The new year is as good a time as any to review how your age is perceived by the resume information you provide.
We’ve watched the ball drop and turned another page on our wall calendars. This is the time of year that reminds us that we’re all getting older — especially those of us ancient enough to use the term “wall calendar.”
One thing that doesn’t have to age, though, is your resume. The new year is as good a time as any to review how your age is perceived by the resume information you provide.
Gone are the days when older workers were treasured for their accumulated knowledge. Many hiring managers consider applicants as young as 40 to be too expensive, unwilling to learn new methods or overqualified. Age discrimination is illegal, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but it is very hard to enforce when it comes to reviewing resumes and cover letters. Since you aren’t an actual employee, there are very few ways to prove that you were denied consideration because of your age.
The best way to reduce your chances of this bias is to remove age from the equation. Here are a few age-neutralizing tips that can help keep your resume in the call-back pile.
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1. Don’t provide education dates. The easiest way is to simply eliminate references to specific years. Remove all dates from your college graduation and other courses you may have taken. In your cover letter, don’t start out by saying you have “25 years of experience” in your field, lest you give away clues to your age.
2. Limit experience to the past 15 years. For actual dates of employment in previous jobs, make sure you include at least a start and stop year. To eliminate all years from your experience section can give the impression that you’re hiding something. Instead, include only the work experience of the past 15 years, and focus mostly on those jobs that are relevant to the position to which you’re applying. For instance, if you’re looking for an accounting job, don’t bother mentioning the first three years you spent at a factory right out of college in the pre-Internet era.
3. Try a functional, rather than chronological, resume model. A functional resume is more targeted to your abilities and expertise than to the length of your experience. Instead of listing your jobs in reverse chronological order, as in a standard resume, begin with the various skills you have, making sure to link them with the requirements in the job description. The hiring manager may eventually want to learn more about your dates of service, but your expertise should be enough to pique their interest. This kind of resume takes more time to personalize, of course, but targeting is the key to all job searches. It will be worth your while.
4. Focus on accomplishments. Whether you go with a chronological or functional resume, be sure to emphasize your major accomplishments at your previous employers. Describe times when you showed leadership, saved your employer money, solved a persistent problem or showed consistent growth in your expertise and responsibilities.
5. Show off your digital connections. The Internet has been around for more than 20 years, but one of the most stubborn biases about people north of 40 is that they’re clueless about technology. It’s a silly assumption, but it still exists. Put those doubts to rest by including links to your social media tools, such as your LinkedIn profile, Twitter feed, personal blog or, better yet, a personal web page that goes into more detail about your experience and skills.