Employers need to be ultra-cautious when wording job advertisements for graduates to ensure they do not fall foul of next year's age discrimination legislation, lawyers have warned.
The Act, due to come into force in October 2006, will outlaw any form of age discrimination in the recruitment of staff.
Mary Clarke, employment partner at law firm DLA, said that while most companies were aware that words like 'young' and 'youthful' will be outlawed from job advertisements, they may also have to avoid including terms like 'energetic' and 'vibrant'.
"Words such as these could put off older graduates," she said.
Clarke, who has helped to author a DLA/Graduate Prospects guide to age discrmination for graduate recruiters, said companies may also have to remove a request for a date of birth and even a chronology of experience from application forms. "All subliminal age bias will have to be removed from application forms," she said.
While companies seeking graduates have traditionally targeted younger age groups, the number of mature students is on the rise. The number of first-year students over 30 in higher education increased by 55% between 2000 and 2004, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), which also sponsored the DLA/Graduate Prospects guide, said: "There are more mature students and people are working longer. Graduate recruitment should be changing to reflect this."
The advice comes in the week the AGR released its graduate recruitment survey for 2005. The report revealed that the number of graduate vacancies has risen by 11.3% over the past year and that the average median starting salary has climbed to 22,000 - a 4.8% increase from 2004.
The largest increases in vacancy levels in 2005 were reported by IT companies (47%), accountancy and professional services (20%), investment banks (17%) and retailers (9%).
For more on the AGR research go to www.personneltoday.com/indepth