Tips and Advice for Age-Proofing Your Resume
In most cases, age is seen as an advantage.
When you are job hunting, however, age could work against you.
Older job seekers are sometimes seen as having outdated experience, being too experienced (and therefore more expensive to hire), or not being conversant with current technologies, therefore reducing their chances of getting hired. This is age discrimination, and while it is illegal, it still happens.
An AARPA survey in 2018 found that 2 out of 3 workers who are over 45 years old report seeing or experiencing age discrimination at work. 91% of respondents who reported age bias also said that they believe discrimination based on age to be a common occurrence in many workplaces.
Therefore, if you are older worker who is looking for a job, it might be wise to age-proof your resume. This does not mean that you are ashamed of your age.
Instead, it is a strategy to help you get through the biases most people have.
For some people, the bias may be unconscious, so they don’t even realize they are discriminating against you because of your age.
It is therefore wise to craft your resume in such a way that such biases will not intrude and color how an interviewer or prospective employer perceives you, and allows you to get chosen for your competence, not discriminated against for your age.
In this article, we are going to give you some tips on how to craft your resume in a way that insulates you against such biases.
1. PLACE EMPHASIS ON RECENT EXPERIENCE
When you have been employed for a long time, your earlier work experience becomes largely irrelevant.
At that point, employers don’t care about the first job you did straight out of college if it has little relevance to the current role you are applying for.
You should focus on the experience you have gained during the past 10 to 15 years as this will be more relevant and recent.
However, you can still provide a summary of your older work experience using a “Career Note” section within the resume. Even here, though, the dates are not necessary.
Most people include pages upon pages of information about themselves in their resumes, mistakenly thinking that quantity is everything and that the employer will be impressed by their extensive achievements.
However, quality trumps quantity, which is why a fresh graduate who is super sharp might get the job while a veteran of many decades may not – because the young person is probably more creative and open to new ideas or technology.
For that reason, it is best to focus on what you have done lately rather than highlight everything you have ever done.
Remember that the interviewers/employers are busy people and they do not have the time to go through everyone’s resume with precision.
If your resume wastes too much time listing what you did decades ago, they may put it away unread.
Employers want something that goes directly to the point and shows your worth and potential to add value to their company.
Like I said, it’s about quality, not quantity.
2. REMOVE OLDER DATES
In addition to removing outdated, irrelevant experience, you should also get rid of any dates in your resume that do not fall within a 15-year window. These are dates relating either to your education or work experience.
To put it simply, if the dates are not absolutely necessary, do not include them.
For instance, while it is important to include your academic achievements in your resume, you shouldn’t feel obligated to include the year of graduation.
The only thing the dates do is give a hint of how old you are.
As we mentioned, age bias is common in the workplace. If the employer is subconsciously biased towards younger people, he or she may dismiss your application without much consideration of your talents and achievements.
This is why you should leave out the dates.
Let the employer/interviewer judge you based on your personality and ability to communicate your worth during the interview rather than your age.
It is natural to feel inadequate when applying for a job, resulting in the need to provide as much evidence of your skills and experience as possible.
It is also natural to feel proud of our achievements and to feel the need to provide as much evidence as possible that we have done great things.
These two are the internal forces that compel most people to create long resumes consisting of too many pages.
Sure, it is impressive that you have done so many things in your career that your achievements could fill up multiple pages.
However, you are not the only candidate applying for the job, and the human resource team are busy people who have to go through hundreds of applications and narrow them down to the best candidates.
When your resume is too long, this can induce an apathy to reading it.
Why should you jeopardize your chances of getting the job when you can summarize your achievements more concisely or provide only the most relevant information?
This is why we advised that you only include recent employment history or education.
It takes a recruiter about 10 seconds to review a resume and decide if it deserves further consideration.
That’s why you should keep the resume short and sweet, summarizing the most important information in no more than two pages. You want the recruiter to get a gist of your work history within that limited timeframe.
4. DON’T TAKE THE JACK OF ALL TRADES APPROACH: INSTEAD, CUSTOMIZE
You have probably had multiple roles in the course of your career and maybe in different industries or fields. Not all of these should appear in your resume.
Think of your resume as a story. It provides a narrative about you.
It says, “This is who I am, and this is what I can do.” The narrative you provide, just like a good story, should not have superfluous or irrelevant information. Everything contained in the resume should be relevant to the particular job you are applying for.
You must therefore shun the jack of all trades approach as it makes you appear directionless.
The only time you can do it is when each of the roles you have held previously is relevant to the job you are applying for.
Weed out the “elbows” – the information that sticks out – and leave only that which is relevant.
This approach will make your resume both a pleasure to read and useful to the recruiter or prospective employer in determining if you are the right fit for the available position.
