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Age Appropriate

Hiring employees over age 50 Is a smart move--if you do it right.

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This story appears in the October 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

With one-third of his 75 employees age 50 or over, Brian Hughes is already living in the world of 2010. By then, nearly a third of the U.S. work force will have had 50 or more birthdays, according to a report by AARP. That's OK with the vice president and great-grandson of the founder of Hughes Environmental Engineering Inc., a $16 million Montvale, New Jersey, heating and air conditioning service firm. Hughes, 37, interviews people who are nearing retirement as readily as the freshly graduated. And, he says, "the older guy's probably going to get the job."

A similarly welcoming attitude from more employers will become necessary, thanks to the aging and slower growth of the U.S. work force coupled with people's growing tendency to work past normal retirement age. Experts and entrepreneurs knowledgeable about age 50-plus workers say that their experience, skills and loyalty will give an edge to employers who can hire, manage and retain them. As Emily Allen, AARP manager of work force programs, puts it, "They may want to work, but will they want to work for you?"

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