Purpose – This study aims to investigate the role of managers in the re-employment of early retirees and focuses on the effect of managers' age norms and stereotypes on managers' employment decisions. Design/methodology/approach – A combination of a factorial study and a survey was conducted. First, information on the age norms and stereotypes was collected. Secondly, profiles of hypothetical retired job applicants were presented to the employers, who were asked to make a specific hiring decision. The information collected during both studies was combined in the analysis and multilevel models were estimated. Findings – The results indicate that higher age norms (defined as age at which somebody is believed to be unable to work for 20 hours a week or more) result in a higher propensity to hire an early retiree. Stereotypes, by contrast, do not influence managers' decisions. Early retirees' chances for re-employment are also related to their own circumstances (physical appearance and relevant experience) and organisational forces, as they are hired when organisations face labour force shortages. Research limitations/implications – With the use of vignettes study the authors deal with a hypothetical hiring situation. Originality/value – Although the effect of attitudes has been often suggested, not much empirical evidence has been presented to support this notion. This study estimates the effect of age norms and stereotypes on hiring decision. Keywords: older workers, recruitment, social norms, stereotypes.