Social Enterprise

How to keep age out of your resume and cover letters

My mom used to say, "You're as old as you feel." Keep that in mind if you are an older person crafting a resume and cover letter.

A lot of older workers are finding themselves in the job market again having gone through layoffs. There is a way to make potential employers aware of the advantages borne of your experience without dwelling on the number of years you've been at it.

Embrace professional social networking sites

I've cautioned a lot of people about the pitfalls of being too involved in social networking sites, but these days it's almost essential that, as a job candidate, you have some kind of web presence. If you make it clear that you don't go for all that "trendy" stuff, then a prospective employer is going to wonder how open you will be to any new technologies that come down the pike in your day-to-day work. I didn't particularly like the social networking thing myself at first but I've grown fond of it. I just try not to post any sepia-toned photographs of myself slamming back beers with Abe Lincoln.

Choose your adjectives carefully

It's unfortunate, but to some people looking at your cover letter, the word "seasoned" could imply "world-weary." (I was going to say "overcooked" but that seemed a little gross.) "Seasoned" might indirectly imply that technology doesn't excite you and most employers want enthusiasm (at least initially, until they beat it out of you). Instead use words like "versatile" and "adaptable."

Limit your list of experience

I see a lot of resumes from people who feel the need to list every job they've ever had. (Not a good idea, and is precisely why I don't list that summer internship with Henry Ford.) You might think that a long, varied list of experience shows you're well-rounded, but really, it might imply an unconscious desire on your part to cling to the past. List only jobs going back about 15 years. Think about it: Technology changes so quickly that your intimate knowledge of the Sinclair ZX80 isn't going to matter in today's tech job market. State your most up-to-date skills and remove any mention of obsolete technology.

Get a gmail account

If you want to be thought of as cutting edge, you might want to lose that earthlink url.

Good luck!

Here are some other resume tips for older job seekers.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

105 comments
mba1jp
mba1jp

When the H. R. clerk calls to set up the phone interview she/he will ask for your H. S. graduation year. Hire Rite etc. will need it to verify your education during the background check. Found this out by leaving it off the resume.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Why get a gmail account? Get any account - just as long as the Email address won't give them second thoughts. Something like sexylover@___.com or masterdebugger@___.net may not be appropriate [for the former] or a bit over the top [latter]. They always say, cut out anything older than 10 years - unless your last job was over 10 years in length. One recruiter thought I should go back to the beginning with my first IT job - even just mentioning a blurb. I don't think very few places use AT&T System V Release 4.2!

g01d4
g01d4

Just keep your resume with useful items including, I would assume, your degree(s) and year(s) obtained. If age was really the issue than I'd dread the advice for an interview.

terry.sanderson
terry.sanderson

C'mon Tech Republic. Can't you find writers that have something interesting (and factual) to say? Frankly, I don't make jusgements about an employee's hireability by looking at their email domain. And I would be concerned if I received a resume from a prospective employee that had multiple social networking sites mentioned. When are they going to do the work I expect of them when they're spending all their time "staying in touch"? The only time age/experience comes into play against an applicant is when I'm hiring a junior position. If they have 15-20 years experience in a junior position, why would I want to hire them? TerryS.

jhalleln
jhalleln

My Dad always said - "You're only as old as the girls that you feel." :-)

Jango7777
Jango7777

Comment on the social networking part. So.. meaning for the word Social includes professional too these days?

mp112849
mp112849

Better advice would be "How to keep your age out of the face-to-face interview". :-)

Craig Dedo
Craig Dedo

I have come to the conclusion that hiding your age is likely to be a futile effort. It takes only a little effort on the recruiter's part to find out a lot about a person on the web, UNLESS you have a very low online profile. That is highly unlikely for someone who is in a technology profession. Yes, resumes and cover letters are marketing documents and, as such should be developed to make the product (candidate) as attractive as possible. However, in many cases, much of the most attractive experience is in the earlier parts of a candidate's career history. That certainly is the case with me.

