The ageism struggle is real. Instead of valuing you for what you bring to the table at this point in your career trajectory, all too often, the recruiters and decision makers are doing some quick math, then using your age as a reason to delete your resume. Let’s talk about what your resume needs to say, and how it needs to say it, so that you can stop missing out on those jobs you know you’re perfect for, and start to get some calls back.
Here’s what can’t happen: you can’t leave off your dates altogether. (I mean, you can, but it’s the fastest way to get your resume deleted.) Deleting the dates may work for education, but it definitely doesn’t work for the entire trajectory of your employment. Dates are one of the 1st things the employers and recruiters are looking for in those 1st critical 6 seconds. The person is reading your resume to find out where you worked, when you worked there, and what you did that was excellent. Leaving out when you worked there is the very thing that will cause your reader to believe you are too old for his or her organization.
What you need to do is present your story in a way that doesn’t immediately draw attention to your dates. The approach to do that is to “bury” your dates so they’re not in bold along either the right or left margins of the page – the 2 most eye-catching areas. Instead, present your employer, city, and state, all in bold. On the next line, present your job title, in bold, your dates inside parentheses and not bold, and your scope of responsibility, all on the same line.
Here’s another thing that can’t happen: you can’t have a resume filled with old-school terminology. For example, a candidate who started his HR career 30 years ago may have at one time been the Director of Personnel. But to present that title on a resume today would completely date him, because today people talk in terms of ‘talent acquisition”
The best practice in this case is to tailor your language by looking at the company’s job posting. See what the company is looking for, and then use phrases and terminology in their ad to describe what you’ve done. This accomplishes the dual purpose of making sure your resume is properly keyworded.
And the 3rd thing that can’t happen: you can’t treat your resume like a dissertation. This is hard, I know, especially if you have a multi-page resume (more than 2 pages) that illustrates 30+ years of professional history, all of which you believe is relevant, going back to your earliest career days. However, you must cement this in your mindset: people have neither the time nor the inclination to read dissertations. They just won’t do it.
Think about it: when your resume is too long, people won’t bother with it at all. It’s an all or nothing thing, and on more occasions than you really would like, people are going to tend towards “nothing” That means including what you did in 1987 places you at serious risk of having the reader discard the entire document. What’s more important: that they read ANY of your resume, and make a decision to call you back, or summarily decide to read NONE of your resume…
What’s best to do for this situation is present the brand, story, and impact of a lengthy career trajectory, highlighted by RELEVANT successes only. Articulate how a handful of your skills will help that specific employer – it need not be all your skills, particularly if they don’t pertain to the position at hand.
Another strategy that can help tremendously is to build an “early career” section towards the end of your resume. This is a concise way to present, for example, managerial history and early leadership roles. You can present your early career with or without years. While bulleted achievements are typically not appropriate for the end of the resume, you can certainly insert a few dollar or percentage figures in your early career paragraph.
When you’re over age 50, your job search approach needs to be one in which you use the resume only as a tool – it’s not the driver of your entire search. When your resume presents your information in a way that doesn’t draw attention to your age, that may pique the decision maker’s interest. Your role at that point is to make a human connection. Initiate a invitation on LinkedIn, follow the decision maker on social media, comment on what he or she seems to be interested in, and #followupFollowUpFOLLOWUP!