When I say “customize your resume”, I don’t mean that you should rewrite the entire document every time you are applying for a new job. You of course still have to stay true to your personal brand. W
hat I do mean is that you should tweak and tailor the resume to best suit each job you are applying for.
Before doing anything, take your time to analyze the job description and come up with a list of important keywords contained in the job description. See which words align with skills you possess or positions you have held.
It is also critical to make sure that the target job title of the resume matches with the title of the job listing.
For instance, if you are applying for a job that has the title “Network Administrator”, this is the exact title you should put on your resume at the top as your target job title. This will ensure the recruiter understands perfectly what your job goals are.
With a customized resume, it does not matter what age you are. If you are a good fit for the position, the recruiter or employer will be more likely to shortlist you, regardless of age.
4. UPDATE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS
There was a time when yahoo.com, hotmail.com, and aol.com were the norm when it came to email.
However, those times are now gone. In this era, gmail.com and outlook.com are considered to be more modern.
When you use a hotmail.com email, it instantly tells your age to the recruiter or employer.
It is inconceivable that a young candidate would have a hotmail.com address.
Furthermore, it tells the recruiter or employer that you are resistant to change, that you are a slow adopter of technology, and that you are not open to switching to what is current, even if it is superior to the old technology you are used to.
Employers nowadays want workers who are creative and open to learning new things. The main reason for this is because of the rapid change in technology.
To survive in this age, many companies have had to change the way they do things; to adopt new technology and methodologies.
When you use an old email address, it suggests that you are someone set in your ways, and that you are not tech-savvy, which is not what companies want from their employees today.
Since both gmail.com and outlook.com are free, why don’t you consider getting them or any other current, professional options?
5. INCLUDE YOUR TECHNICAL PROFICIENCIES
As noted above, employers are looking for employees who can blend with the time and use the tools of the current era to create value for the company.
A resistance to new technology is one of the reasons for the bias against older people in the workforce.
To counter this bias, you have to show the recruiter or employer that you are not wary of using technology.
You should therefore list the technical proficiencies that do you have as they relate to the job you are applying for.
For instance, if you are an accountant, remember to include in the resume that you are proficient at working with an accounting software like QuickBooks.
This will demonstrate to the employer that you are ready to change with the times and that you will be an asset to the organization rather than a burden.
Technical skills show an eagerness and ability to learn, which means that you are likely to take good advantage of any training opportunities offered by the organization to build capacity and become better at your job.
6. LIST YOUR MOBILE PHONE
A lot of the time, age bias is not necessarily age bias. The employer is not necessarily against because of their old age, but because of their old ways of thinking.
There are some old people who are still be young and modern in the way you see the world or the way they do things. Such people are unlikely to get discriminated against because of their old age.
This is why it is important that you eliminate any evidence of “set in my ways” behavior from your resume.
For instance, if you are still listing a landline on your resume, you need to expunge that. Instead, list a cell phone number.
The advantage of a cell phone number is that you can control the voicemail message the recruiter gets when he/she calls.
When you use a home number, the family’s voicemail message is what the recruiter will get, and this does not always present a professional picture – for instance, when the kids have made a prank voicemail.
Furthermore, when you list a cellphone number, it is more likely that the only person who answers the phone will be yourself.
On the other hand, the landline at home can be answered by anyone in the vicinity and you have no control over what they will say.
7. JOIN LINKEDIN
Nothing says “I’m set in my old ways” like not having a LinkedIn account. LinkedIn is the in-thing when it comes to recruiting. If you do not have a LinkedIn account, recruiters and employers may not take you seriously.
Candidates who have updated LinkedIn accounts are considered more attractive than those who either do not have an account or have one that has scant or outdated information.
To age-proof your resume, ensure that you show recruiters you are conversant and willing to work with the current technology by joining LinkedIn and fine-tuning your LinkedIn profile to perfection.
LinkedIn is an excellent platform for connecting with other people working in your industry.
In addition, it is a great place for finding new job opportunities.
You can also use LinkedIn as a place to advertise your candidacy to prospective employers. What’s more, recruiters spend a lot of time in LinkedIn, and you increase your chances of being noticed if your LinkedIn profile is excellent.
Nowadays, employers review candidates’ social network profiles, even when the candidates have not provided that information. LinkedIn is the perfect place to show your professionalism, skills, and ambition.
Ensure that your LinkedIn profile supports your career goals, especially in line with the jobs you are applying for. This will enable prospective employers to gauge if you are a good fit for their organization or the position you are applying for.
Once you have created the LinkedIn profile, add it on top of your resume so that recruiters can check out your profile.