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

All common sense stuff. But, being ~mid 30, I don't think I have to worry too much about age discrimination just yet. :)

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

"List only jobs going back about 15 years" ??? So you suggest we simply omit information: "EXPERIENCE: List all permanent employment since High School. If additional space is required, use supplemental sheets. Start with your most recent or current position." and "I understand that any omission, misrepresentation and/or falsification of information contained in this application may constitute grounds for my dismissal. I give the employer the right to investigate all references and to secure additional job related information about me." BAD IDEA. Sure way NOT to get hired. "What are you trying to hide?" (They'll never ask that, they just won't call you back for the 2nd interview.)

karenc
karenc

Not having your age on your resume may get you into the interview. But it won't stop the face of the interviewer on the other side of the desk from falling, when they realise that 30 years worth of experience really doesn't come in a 25 year old package and you really are old enough to be their parent. Age should be a badge of honour, it denotes experience, it denotes someone who can do the job, it denotes someone who doesn't need to be shown the ropes, it denotes someone who is already up to speed. If they couldn't take orders from someone younger they wouldn't be there. If they wanted more money than the position pays then they wouldn't be there. If any of the other hundred plus non reasons given for not employing older workers applied then they wouldn't be there. Now try hiring an older person and see if you can prove me wrong.

david.cuthill
david.cuthill

I feature my age. I show that I have been keeping on top of cutting edge tech since 1968. The problem is that the young middle-aged recruiters can feel intimidated. The sad thing is that the "facebook generation" think that they are technologists. My generation built their world.

lovingNJ
lovingNJ

Often online job applications force you to enter dates for education and jobs so age is easily calculated. Some online applications have not even allowed me to upload a cover letter. It is getting harder and harder to control the format and information provided for online applications. Some even require current and expected salary to be populated.

wood_wl
wood_wl

It's too bad people think that a social networking presence is necessary. Facebook and the like are useless time wasters. And, as happened to me recently, they provide one more way for someone with malicious intent to harm to you and your computer by hacking your account. I already have enough online accounts that expose myself to thieves. If anything, not having a mindless social networking presence is a sign of someone of intelligence and prudence. If I need to contact a friend, I send them an SMS, e-mail, or contact them via IM software. If I want to post pictures of travel experiences, I do so on a dedicated picture site, such as shutterfly. Any organization that thinks of itself as so young and hip that you couldn't get hired because you don't seem young and hip enough, a company that would look at your online presence instead of your actual skills ... you don't want to work for them.

sireynolds
sireynolds

Once experienced I'd move away from the chronological list to skills based information addressing the job criteria. This also reduces the calculation of age based on starting job xxx in yyyy.

mattohare
mattohare

They're not supposed to discriminate on age, but we still must keep our birthdates in our CVs.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

She meant that those looking for IT jobs to be on professional social networking sites and NOT to actually mention in the CV that you are on them. Read what she said carefully. I don't think an Email domain is an issue but what they use as their "name". See my post a few messages down.

Mark A. Lewis
Mark A. Lewis

Why would someone willing to work would be overlooked for having too much experience? Perhaps they are starting over, moving, or were in a dead-end job and just found a job where they could grow. One could want to hire them based on the contribution they could provide.

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

Maybe one day soon we'll all be represented by virtual avatars anyway.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

is all it takes. And proving age discrimination is almost impossible. But as soon as they take one look at you, everyone knows you're not 25 any more. Harsh reality. At 55, been there, done that, got LOTS of tee-shirts.

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

Read the title again. "How to keep age out of your resume and cover letter". Toni did not say anything about willfully omitting information from an employment 'application'. ;\

BrightLibra@Gmail.com
BrightLibra@Gmail.com

The eMail that has emoticons converted to actual smiley-graphics! In my humble experience Yahoo! was the choice of kids, and non-serious persons on Berners-Lee's Web, so again it is a situational call to paint is such broad brush-strokes. That is what the article was about, to me - that companies are very judgmental and not accepting of the potential differences but looking for those who adopt and accept. Double standard?

robert.phillips
robert.phillips

"I have been using yahoo for years." And that's exactly the point, it shows!! Yahoo has been around for so long compared to others [IE, gmail] that it has the same connotations that earthlink or AOL have - you're an "old school" user. It's a perceptional issue; not a functional one.

philip_jones2003
philip_jones2003

Interesting. I have in the recent past been asked : Would I mind working for someone younger than myself? Would I mind working for a woman? Says a lot about the company methinks.

bill
bill

I totally agree with Karen. If you are happy to be over qualified for the role then employers/recruiters should take advantage of this opportunity. A great deal of "experienced workers" have been there, got the teashirt and the scares to prove it. They just want to work, mentor those who are heading for whence they came and add value. Don't get me wrong, they don't want a free ride, but employers and their newer employees can learn how to work smarter not just harder. Thanks Karen for putting it so well.

