Forget about the age - it's all about the skillset
You're hiring for an exciting sales position, and the CVs have come flooding in! Now, ask yourself this question; would you prefer someone 40 or 50 years old working on your team, or would you feel more comfortable bringing in fresh blood, with an employee in their 20s?
Both options certainly have their benefits.
A younger person is at a stage in life where they have very few commitments, so they perceive the risks associated with losing their jobs to be relatively low. They're probably renting or living with friends and family, have a support network and are working in London to get enough money to keep them sweet in the gym, booze at the weekends and the odd holiday.
They have their career ahead of them, which means they are potentially going to work hard and do what they are told to do with little or no complaints - they are like a blank canvas which means you can teach them to work the way your company operates, rather than having to help them unlearn habits and practices that don't fit. They are like a sponge, eager to absorb skills and experience, and it could be argued that this is going to keep them enthused and interested and driven.
You give them their first set of targets: ‘make 100 calls a day delivering 20 effective calls to decision makers and report back to me tomorrow morning.' No problem, off they go! No complaints, cracking on making calls. Easy to manage right?
Only problem is that in their report tomorrow morning, it transpires that they have made 100 calls, and spoken to 20 decision makers, but not made any sales or sent any proposals out. The result? You need to invest time, resource and money into training. With the training and development, over time, their conversions pick up and the sales start to filter in. Even with training, the sales don't pour in - why?
It's not the amount of effort as your twenty something is working hard making all the calls - perhaps its because they don't have huge bills to pay or huge commitments that they don't really care if their targets are not quite met and they don't get that commission cheque at the end of the month? Maybe its because even with all their drive, enthusiasm and effort and all your training and coaching - because they are younger, they simply don't have the gravitas or credibility to engage properly with your client base?
The learning curve for this young twenty something has been so steep that after a year or so of making those 100 calls, they've had all the training and just when you have got them at the right level where they can run and make sales without hand-holding from you, they want more! Their learning curve has slowed down, they can do the job blindfolded (and hungover), they know how to cut corners, they know who to call for favours - its working, but they now either want a bigger job, more money or more learning. If you can't provide this, they will leave and move to another company. You've just spent an entire year investing in them and just when you have them at the right stage, they are gone.
Now lets look at the older option. This person has 20 years of sales experience in media, they have commitments to meet; a mortgage to pay, two children at school that need feeding, clothing, childcare to pay for etc. if they don't get the commission cheque it means a big impact on them financially.
They don't need training. In fact, they are probably used to GIVING training. They pick up the phone and immediately have an impact as they have respect and credibility when speaking to your clients - in fact being a bit more mature, they are able to engage on more of a business level with your clients and start to create more opportunities and revenue. Your time is freed up as you don't need to hold their hand, they don't need coaching and training. They turn up on time and are not hung over. But will they make 100 calls like the younger crowd? And will they be happy and satisfied on the lower basic salary that they younger crowd have no complaints over?
The long and short of it is that there are benefits to having younger staff, and to having older staff. As such, each position should be recruited to entirely on the strengths of the candidate, which means mapping out carefully what it is you are looking for, and ensuring that you are wording your job adverts appropriately. It is, of course, illegal to discriminate on the grounds of age, though looking for those with ‘experience' is a natural and everyday business activity.
All candidates have skills and benefits that they can bring to businesses, as well as areas where they may perhaps not be as strong as other candidates. Making sure you have considered all the different possibilities will help you to bring the right people in to grow your business - but you should never write off a candidate simply because they seem too old, or too young. Everyone has something to offer you.