When I was recruiting, I was frankly shocked by the prevalence - and openness - of age discrimination. Needless to say, I "fired" clients for insisting on an illegal - and wrong-headed - insistence of recruiting within a given age range. So, when I write a resume for job seekers in their forties, fifties, and beyond, I'm very conscious of mitigating these risks. Here are several strategies that I - and my clients - have found useful.
1) Focus on Recent Achievements:
As a general rule, it's the most recent 5-10 years of your career that is most critical. Put the greatest weight on the most recent jobs, by giving more detail on all aspects of the position - from duties and responsibilities to accomplishments.
2) Streamline Your Earlier Career:
Professional Resume Writers (and Recruiters) differ on how far back to take a detailed career history. Many say 7-10. Personally, I'll go back 15 years to ensure a clear picture of the Job Seeker's unique "value proposition."
But regardless of where one cuts detailed career description, earlier positions should carry less visual "weight." Job descriptions should be shorter, and only major achievements should be included.
3) Let Go of the Past:
This is probably good advice in many areas! But it's absolutely critical in writing a strong resume.
I certainly recognize the understandable pride in early successes. I also realize that many job seekers demonstrate skills or industry expertise in early career that may not be visible in later jobs.
But, unfortunately, there's bad news. Experience that's more than 15 years old - at the outside - just isn't going to be perceived as particularly relevant by most Hiring Authorities.
So I would encourage you to omit detailed discussion - and dating - of earlier career experience - it's frankly more likely to do more harm than good.
4) Use "Previous Professional Experience" to Summarize Early Career:
This can take a form as simple as "Previous professional experience with Acme Roadrunner Traps as Lead Tester, and with Acme Demolition as Engineer."
But even here, be aware that people can add - if you've had a stable career, with only 3 or 4 roles in the last 15 years, don't include too many job titles - that defeats the purpose - and can actually add apparent years to your resume.
5) Don't Date Education:
Finally, don't include the dates for your College degrees, if those dates can influence perception of age.
Also, since consistency on a resume is critical, if you do decide to omit dates on education, it's usually better to omit dates on training as well.
I wish that this blog weren't necessary - and certainly hope that there's a weather change in hiring practices that does not discriminate against job seekers in their 50s and above. But I do hope that these tips are helpful in removing information from the resume that may lessen the chance of winning the first interview.
Please email a copy of your existing resume to firstname.lastname@example.org for an initial resume review!