While all job-seekers experience obstacles in their efforts to find the perfect job, older workers often face additional age-related challenges. Hiring managers often have a conscious or unconscious preference to prefer younger workers. Older job seekers need to find ways to age-proof their resumes to be considered for the right and professional reasons. Attending professional events, conferences, meetings, and/or job fairs might be a good start for some.
Older applicants present resumes loaded with years of valuable experience and understanding. They have honed skills over many decades of employment. That would be a positive benefit that most employers would like to utilize? Unfortunately, this truth is not always the case.
Hiring managers often think that a long work history means that the older worker is probably out-of-date. They may also assume that a candidate of this age cannot be familiar with the current technology, trends, and strategies. Worse, they may even believe that they cannot afford to hire this candidate. After all, extensive experience and an impressive skill set automatically command a high salary.
How do you write a resume if you are over 50?
To prevent that rejection requires properly updating the resume. Showcase skills and qualifications but do so in a way that does not tip off the hiring manager with clues to determine someone’s age.
One of the best resume tips for older applicants is not referring to dates in the education section. It is challenging to work around age if the college graduation date is there in black-and-white. Also, many colleges and universities have combined and merged with time. If a school has upgraded from a college to university status or merged with another institution, use only the school’s most current name. Save all the alumni pride for later.
Limit all experience to no more than the previous ten to fifteen years of work experience. Unless it is relevant to this position more so than the current experience, fight the temptation to list any experience not acquired in the twenty-first century. If the resume has only one employer, list only the most recent positions and projects.
Instead of including every bit of work experience, stick with relevant jobs to the position. Some applicants think it shows they can work hard, but no one cares that they worked in the mall at a Hickory Farms kiosk one Christmas on college break.
If it seems to be missing something, add a single line at the end of the experience section, noting that additional experiences are available upon request.
Never list outdated skills and talents. Recently, a twenty-something applicant was filling out an application. The online application asked if the prospective employee was comfortable using a 10-key calculator. They had never heard this term before. Just because someone knows what a 10-key is, bragging about it is counterproductive. Many older job seekers want to include outdated and irrelevant skills that easily give away one’s age. Instead, include only skills, programs, and certifications relevant or required for the position. Give a place of prominence to the necessary technical skills.
What should not be included in a resume?
- Too much info
- Solid wall of text
- Grammatical errors and spelling mistakes
- Inaccurate info regarding qualifications or experience
- Unnecessary personal info
- Negative comments regarding former employers
- Deep details about hobbies or personal life
Many older workers are reluctant to boast, but a resume should highlight one’s qualifications and achievements. For example, if a football player was writing their resume to be a quarterback, they could list on it:
Quarterback: Leader of the offensive unit. Responsible for calling the play in the huddle. Directs the ball on almost every offensive play. Responsible for throwing forward passes to open receivers. Served as team captain.
It is what they do, but it does not describe what they can do or have done. A hiring manager is looking for these qualifications at a bare minimum. It would be best if they showed what they have achieved in the field.
Our quarterback rewrites his resume to highlight his specific skills, talents, achievements, and qualifications to make the case why he is the best one for the opening:
- 7× Super Bowl champion (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLIX, LI, LIII, LV)
- 5× Super Bowl MVP (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XLIX, LI, LV)
- 3× NFL Most Valuable Player (2007, 2010, 2017)
- 2× NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2007, 2010)
- 14× Pro Bowl (2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009–2018)
- 4× NFL passing touchdowns leader (2002, 2007, 2010, 2015)
- 3× NFL passing yards leader (2005, 2007, 2017)
- 2× NFL passer rating leader (2007, 2010)
- 5× AFC Offensive Player of the Year (2007, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016)
These are why The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ‘hired’ Tom Brady as their quarterback when he chose to leave the New England Patriots. Who would not want a leader with all those qualifications? He must know something about winning football games.
Talk about one’s accomplishments in a positive but factual way. As Mohammed Ali once said, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”
Optimize each resume for ATS technology. Most companies today use an Applicant Tracking System to automatically screen and process each resume. These initially scan it to see who is a good candidate for the position. Unfortunately, rejection rates average 75% of all submitted candidates to ATS. Why? Many candidates were highly qualified, but ATS rejected the resume based on its search criteria. Every position has keywords and industry terms that show one understands the industry and can talk the talk. Another mistake is that applicants often use too much creativity to stand out, which frustrates the ATS. Ensure that each resume is written in a standard resume format so the ATS can easily read and process the contents. Each resume should also be rich in keywords (hard skills) that are relevant to the position.
Customize each resume send out. Do not stick with one base resume. Instead, tailor every resume to match the desired position perfectly. That means inserting keywords from the job posting and focusing it on showcasing relevant experience and skills. Tailoring each one takes time, but it is an investment in acquiring the proper position.
Properly age-proofing a resume can help avoid bias and give an applicant a better shot at landing an interview. Only in an interview can someone convince a prospective employer that they are the right candidate for the job.