By Kathleen Sullivan
If you are a job seeker over 40 and are concerned that your age can get in the way of being considered for a job, be sure that your resume does not give away your age. The language, format, and content you include in your resume can date you. Here are ten tips for writing your resume that will reflect your qualifications for the position you are seeking rather than revealing how close you are to collecting retirement benefits.
Tip one: Avoid language that signals that you are concerned about your age. Job seekers over 40 often open their resumes with adjectives like “Energetic” or “Youthful” to convey that they can compete with younger applicants. Instead of using language that highlights that you are older, show how engaged and current you are with state of the art business trends and practices.
Tip two: Exclude your total number of years of work experience. Just because you have over 25 years of experience in an industry or profession does not mean that you are more successful or competent than a younger applicant. It is what you accomplished in those 25 years and how you can leverage your experience for a new employer that makes you valuable. Your competitive advantage is not total years, but your results in how you led people or projects, attracted or retained clients, made or saved money, or introduced or improved business processes.
Tip three: Limit your resume to the most recent 12 -15 years of professional experience. If you try to document your entire work history of 25 to 30 years of experience, inevitably you will include industries, roles, business practices, and technologies that have become obsolete. Even if this experience was novel or impressive at the time, it has lost its relevance and value. Your resume should focus your most recent 12 – 15 years’ experience and the most current business practices and technologies you have applied. If you have experience from over 15 years ago that is critical to selling your qualifications for a position, add a section called “Additional Accomplishments” and do not include dates. This will support your candidacy, but not draw attention to your age.
Tip four: Omit your dates of graduation. When you list college or graduate/professional degrees, do not include the dates, which will pinpoint your age. Also, if you received a degree or professional credential over 20 years ago, what you learned at that time may be out of date or irrelevant now.
Tip five: Include recent certifications and training. If you have completed a professional certification or training in your industry or in leadership skills, business processes, or state of the art technology, include a section on your resume entitled “Recent Professional Development.” Demonstrate any knowledge or specialization you have gained in emerging industries or professions that are in demand. Convey that you stay current and are a lifelong learner.
Tip six: Downplay titles. Many organizations have become flatter and have eliminated layers of management. If you focus on your past titles or any entitlements they suggest, you may be perceived as someone who is not able to function in a more modern and streamlined organization.
Tip seven: Showcase your project and team based experience. Companies are currently organizing work around projects that are managed by teams. Highlight your project based experience and demonstrate your skills and accomplishments working on teams. Provide examples of experience leading or participating on global or virtual teams. List any project management certifications or training you have attained.
Tip eight: Sell, rather than tell, about your experience. Job seekers over 40 will describe themselves as “Veteran” or “Seasoned” to indicate that they have extensive work experience. However, these words suggest that you are older, but do not promote the actual experience you have that is relevant and valuable to the potential employer. Gain the employer’s interest in your experience by citing the projects, clients, and technologies that you been involved with and the results you achieved.
Tip nine: Include metrics to demonstrate your effectiveness. Highlight your worth to a potential employer by quantifying the results you have achieved. Stating in your resume that you are “Proficient in” or “Excel at” at something is vague, unconvincing, and does not communicate what you can contribute to an employer. Use numbers and percentages to show how many people you managed, the dollar value of a sale, revenue from a project or new client, and money saved by your efforts. Again, this is an advantage over younger candidates because they may have not had the opportunities yet to achieve comparable results.
Tip ten: Communicate that you are versatile and flexible. Change is the only constant in business these days. Industries, companies, and jobs continuously evolve and you must show that you are able to adapt. Include examples where you have dealt successfully with industry and business change: rapid growth, mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, and re-organizations. Project that you are a change agent and welcome new ideas and situations.
A resume is one of your key tools to promote yourself for the next step in your career. You are creating and substantiating the image that will be perceived in the job market. If you strategically choose the language, format, and content you use in your resume, you will be seen as a viable and valuable candidate, and age will not be an issue.