As an older job seeker, writing a resume can bring an additional set of challenges. It can be hard to know what to include and what to leave out of the document when you have had a long work history, and it may have been years since the last time you even needed a resume. Resume etiquette has changed, and it is important to change along with it.
Here are 10 tips for updating your resume to remain relevant in the eyes of the hiring manager and possibly eliminate potential bias from the process.
- Nix the fax number and always include your e-mail address. No employer will need to know your fax number; including the information on your resume suggests you are stuck in the 80s. If there is no e-mail address listed on your resume, it will be more difficult for an employer to contact you quickly, so they may just pass you up in favor of the next candidate who listed an e-mail address. Even though mainstream e-mail is less than 20 years old, you will look ancient if you don't include an e-mail address.
- Include links to social media profiles. Social media has gained enormous traction over the past few years, and many believe that its use will eventually surpass or even replace e-mail. Be current by creating a LinkedIn profile and displaying the URL within your contact information. Or go one step further and include your Twitter handle, or Skype and instant message names.
- Don't make your years of experience the focal point of your top summary. Eliminate phrases such as "over 25 years of experience" or "seasoned professional." If you have had a 25-year career but the last 10 years have been in a specific industry or function, focus on that rather than the total number of years.
- Dedicate more space to explaining your recent experience. If you have held six jobs over the past 25 years, don't dedicate the same amount of space on the resume to each job. Weight the resume toward your most recent experience (the past 10 years). For a one-page resume, your more recent experience should take up at least half of the page. For a two-page resume (often necessary for someone with more than a 10-year work history), the more recent experience should generally take up the entire first page.
- Consolidate early experience. Account for early work experience to keep the chronology consistent and transparent, but abbreviate this experience when possible. You can include a section called "early career" or "additional experience" and provide an overview of your earlier jobs. For example, a district sales manager might include a statement that says something like, "held sales assistant and regional sales positions at company XYZ between 1985 and 1992."
- Don't hide graduation dates. If you are thinking about eliminating the year you graduated from high school or college from the resume in an attempt to hide your age, my advice is proceed with caution. When you eliminate the date you are actually calling more attention to the very thing you are trying to hide. Without the graduation date, an employer may wonder why the date is missing or think you are older than you really are since they have no point of reference for knowing what occured between the last position listed on the resume and your graduation date. And even if you make it past the initial resume screening and are called in for an interview, once the interviewer realizes that you are older than your resume suggests, you have potentially damaged the trust -- which could impede the interview process moving forward. Include a subtle and brief education section; be transparent and move on.
- Include hobbies that support an active lifestyle. Generally I recommend only including hobbies on a resume if they are relevant. But for the older worker, hobbies that suggest a vibrant and healthy lifestyle may help counter any potential age bias. So if you are an avid runner, skier, triathlete, etc. go ahead and include this information on your resume.
- List current technical skills if relevant. If you are proficient in Excel or some other program that is important to your job, say so. Don't list outdated programs like Word Perfect or list the Internet as a technology that you are proficient in. At this point, this is the equivalent of writing that you know how to use a telephone.
- Eliminate ancient phrases. Avoid phrases on the resume such as "references available upon request." This is a dated concept and employers know that if they want you to provide references they can ask you for them. Some won't even ask you; they will just Google you and see what they can find out about you online. Other dated phrases include "responsible for," "duties included," "managed day-to-day operations," and "out-of-the-box thinker." These phrases are old and tired -- the opposite of the impression you are trying to convey.
- Use an updated resume format. Before computers when everyone used a typewriter to create their resume, it was a lot easier to put the dates of employment for each position on the far left. But now with computers, putting the dates to the far right is a more updated strategy and placing dates to the right allows you to make better use of the space on the page. When we used typewriters, Courier 10 was the only font choice available to us. Now when I see Courier 10 on a resume I am quickly transported back to the days of the manual return and white out. Choose a more updated font such as Arial, Arial Narrow, Times New Roman, or Tahoma. Courier 10 and white out should stay in the past where they belong.