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Finding a Great Job if You're Over 50

Kate Lorenz, Editor

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 16 percent of today's workforce is age 55 and older, and that number is expected to reach 21 percent by 2014 -- an increase of more than 11 million workers. As the American population ages, companies are realizing older Americans are a vital part of their workforce, and are starting to put programs into place to attract and retain these workers.

Companies are increasingly focusing on this segment of the American workforce and are offering older workers more flexible work options and helping them better balance work and family issues, says Deborah Russell, director of economic security for the AARP, a nonprofit organization for people over 50.

And in the face of impending labor shortages, many companies are turning to their own retirees to fill open spots. Bringing a former employee back on board provides a wide range of benefits to the company, as retired workers need less training and are already familiar with company policies and standards as well as business protocol.

Every year, the AARP releases its list of the "Best Employers for Workers Over 50." They look at companies in a variety of industries and evaluate businesses in the areas of recruitment practices, continuing opportunities for advancement, flexible work schedules and benefits. The AARP found that while many companies still have a long way to go when it comes to attracting and retaining older workers, there are a number of businesses that have put innovative programs in place that benefit workers over 50.

If you are an older professional and want to find an employer who is open to workers of all ages, Russell offers the following tips for evaluating a company.

1. Examine the company's recruitment practices.
Russell notes you can learn a lot about a company by how and where it recruits employees, as well as what its recruitment materials look like. Is the company recruiting at a variety of job fairs? Is it open to applications from all workers? Does it have a formal program to offer positions to retired workers? Can you see a variety of ages represented in company brochures and other branded materials?

2. Ask about advancement opportunities and training.
The AARP found that many of the best companies for older workers have special programs in place to provide employees with advanced and ongoing training, help employees move positions within the company and offer career counseling. These programs help older workers keep important skills up-to-date. Some companies even offer online courses for employees, which enable older workers to take courses at their own pace.

3. Research the company's benefits.
While you might not be able to find out everything about a company's benefits in the early interview process, you can research the company's Web site and other materials to find out what benefits it offers. Many of the companies on the AARP's list have benefits that are particularly attractive to older workers, such as allowing 401(k) "catch-up" contributions and time off to care for dependents beyond what is required by law. Some also offer phased retirement programs, and several hospitals on the list offer healthcare services either at a discount or at no cost to employees covered under company health plans.

4. Examine the overall company image.
Take a look at all company collateral and its Web site. What is the image the company is portraying? Also, look around the company when you are interviewing. Do you see other older workers? Ask about the company's mission and goals. Russell says it is important to determine if the company "values its workforce, or just its bottom line."

For more information about the AARP and its list of the "Best Employers for Workers Over 50," visit the organization's Web site at

Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Other writers contributed to this article.

Last Updated: 24/09/2007 - 3:50 PM

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