In today’s economy, more and more Americans are working into their 60s and 70s. As such, it is imperative that this community is competitive when facing off against younger workers. The first step in landing an in-demand job is crafting an eye-catching resume.
“The resume continues to be a crucial tool every savvy job seeker needs,” says resume writer and career advice expert for TopResume, Amanda Augustine. “Older workers are often confronted with many stereotypes in the workplace, from being unable to keep up with technology to being too rigid in their ways. While not all stereotypes can be completely overcome within the confines of a resume, there are ways to draw the focus away from a candidate’s age and place it where it belongs: on the candidate’s qualifications.”
Here are the top tips for age-proofing your resume, developed by Augustine for AARP, which recently partnered with TopResume. Grab a pen and paper, you’ll want to take notes.
Tip #1. Focus on your recent experience.
The further along you are in your career, the less relevant your earlier work experience becomes. Employers care most about your recent work that matters for the roles they’re filling, not your experience from 15 or more years ago. As a result, give more detail about the positions you’ve held in the past 10–15 years that are related to your current job search and say less about your earliest jobs.
“Focus on elaborating on your most recent positions, assuming they support your current goals. Ask yourself the following questions,” says Augustine:
- Did I identify ways to make operations run better, faster, cheaper, or safer?
- Did I help reduce costs, grow revenue, or increase productivity?
- How else could I quantify my work? How many people did I manage or supervise? Approximately how many accounts did I have? How big was my budget or territory?
Tip #2. Eliminate older dates.
Remove the dates related to work experience, education, and certifications if they fall outside the 15-year window. While you may want to consolidate older work experience in a separate section or a “Career Note,” including the dates of employment is unnecessary. Similarly, it’s important to share your credentials on your resume, but the employer doesn’t need to know you earned your MBA 17 years ago.
Tip #3. Limit your resume to two pages.
The straight-no-chaser reality is “employers truly don’t want to weed through a long resume document to understand why a candidate is qualified for their open position,” says Augustine. Therefore, you’ve got to stick to two pages.
Most recruiters spend less than 10 seconds reviewing a resume before deciding if the candidate should receive further consideration. With so little time to make the right impression, it’s important to streamline your resume to two pages. Focus on using this space to highlight your recent work experience and accomplishments that best match your current career goals.
Tip #4. Avoid the “jack-of-all-trades” approach.
Although you may have held numerous roles throughout your career, your resume shouldn’t be a laundry list of everything you have done. Focus on tailoring your resume’s content to support your current career objective, rather than providing a generalized summary of your entire work history.
“When you’ve worn many hats over the course of a multi-decade career, it can be tempting to include all of this information on your resume,” says Augustine. “However, when you do that, your resume turns into a mini novel (which recruiters hate) and your document will lack focus.”
Tip #5. Optimize your resume with keywords.
Seventy-five percent of all online applications will never be seen by human eyes thanks to the hiring bots, which are software programs known as an applicant tracking system (ATS). Their job is to collect, scan, and rank an employer’s inbound applications. To improve your resume’s chances of making it past this digital gatekeeper and on to a human for review, make sure your document includes the appropriate keywords. If a word or phrase repeatedly shows up in the job listings you’re interested in, incorporate these terms into your resume.
Remember, says Augustine, “if a candidate’s resume isn’t designed and written with these bots in mind, even the resume of a qualified candidate could end up in the trash.”
Tip #6. Upgrade your email address.
Older workers sometimes are seen as lacking technical savvy. Don’t give employers a reason to believe you might fit this stereotype. Ditch your old AOL or Hotmail email account for a free, professional-looking Gmail address that incorporates your name.
Tip #7. List your mobile phone number.
If you’re still listing your landline on your resume, it’s time to mobilize your contact information. Only list your cell phone number on your resume so you can control the voicemail message, who answers important phone calls from recruiters, and when.
Tip #8. Join the LinkedIn bandwagon.
LinkedIn is a valuable platform for connecting with others in your industry and uncovering new job opportunities. It’s also an important place to advertise your candidacy to prospective employers. In fact, a study by recruiting software provider Jobvite found that 93 percent of employers admit to reviewing candidates’ social network profiles — regardless of whether the candidates provided that information.
If you’ve avoided using LinkedIn in the past, now’s the time to create a profile that supports your career goals. Then, customize your LinkedIn profile URL and add it to the top of your resume to ensure recruiters find the right profile for you.
Tip #9. Showcase your technical proficiencies.
The fact that you know how to use Microsoft Office is no longer noteworthy (unless your role requires advanced knowledge of Excel). Show employers that you’ve kept up with the latest tools and platforms related to your field. If you’re in a non-technical profession, create a small section toward the bottom of your resume that lists these proficiencies. If you realize there’s a skill or tool outside your wheelhouse that’s routinely appearing in the job descriptions you’re targeting, check out sites such as edX, Coursera, and SkillShare to find free or low-cost online courses.
Tip #10. Customize each online application.
Small tweaks to the content of your resume can make a big difference in determining whether your online application reaches a human being for review. Before you submit another online application, re-evaluate your resume based on the job posting. Then, make small edits to customize your resume so that it clearly reflects your qualifications for this specific role.
“Focus on highlighting the information that addresses what hiring managers care most about: ‘Prove to me that you possess the right skills and experience to do this job well,’” insists Augustine. “If you focus on this objective, you’re more likely to craft a resume that is set up for success in combating age discrimination.”
Tip #11. Ditch the objective statement.
Avoid using a run-of-the-mill objective statement that’s full of fluff and focuses solely on your wants and needs. Instead, replace it with your “elevator pitch.” In a brief paragraph, known as a professional summary or executive summary, explain what you’re great at, most interested in, and how you can provide value to a prospective employer. In other words, summarize your job goals and qualifications for the reader.
Tip #12. Aim for visual balance.
If content is king in a resume, then design is queen. How your information is formatted is just as important as the information itself. Focus on leveraging a combination of short blurbs and bullet points to make it easy for the reader to quickly scan your resume and find the most important details that support your candidacy.
Since you’re keeping the length to two pages, any experience older than a decade ago can be cut or condensed. In fact, you can summarize your earlier positions in one of two ways:
- Write a short blurb as a “Career Note” where you mention the job titles or types of positions you previously held and namedrop any clients or employers that are considered attractive to industry insiders.
- Create an “Earlier Work Experience” section at the end of your professional work history that simply lists job titles, employer names, and locations. Additional details can always be made available to an employer, should they make a request.
Tip #13. Focus on achievements, not tasks.
At this point in your career, recruiters are less concerned with the tasks you’ve completed and more interested in learning what you’ve accomplished. Separate each job under your work history into a short blurb that describes your role and responsibilities. Then, add a set of bullet points to describe the results you’ve achieved and the major contributions you’ve made that have benefited the organization. By bulleting these details, you’re drawing readers’ eyes to the information they care most about: your qualifications. Whenever possible, quantify your accomplishments to provide additional context for the recruiter.
“Numbers are important! Quantify the scope of your work as much as possible,” says Augustine. “That said, seasoned workers shouldn’t get anxious if they no longer have access to the data that would allow them to quantify their earlier work.”