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

And I am thankful for 'your generation's accomplishments. :)

Witchfinder
Witchfinder

The article suggests using professional networking sites. Things like Linkedin, which are specifically for maintaining business and professional contacts.

mfcoder-hh
mfcoder-hh

... but some 'web presence'. I think LinkedIn has less "stigma" than FB and more for professional contacts. And if no social networking per se, then at least a few pages on the internet somewhere show you are capable of advertising yourself. There are enough free deals out there, but having your own domain shows a bit of internet savvy which won't hurt. I do disagree about technology being obsolete after 15 yrs though ... e.g. printer technology hasn't changed that much, and there's plenty of companies still using tech that is over 15 years old!

mfcoder-hh
mfcoder-hh

I agree that you need to be upfront about skills and achievements, but I also like to see a cv which shows how long you held each post. If you've had 10 posts in 5 years I want to know that.

DT2
DT2

Not supposed to discriminate in the US either. They just tell you that you are "over qualified".

paul.watson
paul.watson

Several of the CVs I have seen this week include information about the applicant's driving record. If the position is as a taxi or lorry driver, then that is probably relevant. However, I question the significance for an IT professional seeking a data warehousing job.

sliepner
sliepner

There never has been any kind of requirement in the UK for DOB on a CV. Equally you are not requried to put any "personal" information on this document - other than name, contact details and education that is. It should be tailored to each position applied for and should detail your working history as it applies to the position you are after. Gender, age, weight (yes I have seen this), height, no. of children, marital status, health and pets (really) etc. are extraneous.

kgc
kgc

I am a consulatant / contractor in the UK and I never tell anybody my age. My CV covers my career since 1980 in outline, with greater detail of the last 5 years, and I tailor it to individual applications. But reveal my age? Never!

mfcoder-hh
mfcoder-hh

... I had my cv reviewed by an employment agency recently, and they told me to remove 'sex', 'date of birth', and 'nationality' as they were all irrelevant nowadays. So I think you can now remove those things, even though they will be needed if you go through a CRB check.

BrightLibra@Gmail.com
BrightLibra@Gmail.com

Oh, yes! WhackedWeasel@Gmail.com might not be the best to share with a prospective employer!

Jango7777
Jango7777

Yes. True! and, there will be no more real people, real world and real life. Everything is virtual.

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

Maybe if you said "Only if she's hot!" they would offer you the job and a membership in the 'good ole boys' club. :p

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Unless you run into some old guy who's only made 12 oz beer cans his whole life, and nothing but, and has no other hobbies (except maybe beer can collecting), an older person is going to have 2 and sometimes 3 times the life experiences of a younger worker. Especially if they came from a military, peace corps, or similar background. They may have a couple more aches and pains and visit a doctor a couple more times a year, but they're generally more stable, more reliable, and obviously more knowledgeable.

Hawklord99
Hawklord99

Any jobs going at your place? (from a local, 'resting' database analyst who abhors Facebook).

mgaspar
mgaspar

Even printer technology has changed somewhat, they seem to be more intelligent, have their own memories, addresses and so on... It is true that I can print to an ancient lp printer, but I'd have trouble finding one on the market today. But we haven't changed that much. The fact that we can program a ZX80 processor as well as a fancy game engine or a php web server should make any employer more, instead of less, willing to hire us. It says something about our willingness to learn, to adapt to the new technologies. It is true that the world from 15 years ago is gone, and the fact that we have survived is proof that we can change and adapt with it. Is this a promise that the younger generation can make ? Being educated in the "here and now", will they be able to adapt as well ? Can the employers be sure of that ? The game should be in our favor... (and it should not depend on whether we have a cursory appearance on a social networking site - though if it is, Facebook is definitely a "thumbs down" kind of site while LinkedIn, definitely recommended, not just for its looks but mostly for the actual contacts and resources it brings).

wood_wl
wood_wl

Yes, maybe LinkedIn or having a web page with some projects that you worked on. And to show my age, back in the day, CompuServe was a way of having a "presence". That was were experts and colleagues would post answers to questions and exchange ideas. Then at conferences you could put faces to names. Now the internet has become so scatter brained with too many social networking possibilities and a lot of "noise".

