Top companies choose experience over youngsters


The corporate world may be letting younger blood through the revolving doors but SA?s large corporates continue to choose relatively older, more experienced employees to fill their top jobs, especially those at EXCO (Executive Committee) level.

Debbie Goodman, MD of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters who places many of the top executives in SA?s leading corporations says last year most of the people she placed in Exco-level positions were over the age of 40.

"SA companies are still allowing youngsters (between 30 and 35) into their senior positions but seem to prefer the over forties for top management as apposed to the UK where the opposite is true. The exception to this in South Africa is the financial services and IT industries, where top execs are likely to be in their mid-30?s (or even younger).

Research by the Chartered Management Institute and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found almost a quarter of the 2682 managers surveyed (22%) admitted that age has had some impact on their own recruitment decisions.

This claim is backed up by individual perceptions of age, with more than six out of 10 respondents believing that workers between the ages of 30-39 years old had the best promotion prospects, with only two per cent citing 50 year-olds or above.

Goodman comments that although age-discrimination is prohibited by legislation, hiring managers will often use the excuse of "culture fit? to justify recruitment decisions which are, in fact, influenced by a candidate?s age.

"I wouldn?t say that ageism is keeping the young high flyers out of EXCO - rather, their exclusion comes down to lack of experience which, no matter how bright an individual is, can?t always be fast tracked.

"South African corporations also tend to be more conservative in their executive recruitment decisions, which they will deliberate for some time before deciding on a candidate.

Older candidates are usually a less risky bet as they have the experience and are less likely to job hop or drop the ball. A big factor in younger professionals gaining access to senior management is the age of the CEO and other recruitment decision-makers.'