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Older Execs Bring Pluses, Minuses to the Job

Tests employers use found better verbal skills but less ability to reason in older job applicants

MONDAY, April 6, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Older executives have some better mental skills than their younger counterparts, but lag behind in others, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at test results from thousands of people, aged 20 to 74, who applied for executive-level jobs, such as vice president or general manager, in different job fields.

Older applicants tended to have higher "crystallized intelligence," which includes verbal ability and experience-based knowledge, but lower "fluid intelligence," which involved the ability to reason, the study found.

The study was published online recently in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

"We found that older executives performed somewhat worse on tests of general mental ability, and markedly worse on figural and inductive reasoning tests, which assess fluid intelligence," lead researcher Rachael Klein, a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota, said in a journal news release.

"Given the rising numbers of older employees in the workforce, as well as the rise in age-based discrimination cases, it is increasingly important for employers to be careful regarding which tests of cognitive [mental] abilities they administer," she added.

Future studies should focus on how best to help older workers make the switch to new positions or careers, the study authors said.

More information

The AARP has more about older workers and job hunting.

SOURCE: Journal of Applied Psychology, news release, April 1, 2015
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