8. USE ONLY ONE SPACE AFTER EACH SENTENCE
It is not easy to outgrow the norms you were taught while you were growing up.
Back in the day, the rule when typing was to add two spaces after each sentence.
This is because back then, typewriters were the technology used for typed communication. The extra space was necessary to help make it clear that a new sentence had started.
This practice, however, is now outdated, since we no longer use typewriters. In the age of computers and word processing software, nothing says “I am over 40” than adding two spaces after a period.
However, old habits die hard, especially habits that you learned in your formative years. When you use two spaces after a period, it signals to the prospective employer that not only are you old in years, but you are also resistant to change.
Being old is not wrong and no one should be discriminated against for being old.
However, refusing to change with the times, continuing to live in the past, is disastrous, especially in the information age.
Entire industries have been disrupted because of the unwillingness of established companies to adopt new technology or methods of doing business.
In these turbulent and highly dynamic times, companies are looking for people who are forward-looking, people who are more interested in building the future than entertaining an unfruitful nostalgia for how “things used to be”.
For that reason, two spaces after a period is a huge red flag and prospective employers might be wary about hiring you.
9. DESIGN THE RESUME
It’s not enough to write a great resume. We are all highly visual, even employers.
Content is definitely king, but presentation is the icing on the cake – that is to say, design is queen!
Consider how many people applying for the same job as you are as qualified as you or even more qualified.
Out of a sea of resumes, what will make yours stand out?
Remember what we said about recruiters only taking about 10 seconds to decide if they are going to give your resume further consideration. In other words, getting the recruiter’s attention is not always about what is contained in the resume.
You have to do something extra to snag the recruiter’s attention and hold on to it beyond this 10 second period.
This is why you must go beyond writing your resume, and design it instead.
Create a resume that is aesthetically appealing, something that will catch the prospective employer’s eye and hold their attention long enough for them to read through it carefully and make a thoughtful decision on whether you are a good fit for the role.
Combine short blurbs and bullet points so as to make reading your resume easier. You want the reader to quickly scan the resume and easily find all the details relevant to the job you are applying for.
The consideration of resumes as aesthetic objects that need to be perfectly designed for easy reading is a “young mentality”.
This is because young people tend to be more aesthetically inclined. It also communicates to the prospective employer that you care about presentation and effective communication.
These two skills are quite useful in most careers.
10. EMPHASIZE YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS NOT TASKS
The everyday tasks you were tasked with in your previous positions may provide useful information to the recruiter, but they are not what he or she is looking for.
What the recruiter really wants to know is what you have accomplished in the course of your career.
For each role in your work history, write a short paragraph describing the responsibilities you undertook in that role. In addition, include a set of bullet points in which you will highlight the significant contributions that you made which were of benefit to the company.
The thinking behind this is simple. When you only provide tasks, that does not say much to set you apart from other candidates.
The tasks you performed were simply part of your job description. In other words, anyone else who did that job would list the same tasks as you.
What the recruiter is keen on, therefore, is what sets you apart from other people who had that role before or after you? What did you do that was significant? What changes did you make? What impact did you have? In which ways did you excel at your job? What made you stand out?
Bulleting these details is a way for making the resume aesthetic and easier to read.
Bullet points are more eye-catching than blocks of text. As I said earlier, you should design the resume, not just write it.
Another thing to consider is quantifying these accomplishments. It’s not enough to say that you did ABC.
No, give the recruiter an accurate idea of what you mean. Numbers are very helpful in this regard.
Where it’s possible to quantify your performance, ensure you do.
For instance, don’t just say that the company became more profitable because of an innovation you introduced. Say that its profits rose from this amount to that amount, or by a certain percentage.
Providing figures and percentages helps paint a picture in the reader’s mind. It gives them an accurate idea of just how substantial your accomplishments were. In addition, it demonstrates that you have a keen attention to detail, which is always a good trait to have.
When your accomplishments are substantial and impressive, especially recent ones, you don’t have to worry about age discrimination.
These achievements will speak louder than prejudice and give you at least a chance to be shortlisted for the interviews where you can go on to prove your mettle.
Is age bias wrong? It is. Unfortunately, the word is not a fair place, and in as much as we would like to, we cannot wish it away.
Therefore, instead of sticking to old ways and getting bypassed by younger candidates, it is better to age-proof your resume and increase your chances of getting invited to job interviews, where you can then prove your worth.
When it comes to age-proofing your resume, anything that indicates that you are resistant to technology and new techniques or culture should be eliminated.
Ensure your resume is short and easy to read. Join LinkedIn. Tailor the resume for the job.
Follow all ten of the tips provided in this article, and you won’t have to worry about age bias any more when you send out your resume.
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