In a perfect world, recruiters and hiring managers would choose the candidate with the best skill set for the job and age wouldn’t factor into the decision whatsoever. Sadly, age discrimination is a challenge facing many older job seekers—and while it’s illegal for employers to discriminate based on age, it’s extremely difficult to prove. A smart strategy for overcoming age bias is to tweak and update your resume and LinkedIn to highlight your in-demand skills, spotlight your relevant experience, and shift focus away from your age.
Keep It Current
Your resume is marketing material, not a history report. With that in mind, there’s no need to document every position you’ve ever held on your resume; rather, focus on your past 10 to 15 years of employment and limit it to a maximum of two pages. This is beneficial for two reasons:
1) employers are most interested in what you’ve recently done; and
2) by not sharing a complete work history, your age is ambiguous, which leaves interested employers guessing.
Although you might not list all of the jobs you’ve worked on your resume, a standout resume (and LinkedIn) incorporates all the relevant skills and experiences you’ve accrued over your career that relate to the position you’re applying for. Professional resume writers understand the value these key competencies have on attracting the attention of recruiters and hiring managers, which is why they encourage older employment seekers to craft a summary statement. A summary statement, sometimes also called a “professional summary,” is a short paragraph pitch to employers that shows your best skills, relevant experiences, and how you’ll benefit their business.
Emphasize Modern Skills
One of the hurdles facing older employment hunters is a belief that they’re not as technically savvy as younger candidates. While your 60 wpm typing skills and knowledge of Microsoft Office are no longer wow-worthy on a resume, you can assuage an employer’s concerns by emphasizing your modern skills. A winning resume finds places to spotlight your familiarity with tech, detailing specific software, programs, and machines you’ve mastered in past positions ideally over the last 5-15 years. It also shows potential employers you’re a lifelong learner who has continued to grow throughout their career.
Make Employers Envious of Your Age
Although many employers might believe they want a young, fresh-faced workforce, the fact is that experienced employees bring a lot to the table. A recent study from the AARP found that workers over the age of 55 are more likely to exert extra effort and contribute more than is required of their job than their peers between the ages of 25-34.
You’ll want to avoid drawing attention to your age, but don’t hide the value your experience will bring to a business—it’s something your younger competitors can’t match. Give specific examples highlighting pertinent areas of expertise, accomplishments, and honors, along with showing potential employers how you’ve been a productive employee in past positions. In many respects, you’re a more stable candidate than your younger competitors.
Get Sneaky on Social Media
According to a CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process and you can use this to your advantage. Like all job seekers, audit your social media accounts and delete unflattering photos and comments that could send the wrong message to potential employers. While you’re at it, choose a professional-looking profile picture that shows your youthful, energetic side.
Showing you’re adept at social media is also an amazing way to prove that you’re comfortable in today’s tech-driven world. If you have a LinkedIn account, now is the time to update it with your most fresh-faced photo and a carefully crafted headline. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, create one immediately—a study by Jobvite found an overwhelming majority (87%) of recruiters use LinkedIn to vet candidates during the hiring process. Make sure to include a link to your LinkedIn profile on your resume!
Current Contact Information
The way we communicate has changed a lot in recent years, and it’s shocking how easy it is to tell a candidate’s age simply by looking at their contact information. For example, online job boards and email have made snail mail obsolete in the professional world, yet many job hunters—especially older ones—still include their mailing address on their resume. In many cases, a physical address is taking up valuable space and signalling to employers that you’re an older applicant. Check out our article, Should You Write Your Full Address on Your Resume? to learn more about including your address on your resume.
Since email is the primary mode of contact, make sure you’re not using an email address from an older provider like AOL, Hotmail, or Yahoo—it makes you look outdated. If you don’t have a professional looking Gmail account with an address that incorporates your name, creating one is a free and easy way to blend in with younger candidates. Similarly, it’s time to stop listing your landline on your resume. Including just your mobile number keeps you in control of who answers the phone if a hiring manager calls and keeps you from unintentionally signaling your age.
A Few Other Things to Consider
Digital-Friendly Format: Your resume is more likely to be read on a computer or phone screen than it is a piece of paper. Bring your resume into the digital age by eliminating dense text in favor of short bullets and blurbs.
Write for Robots: 75% of resumes are never seen by human eyes; rather, they’re screened out by software known as applicant tracking systems (ATS). An ATS-optimized resume using keywords and proper format is critical for getting past the robot gatekeepers.
Education: Putting the dates when a degree or certification was earned makes it easy for employers to calculate your age. Simply list the school attended and the degree or certification earned.
In the End
Age discrimination is illegal and ugly—but, as you’ve seen, taking a few simple steps can shift the focus from your age to the benefits a business will see from hiring you. If you need help bringing your resume into the 21st century, consider hiring a professional resume writer, like one from SoCalResumes. Our local resume experts have helped thousands of job seekers craft interview-earning resumes and land dream jobs and are pros at shifting the narrative from your age to your excellence.