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Employers favour recruits the same age as themselves

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Recruiters show ‘unconscious favouritism’, finds survey:

More than one in six workers say they have fallen victim to workplace discrimination because employers are hiring people of a similar age to themselves, research has revealed.

An online survey of just over 2,000 people by the Employers’ Forum on Age found evidence for the theory that people unconsciously recruit workers who present similar characteristics to themselves.
Job candidates felt that this “mini-me syndrome”, or unconscious favouritism, was responsible for reduced diversity in certain workplaces. Employers showed a tendency to hire people whose “face would fit,” into the existing firm, researchers said.

More than a third of respondents (35 per cent) said they had faced discrimination when applying for a job or promotion, with age given as the most common reason (17 per cent).

When asked about the diversity of their colleagues, almost two-thirds of staff said that all, most or some of their colleagues were similar to them.

Respondents identified the most commonly shared characteristics as age (68 per cent), gender (62 per cent) and social background (53 per cent).

Respondents from the areas of Yorkshire and Humber reported the least diversity among colleagues, with only a quarter confirming they did not resemble any of their work mates.

Greater than average diversity was reported in the East Midlands, Northern Ireland, London and the East of England.

Researchers also suggested that unconscious bias was more prevalent in the private sector than in the public sector because more public sector respondents (35 per cent) said they felt part of a very varied workplace than private sector respondents (29 per cent).

Denise Keating, EFA’s chief executive, said: “While age is the biggest discriminator in the workplace, it is important not to overlook other biases, such as favouritism or gender. There seems to be a very high instance of people being selected for a new job or promotion if their ‘face fits’, which unfortunately means some people feel that talent isn’t enough to overcome prejudices. While many companies have solid diversity policies, this may not run throughout the company down to individual team level, which is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

The study was commissioned to mark the annual EFA and Belief conference, ‘Progression without Prejudice’ which takes place on Wednesday.