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Youthful Exuberance or the Wisdom of Years?

Age before beauty?  It’s a wisecrack you’ve probably either made yourself or at least heard a few times when you’re chumming around with your friends…and we won’t ask which side of those options you are on.

Everyday in business – whether the recruitment is for the biotech, pharmaceutical or medical devices industries – hiring managers wrestle with a similar dichotomy when they are working to put together the best team. We’re talking about choosing between a younger candidate who might be more motivated or energized versus a more experienced candidate who might be more, well, experienced.

Disclaimer: This blog was previously posted by Seuss Consulting and has been slightly modified for Seuss Recruitment.

Age isn’t what it used to be

Of course, there are some false trade-offs bundled up in this kind of “conventional wisdom.” With an “age vs youth” dichotomy, the assumption is that younger is necessarily more energetic. However, professionals in today’s workforce are different than they were a generation ago.

Common sayings such as, “50 is the new 30,” aren’t too far off the mark. You may have read news stories that groups such as AARP are having trouble recruiting new members.

People just don’t perceive their age today in the same way their parents did. Because of this, when comparing the younger vs older candidate, the veteran may have just as much enthusiasm and energy as upstart. But frankly, to rebalance the scale a little, “time on the job” doesn’t always translate to depth of experience. Further, having grown up with technologies critical to business success often puts another check mark on the younger candidate’s side of the ledger.

There will be benefits and consequences no matter which path you decide to walk and the important points are to accept the consequences of your hiring decision and be ready to maximise the benefits of the route you have chosen to take.

The bottom line

We need to interject one more element into the conversation: cost. Everything eventually comes around to money, doesn’t it?

Recruiting pharma and biotech employees is no exception. Often businesses will opt for the less experienced candidate because his or her starting salary will be on the lower end of the scale. Without a doubt this is true.

However, there are consequences associated with hiring less experienced candidates that drive up the costs of bringing them onto your team. These are difficult to measure directly, but that doesn’t make them any less real.

For example, the younger employee may be fired up and ready to go, but end up actually getting off to a slower start than the candidate with more industry experience. Further, while on the learning curve, the less experienced employee will make more mistakes.

Overall, it’s also very safe to say that the younger new hire will require more of management’s time. On the other side of this trade-off, the older candidate brings a larger salary to the profit and loss spread sheet, but may require less time to get up to speed – but be realistic; it is still as long as six months – and will require less management oversight.

Finding the best fit

That’s enough to say on the topic today, but we really want to share one of the classic quotes on this issue.

When President Reagan, at age 73, was up for re-election, pundits made an issue of his age. He was able to silence his critics with one memorable quip: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

That put him well on the way to a landslide victory.

When you handle age vs experience properly, your company will be a winner too.