job was for a long or short term, and whether it was for a supervisor or supervisee role, over 70% of participants preferred the young profile.

"Things only evened when participants were told that both candidates would be working for them but that they had to choose which should be the subordinate. In that case, 50% chose the 'old' profile to be subordinate.

"The findings show that people's unacknowledged assumptions about age and age-related capability can affect the way they view someone's employability. If these assumptions affect employers' judgments, it has serious implications for the fair chances of older workers to gain employment in new roles or workplaces."

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