September 2, 2022

Our new series ‘The Get-Optimal View’ does just that.  First up, Joe Slavin - Former CEO of fish4, Managing director of Monster UK and JPI Media’s brands JobsToday and TheSmartList - Joe is an advisor at Get-Optimal, a mentor for early-stage businesses and an innovative leader in the digital space. Over to you, Joe!

The Great Return

Joe Slavin

If, as a recruiter, you’ve got the sense you’re fishing from a smaller pond, you’re right. The ‘active market’ - defined by those in work or looking for work - has shrunk by over 400,000 candidates since the pre-pandemic period.

Last week’s Labour Market Survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed the sheer and growing size of those who are classified as ‘economically inactive’. This is defined as those people who are neither in work nor actively searching for work. For companies struggling to fill vacancies, it’s worth understanding that inactive group better, so we can better see whether they represent an untapped resource for business.

Sizing up the Problem

During the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, increases in economic inactivity were largely driven by those aged 16 to 24 years who chose to upskill and pursue education over employment. More recently, increases in activity have been driven by those aged 50-64, accounting for 64% of the increase in economic activity, despite being only 30% of the adult population. This has, no doubt, lead to a further tightening of the job maket and the feeling that the recruiting pond is drying up.


When segmenting this group of inactives, there was relatively little difference between men and women, between those with and without degrees, between those in professional and non-professional occupations, and public and private sector employees. The results, as you can see, are quite broad-based.

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies notes that the trend toward remote work might have prompted some workers to take early retirement if opportunities for socialisation are a factor in keeping people in work at older ages, or if people who worked from home appreciated the extra time at home and did not want to return to the workplace. Importantly, the report claims people could have chosen to take early retirement, for a variety of reasons, including increased wealth during the pandemic, when consumption opportunities were minimal, and when asset prices (e.g. housing) increased.

Overall, the rise in economic inactivity among 50 to 64-year-olds does not look to be driven primarily either by poor health or by low labour demand leading to people being unable to find work and becoming discouraged. It looks as though it is more consistent with a lifestyle choice to retire in light of changed preferences or priorities, possibly in combination with changes in the nature of work post-pandemic (in particular more remote work) which reduce the appeal of staying in employment.

No alt text provided for this image

The Great Return?

What was a sensible decision to exit the job market 6-12 months ago, does not translate into today's market. Rising inflation and unimaginable increases in energy prices may increase the appeal of returning to work. This creates an opportunity for employers who appreciate the value that this wayward group possesses.

This age group carries lots of strengths and it’s worth remembering them when putting together your recruitment plans. A recent study by Columbia University found those older workers:

  • Are skilled and experienced, despite the stereotypes
  • Take fewer days off
  • Possess a strong work ethic
  • Play a critical role in training the next generation of workers
  • Provide customers with a consistency of service

Employers need to understand the bottom-line advantages of drawing upon the experience and capabilities of the over 50s and, most importantly, foster a culture that 'gets it'. Companies need to collect and analyse age profile data of employees as well as job applicants to determine whether their adverts may be alienating (e.g., the "work hard, play hard culture" job copy does not resonate as much with this age group as it does with younger job seekers) or misplaced, i.e., adverts appearing on job sites not visited by this cohort. Finally, interviewing for 'cultural fit' criteria should be transparent and consistent. 

Structured interviews with multiple decision makers and predefined questions and scoring help to minimize/eliminate age bias.


Companies are struggling to hire and need to see this vast, often overlooked market as a secret to their future success. An over-50 hiring strategy would not only help address short-term labour shortages but also gain an understanding of how to use this ready, willing and able group to their long-term advantage. Companies are also missing out on the top talent by the content and structure of their Job Adverts. A solution Get-Optimal can provide for you today. 

Increasing economic pressures and the move away from remote work could both cause the over 50s to reconsider their move away from the job market.  It’s time for companies to prepare for this shift to the ‘Great Return’.

About Get-Optimal

Work with us at Optimal, and your response rate for open positions will soar by a minimum of 24%. Let our AI choose the most readable parts of your job ads to display and you’ll save you the precious time you would have spent combing through old or plagiarised job ads to ensure you’re conveying the correct image in the new world of attracting suitable and diverse candidates. No longer will applicants be put off by the vacancy or how it’s been advertised. Optimise once and post in multiple places - your new ad is provided in a downloadable, editable form to drop in to whichever job board or multi-poster you like!

We are also integrated with Bullhorn and Salesforce. We ensure your ad is Diversity & Inclusion compliant, meaning you’ll be the top choice commercially and win business over other, less enlightened competitors.

Ready to join forces? Why not book your demo today and get started with Get-Optimal?