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Not so much for developers or desk jobs, but for the support techs who have to drive between calls, the driving record is make or break. Skills, certs, and who you know don't matter if your driving record sucks. For example, my current employer states that if I get three tickets in any three-year period, I'm gone. It's an insurance thing: the better the drivers, the lower the insurance costs.

LCH-IT
LCH-IT

I am the IT Director at a small rural hospital. I am also an EMT and drive the Hospital ambulances sometimes, so my driving record is an integral part of my work!

mattohare
mattohare

I would have had to visit all their branch locations for specs, training, etc.

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

They thought they needed a virtual forklift license. ;) :p

TimH.
TimH.

I too have had my CV reviewed - both by an employment agency and also by someone who professionally reviews CVs, and can confirm that Date of Birth, Sex and Nationality should not be put on your CV.

nolandbay
nolandbay

Older workers know where the bodies are buried, some even knew the bodies while they were alive. The con that just one more sacrifice, just one more night catching up to the workload will get you that promotion or permanent job (whatever that means). Most of us have woken up and want to spend the time with the people who will cry at our grave side, this does not include the 30 something recruiters. Yes I am "overqualified", yes I might leave and retire any day, but I don't turn up hung over, and I don't waste time sending and receiving text messages. I am a bit grumpy now and again. Hey who's perfect! Cheers Ralph

philip_jones2003
philip_jones2003

Age discrimination is alive and kicking and the legislation against it seems to have generated more creative ways of saying 'no'. But it is a step in the right direction and is considerably better than some countries. If a shop owner in Geneva wants an 18-23 year old woman to work behind the counter then that's exactly what gets advertised. Its also why I decided to become a contractor. Employers have to make higher payments for older employees. Much higher in fact and you don't escape by being independent. You are going to cost even if that money never gets in your pocket so its very much a case of being able to prove you are worth the expense. Networking sites? If a prospective employer is going to look you up then it might be wise to check what your 'friends' are posting. They are your friends and chosen influence and might make an employer wary. Its not fair and maybe not even right but neither is age discrimination. I was going to say Id rather be 21 than 56 but truthfully, I'm not sure that's true (in my case). As Terry Pratchett said 'I aint dead yet'.

smokeybehr
smokeybehr

I work for $county Government and we're self-insured. We have to go through a bi-annual Defensive Driving course, and be issued a "County Driver's License" which is permission from Risk Management and Fleet Services to drive. I can drive anything in the County Fleet that's within the appropriate license class, including the Sheriff's Department cruisers and SUVs. What I was surprised about was that I didn't have to get a whiz quiz when I started as a Driver. Every other driving job that I've had made me do a UA before I was hired.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Set for, at most, 7 mph over the posted limit. That's fast enough to get me down the road, but not so fast that I attract too much attention. The best part is, there's [u]always[/u] some fool who wants to go faster than that. I haven't gotten a second look from the highway patrol since I started using it.

jackvandijk
jackvandijk

Get a membership in Pre-Paid Legal, they are good in keeping the speeding tickets off. One ticket per two/three years is good.

JamesRL
JamesRL

...Including development. They also require a passport within 90 days of hire. It may have something to do with offsite training which may require travel. In my office we often attend sessions in the US. James

AU-man
AU-man

Driving records are required for employees driving company vehicles. If you want to work for us you can forget your IT qualifications and college degrees if you're driving record is bad. Insurance is very costly for bad drivers.

douglasalt1
douglasalt1

I have recently removed the year I left college and started work from my CV. It is interesting that the number of calls / emails asking about my work status has risen from 1 or 2 calls a month to 5 calls a week, some with what appear to be good chance of getting a better position.

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