Lorraine E. Wright says “In my line of work I see an awful lot of resumes. Can I tell just by a quick read how old the resume’s owner is? Usually. But not always. A few people have learned how to design a resume for themselves that is complete and honest in every way, and yet which makes it impossible for the person reading the resume to pinpoint their age, other than a vague “they must be at least 40.”
Is rejecting someone’s resume on the basis of age legal? Absolutely not. Does it ever happen? All the time. Sometimes it’s deliberate. A hiring manager will see from someone’s resume that they graduated from high school in 1968 and think, “Wow. That’s a long time ago. They probably wouldn’t be able to handle the job.” And there’s another resume in the No pile.
Often though, it’s done unconsciously. A hiring manager decides to choose the 10 best resumes from a giant pile. When she’s down to number 10, she has to choose between two resumes. They’re both pretty equal in terms of skills and experience, but then the 30-year-old hiring manager notices that the oldest job mentioned on one of the resumes is dated 10 years before she was even born. Without consciously making a decision on the basis of age, she puts this one into the Discard pile.
What can you do to make sure this doesn’t happen to your resume? Here are some suggestions:
Don’t date yourself: If you went to college over 25 years ago, leave the date of graduation off altogether. If the employer really wants to know it, he can ask you in the interview. (But chances are he won’t.) Similarly, leave off your very oldest jobs, unless they’re extremely important and relevant. It isn’t unethical. The hiring manager mainly wants to know what you’ve done in the last 10 to 15 years, not what you did well before the start of this millenium.
Google is your friend: The Internet holds more examples of resumes than you could ever read in your lifetime. Some are great, some are horrible. With a little effort and common sense, you’ll be able to find some good examples of what a modern resume should look like. You’ll see what to include (like your computer skills and all skills related to the job you’re applying for), and what to leave off (like date of birth, nationality, marital status, hobbies, “references available upon request.”) It helps to do a search for your specific field, using words like: “sample resume sales manager.”
Use the right format: Fewer and fewer resumes are mailed or faxed nowadays, with more and more requested to be sent by e-mail. Obviously if you’re reading this, you know how to use a computer. (Unless someone printed this off and gave it to you!) Most people know how to send an e-mail nowadays, but make sure you’re following the directions in the job posting. Do they want you to send the resume as an attachment, and if so, do they want a Word attachment or a PDF file? Do they want you to cut and paste the resume right into the e-mail? Or do they want you to go to their company website and fill out an e-resume form? It makes you long for the day when you typed your resume up, put in an envelope, and mailed it! The process is becoming increasingly complicated, unfortunately, but if you want your resume to make a good impression, it must arrive in the manner requested. If you find this all intimidating or confusing (and who could blame you?) ask someone to help you. It really does make a difference. In many cases, the wrong format could mean your resume never even gets looked at.
Don’t sound old: Technical and professional terminology has changed over the years. Even job titles have changed. For example, who says they’re a secretary anymore? The politically correct term today is Administrative Assistant. Check the Internet for job descriptions in your field, and compare them with the terminology you’re using on your resume. If, let’s say, you’ve spent the last 25 years in the same position as Purchasing Manager, do a search with the words “purchasing manager job description” or “purchasing manager job posting.” Use the terminology you find to describe your current job on your resume, rather than depending on the terminology that was used years ago. Do the same for the descriptions of jobs you’ve held in the past. Don’t let the words and expressions you use date you.
Why would some hiring managers be biased against older workers, since they probably have a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and life experience under their belt, along with a great work ethic? It could be that they assume that a worker over, say, 45 is any number of undesirable things: slower, more likely to get sick, out of touch with the new technology, set in his or her ways, resistant to being told what to do by people young enough to be his or her children, and on and on. Are these stereotypical fears true? Sometimes, yes, and sometimes, no. Just like younger workers, older workers are not just one way – there’s a huge diversity of personality, ability, health, education… the only way for the hiring manager to find out is to invite them for an interview.
So try some of these suggestions, and get that interview. Don’t let your resume make you look old.
Lorraine E. Wright is the owner of 21st Century Resumes, a company that designs technology-friendly, attention-grabbing resumes and cover letters. She customizes them uniquely for each job seeker, so they stand out in today’s crowded and competitive job market. To get a free assessment of your own resume, go to http://21stcenturyresumes.ca”