Resume Tips for Older Workers to Overcome Age Barriers
Given that adults over the age of 65 are twice as likely to be working (compared to 1985), it seems likely that more and more older job seekers are going to be on the hunt for all kinds of employment.
By law, age should not be a consideration for employment. But that doesn’t mean age discrimination and ageism doesn’t happen. There’s nothing you can do about getting older. But, you don’t have to let another birthday candle on the cake interfere with a successful job search.
There are many resume tips that all job seekers should follow. For example, always customize your resume when you apply to a job, make sure you incorporate the right keywords from the job description into your resume, and take the time to craft a polished professional summary.
However, there are a few specific resume tips for older workers. While it’s not a guarantee, shining the spotlight on your stellar qualifications—and not your age—should help you overcome a hiring manager’s concerns about your age.
Time Is Irrelevant
As hard as it might be, limit your job history to the last 10 to 15 years. As Brie Reynolds, Career Development Manager and Coach at FlexJobs, notes, “Leaving off older work history sometimes feels like you’re discounting the hard work and accomplishments of the past. But…chances are that older experience is going to be a disservice to your applications.”
“Unfortunately, ageism is a big problem in the job search process,” she continues. “The concerns are usually that older workers are overqualified, too old to learn new things, wouldn’t be able to adapt, or wouldn’t be good at working with younger managers or leaders.”
While you can address these concerns head-on in a well-written cover letter, you shouldn’t leave your employment dates off your resume. In fact, you should include the dates of your work history in chronological order somewhere on your resume, no matter your age. “It’s vital,” Reynolds says. “Otherwise, applicant tracking systems (ATS) may not be able to decipher your years of experience and could automatically reject your application.”
That said, the one place you can ditch dates is in your education section. “The important thing is that you’ve earned the degree or certification,” Reynolds says. “Not when you earned it.”
Consider a Hybrid Resume
For many older job seekers, it may be best to use a hybrid resume. This resume style allows you to highlight your relevant skills at the top of the resume without drawing attention to your dates of employment. While you include your work history in chronological order, it doesn’t take center stage. Instead, you draw the recruiter’s attention to your relevant skills and experiences without advertising how long you’ve worked somewhere.
That said, there may be relevant or important work experiences that you want to include on your resume. In that case, consider adding an “additional related experience” section to your resume. You can put it just below your regular work history but before your education section. When you list the additional experiences, don’t mention dates. Here’s an example:
The one problem with a hybrid resume, though, is that some hiring managers consider it a red flag. Some people use a hybrid resume to hide “blemishes” in their work history (like large gaps between jobs). A recruiter may jump to the same conclusion about your hybrid resume, even when that’s not the case.
Fonts and Formatting
Old habits die hard at any age. However, there are two habits you need to ditch when it comes to your resume.
The first is using “old” fonts. In general, using serif fonts (those with tails on the ends of the letters) will give you away as an older job seeker. While it was common 20 years ago to use Times New Roman, for example, that is no longer the case. Serif fonts can look blurry on screen (which is where most recruiters read your resume), so they are rarely used in business communications anymore.
Even when it’s not a human reading your resume, you still want to ditch the serif fonts. They are also hard for an ATS to read. And if the ATS can’t read your resume, it will never make it to a human recruiter who may not care that you used a serif font.
Instead, switch to sans-serif fonts. Those are fonts without tails on the ends of the letters and are easier to read on screens. Arial and Garamond are two examples. And not only is it easier for human recruiters to read, it’s easier for the ATS, too.
Another resume tip for older workers is to ditch double spacing after periods. This is no longer done and is a sure-fire way to give away your older job seeker status. If nothing else, it’s an indication to the hiring manager that you don’t keep up with current trends in business communications (or keep up in general), and that’s the last thing you want a recruiter to think.
Don’t Use Outdated Terms
While you’re updating your formatting, update your words as well. Certain terms are not used on resumes anymore. For example, a professional summary is preferred over an objective. And, if you mention your excellent “word processing skills,” you’ll reveal to the hiring manager that you haven’t kept up on the latest developments in “word processing.”
Update Your Contact Information
Along those same lines, don’t include a fax or landline number. You might still have one or both of these for various reasons, and that’s fine. But, including these on your resume is another giveaway that you’re an older job seeker. Instead, list only your cell phone number (and don’t point out that it’s a cell phone).
However, a phone number (of any kind) isn’t how most hiring managers contact applicants these days. Most of the initial contacts take place via email. While you’ve probably used email since it first became available, make sure you’re using a “newer” address.
If you’re still using AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, or your service provider’s email address, don’t use it in your job seeking. An email address ending in one of those implies that you may not be tech savvy and use outdated products. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. But it will tell a recruiter that you’re an older job seeker. And it may reinforce the notion that you either don’t understand or refuse to embrace new technology.
Sign up for a free Gmail account and list that on your resume. While Gmail isn’t new by any means, it is widely used and won’t give away your age like the other accounts might. You don’t have to switch all of your communications over to that account, though. You can use the Gmail account strictly for job seeking.
Learn New Tricks
Among the most important resume tips for older workers is to avoid getting stagnant. Recruiters may (unfairly) assume that this group is “set in their ways” and unwilling—or unable—to learn new skills and techniques.
Make sure you include examples of your willingness to learn. Include recent certifications you’ve obtained and mention seminars or continuing education classes you’ve attended. Online classes count, too!
If you haven’t attended any “formal” education, consider talking about other experiences where you’ve gained new skills. Volunteering or mentoring are great places to start. List the relevant skills you’ve gained while you helped out your community.
Talk Up Your Tech Skills
Another way to help overcome stereotypes is to prove that you are a tech-savvy job seeker. This includes adding your LinkedIn profile to your resume and talking about your current tech skills. For example, it’s fine to mention that you’re proficient with Microsoft products. But, you don’t want to refer to “Windows 95” or “Microsoft Word 2000.”
Job Seeking Success at Any Age
It’s hard to job hunt at any age. And while you may feel that your age is both an advantage (experience) and a disadvantage (ageism), you’ll have to convince hiring managers.
A resume is, of course, only one part of a successful job search. The cover letter, your interview, and even your thank-you note are all part of your job search toolkit. Spend the time to polish each of these areas, and you’ll find a new job that’s right for you.
But, we also have personalized advice from our career coaches. They’ve got experience helping job seekers update their resume, craft the perfect cover letter, and succeed in their interviews.
Beth Braccio Hering contributed to this post
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
A version of this article was originally published on April 25, 2016.
Don’t forget to share this article with friends!
Beth Braccio Hering, Writer, Freelance Jobs
Beth Braccio Hering has been a freelance writer for 20 years. In addition to extensive contributions to various Encyclopaedia Britannica products, her work has been published by outlets such as CareerBuilder, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter, Walt Disney Internet Group, and…Read More >
We’d love to hear your thoughts and questions. Please leave a comment below! All fields are required.