My grandparents leave me perplexed. Here are people that live on the same planet as me, at the same time as me, yet interact with the world in an almost entirely antithetical way to me.
For them, technology has become an afterthought. A party trick. It’s less transforming the world around them and more a nifty way to play solitaire. They don’t want to evolve — rapid advancements in tech throughout the last decade have prompted a jaded attitude towards change. They’re stuck, and they don’t care; they’re perfectly happy living the life they lived in 2005.
My grandparents aren’t alone.
As you may expect, there’s an inverse relationship between someone’s age and their likelihood to interact with technology — all culminating with adults aged 50+ being the least likely age group to frequently use technology or have access to a personal computer. This barrier, in turn, is reflected in the actual design of new digital experiences. Older adults have been coined “invisible users,” a rare breed of internet operatives whose interests and values are absent in online interfaces.
The omission of these preferences becomes especially prevalent when looking at most job applications: Overwhelming career sites, lack of mobile functionality, and friction-additive features like having to create a login all contradict the ideal digital experience for older adults.
I can hear what you’re thinking: “My open hourly positions are being filled by today’s youth. Why should I put in the effort to adjust how I hire for an age group I’m not targeting?”
Here’s the kicker: 29% of minimum wage workers are over the age of 50. When job applications alienate them from entering your pipeline, you lose candidates (with decades of experience!) before they become candidates. You need to design your applications with accessibility in mind to maximize your hiring efficiency.
Here’s how you do it.
A sidebar discussion on accessibility.
I think a good barometer for measuring a technology’s accessibility in the marketplace is seeing if your grandparents can get it. As I mentioned, my grandparents don’t get much.
When I tried to explain ChatGPT to them, I swear it almost killed them. That doesn’t mean ChatGPT is an unviable product — far from it. It just means that maybe its functionality in the greater marketplace is siloed from people who still haven’t adopted AI as a part of their daily routine. They just don’t get it.
Here’s what my grandparents do get: texting.
AARP found that 86% of Americans aged 50+ texted. And a majority of those aged 50–69 — the older adults that are typically in the workforce — preferred text over email. They may be late, but they’ve certainly adopted. They get it.
And honestly, everyone gets it.
Texting is universal. It’s accessibility personified. It’s the digital bridge between your company’s 55-year-old CEO and the 30-year-old Spanish-speaking custodian. Next to eating, breathing, and sleeping, it’s the one thing that every demographic gets. It’s simple. It’s fast. It’s ubiquitous. And if something can be done over text, odds are people prefer to do it that way
Your online job applications should take advantage of that.
Conversational AI as a means to include every generation.
Conversational AI is the intersection of high-touch software and a grandpa-approved interface. Incredibly powerful and modern, yet almost impossibly simple.
Candidates can initiate a job application via text or QR code, and an AI assistant instantly responds via text to automatically drive the hiring process forward. Applicants are checked for qualifications, scheduled for interviews, and onboarded, all through their messaging app of choice. That means there are no logins, no passwords, no forms, no extra software to download or learn how to use — all of those friction points that frustrate the heck out of most candidates. The process is just:
And…that’s it. Congrats, you’re scheduled for an interview.
The line between having a conversation and applying for a job isn’t just blurry — it’s completely invisible.
The AI even follows AARP-designed guidelines for keeping digital experiences approved for all ages: Information, like screening questions, is presented in bite-sized chunks. Instructions are clearly and sequentially listed.
A conversational application is simple and streamlined. It’s something anyone can get.
And when candidates are qualified and ready to be scheduled for an interview, they’re able to do so on the same messaging app they used to start the application. We’re talking about the complete absence of friction, minimizing the effort you’re asking of your candidates.
And that’s only the beginning — a conversational job application goes beyond just texting to apply. It’s a mobile-first experience for candidates that covers every single step of the hiring process, from the initial career site to the onboarding paperwork. And for a hiring manager, it’s real-time, two-way communication that can be automated as much as they want it to be.
Yet even with all this automation, it still feels like talking to someone you know. Because of heavy backend usage of natural language processing, which texts less like a robot and more like a human being, messages are never lost in the ether of cyberspace. If a misplaced thumb types that you’ve worked in retail for 21 “yeats”, the AI understands what you really mean. A candidate doesn’t have to be a perfect texter for their responses to still be understood and processed.
But it goes beyond frivolous misclicks. You can train the AI to text a candidate in their language and industry lexicon. Conversational AI casts a wide net to attract the largest number of applicants possible, then specializes each conversation to the individual. If you’re a fast-food franchise hiring line cooks in Spain, Italy, and Australia, you could simultaneously schedule interviews in Spanish, Italian, and whatever the heck they speak in Australia. Then, those conversations are translated and funneled to your hiring managers in their native language.
Think of how valuable it would be to have a recruiter that could speak to any candidate, no matter where in the world they were. That’s no longer a pipe dream — conversational AI is seamlessly talking to candidates in over 30 languages right now.
The most personal application out there.
What does this all equal? An experience that blends perfectly into every other text thread on your phone. The AI assistant may be high-tech software in the back end, but from a user perspective, it’s like texting a relative.
It’s presented like something you know, and something you like. It’s something that all people, no matter their age or where they’re from, just get. And it’s something that will increase the amount of candidates you get, too.