We've all seen them. The executive resumes that lead with "27 years of experience" in the first line of the resume summary on page one.
On the surface, that seems like a great strategy. It's apparently clear, and seems to give a sense of career level. Also, many job postings do start with number of years required for the position – so, it seems reasonable to address the issue of experience directly, at the very beginning of the resume.
But there are some real problems with that approach.
The first, and most obvious, is age discrimination.
Age discrimination may be illegal. And unethical.
But it's everywhere – and it's especially prevalent in technology. A company may say they want 10 years of experience – but that doesn't mean if they see 15 or 20, they won't assume you're too old for the job.
Age discrimination cuts both ways. People may think a candidate is too old. But they may also think a candidate is too young for an executive leadership role. The hiring authority may feel that someone with "only 10 years of experience” can lack the executive gravitas necessary to lead a team or direct a major initiative.
I'm not in any way rationalizing age discrimination.
But as an executive resume writer, it's something I've seen time and again. Age discrimination is the reality – so, it pays to be cautious with anything on your executive resume that could trigger age discrimination.
The second reason is more subtle - but I think it's equally important.
There's an old saying in Martial Arts. "Some people train 20 years. Others train 1 year 20 times."
That's true in every area of endeavor. Years behind a desk say nothing beyond the years you've sat behind a desk. They don't say what you have done or what you can do. There is the long standing myth that "years of experience" say more about a candidate than they actually do. After all, 20 years in one role is very different than the same 20 years with a career trajectory of rapid, consistent promotion.
In addition, resumes that lead with years of experience too often stress the time spent – not the critical accomplishments that will make your executive resume stand out from the hundreds that cross the hiring authority's desk.
That's a problem in any career. But it's a particular problem in the rapidly evolving world of technology – where looking out-of-date can be a career killer.
The third issue is that very few hiring authorities are actually very concerned about your early career achievements. It’s what you’ve done recently that’s key. That's the reason that every executive resume is an upside down pyramid - with the greatest amount of space, energy, and emphasis on your current role.
It's those recent accomplishments that will get the hiring authority's interest. Early career accomplishments are foundational – but they're not going to get you a leadership role.
So, why draw attention to early career by stressing years of experience? The odds of the number not being the exact one they’re looking for - too much or too little - is very real.
So, in my professional opinion? Forget how many years you've been working.
And focus on the key accomplishments that will drive readers to call and set up an initial interview.