In Search of the Older Worker: Framing Job Requirements in Recruitment Advertisements

Martine van Selm, Linda van Heijkant*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Older workers face problems in the labor market due to dominant beliefs about their abilities: they are perceived as reliable, trustworthy, and loyal, but also as less adaptable, less motivated, and less capable compared to younger workers. The mixed beliefs about older workers resonate with the stereotype of older people in society according to the Stereotype Content Model (SCM) of being warm but less competent and are reflected in news and corporate media. The present study contributes by approaching stereotypes about older workers’ employability from a communication perspective. The study examines which requirements are communicated by employers in job advertisements targeting older job seekers, compared to those in job advertisements targeting general job seekers. This is done by using automated content analysis to inductively identify prominently advertised requirements, and to examine how these align with the older workers’ stereotype. Additionally, interviews with recruitment experts are conducted to provide explanation and interpretation. Findings reveal that the persistent idea about older workers performing well on so-called soft abilities and poorer on so-called hard abilities is reflected in job advertisements targeting older job seekers, as these represent requirements related to hard abilities to a lesser extent, whereas abilities related to customer service are more often requested. The mixed beliefs about older workers are reflected in the expert perspective of recruiters too, although with some optimism that older workers’ soft abilities fit well with employers’ need for a social and responsible workforce. The study contributes to insights regarding the SCM and framing theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-302
Number of pages15
JournalWork, Aging and Retirement
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press.


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