IT Employment

Resume tips for older job seekers


Did you know that by 2010 one of every three workers will be over 50 years old? You would hope that seasoned folks would be a welcome addition to any staff, but you never know in today's youth-obsessed culture.

So what tweaks should you make to your resume to play down your age but play up your experience? Here are some tips.

  • This may sound counterproductive to what I just said but avoid using the word "experience." Instead focus on particular technologies you've had hands-on experience with. List projects you've managed over the years and their results. Employers are interested in your specific capabilities and achievements, not necessarily when they happened.
  • Don't hide your age, but don't broadcast it. More than likely the people who are screening your resume are much younger than you. Avoid presenting an opportunity for subconscious ageism by not listing school graduations dates, etc.
  • Avoid a chronological resume. Let's say you have relevant experience that would suit the job you're applying for, but you gained that experience three or four jobs ago. This is where functional resumes help the most. You should list your experience in order of relevance to the job applied for.
  • Since you're older, you probably may have worked at quite a few places. Extra-long resumes are not a good idea, however, so try to condense things down into two pages at the most.
  • If it's been 25 years since you last sent out a resume, know that electronic delivery is the norm now. Don't fall under the delusion that post office-mailed resumes are more professional.
  • Avoid references to out-of-date technology. You may be a Windows NT guru, but you want to give the impression that you are continually learning.

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.

18 comments
alistair.k
alistair.k

Sometimes I feel it! But seriously, I rememeber having to work my CV to make it look like I was not too young, immature, inexperianced - but now do I have to start working it another way around?

meon
meon

Age doesnt prevent you getting a job it simply stops you getting an interview for a job. I have been getting interviews and job offers for the past 20 years by not giving my age or date of birth on my CV. Maybe some potential interviewers thought this was an ommission, but others didnt worry, and interviews led to job offers, at interview I have seldom been asked my age. My age now - 74.

kjohnson
kjohnson

I'll be sixty in a couple of months so I feel qualified to write this. It is a real shame that older people looking for work have to pretend not to be old. A British company which is proud of its record in employing older people turns out employs older people to round up trolleys, stack shelves and graft on the check-outs. In reality an older person's experience means we are better than younger people at, say, handling customer complaints or negotiating with Unions or organising projects. That ability comes with age, and it doesn't come without it. Human Resources people above all others ought to understand that.

Dharamvir
Dharamvir

How about some more examples of functional resumes.

mikifin
mikifin

I have held positions and jobs in several careers paths one of which was in the software industry. I was so sought after that I had people calling me while I was still at work for one employer trying to lure me away right up to the time I retired. The question to ask yourself really is: "Am I so talented, experienced etc. in X that people are clamoring for my services?" The answer is: If you are not in this position then you are doing something wrong. Once you discover what that is, then after fixing it you will be that person being sought after. After learning to do this once I have found that it works universally; from Circus clown to chef, mechanic to programmer it doesn't matter.

wendy
wendy

As a Certified Professional Resume Writer who specializes in IT resumes, I had to comment on this issue. All of your other advice is spot-on except this tip. A functional resume is a red-alert to recruiters and hiring managers that the candidate has something to hide. With a stack of candidates available for every opportunity, the functional resume won't even be considered. Instead, cut your job history off at 10 years. You can summarize older positions if necessary, but only up to three maximum should be listed. I list them like this: Early career experience includes network manager for Xerox and network engineering positions with Bank One and North American Container Corporation. Otherwise, include a sentence that reads, "Early career history information available upon request." This effectively hides your age. Make sure you exclude dates from your education and that the university names are up to date. If you have been with the same company since the first PC was invented, it is better to exclude dates while sticking to a chronological format. These are just a few of the many tips available in the book "Expert Resumes for Baby Boomers" by Wendy S. Enelow and Louise M. Kursmark. If any reader has doubts about the effectiveness of their resume, send it to me at wendy@trendresumes.com and I'll email you a no-charge evaluation! Wendy Belancourt, CPRW

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Cut out everything that isn't applicable to the job advertised. If you're going to do a resume, get the most bang for your buck. Tailor every one of them to the individual companies you're applying to. Be sure to really research the company and find out what other areas impact that position. Go ahead and leave stuff in that shows you can interact profitably with those areas. Calling first and talking with someone prior to sending the resume does two things; it gives you multiple face time with the company, and gives you a chance to better tailor the resume.

andy.nelson
andy.nelson

Spot on ? very good tips there. Here in the UK we now have age discrimination legislation that very often borders on the ridiculous, making it impossible for me to place an ad asking for a ?time served? engineer for example as it supposedly discriminates against someone who isn?t time served ?despite the fact that the experience gained over time is needed to allow them to do the job!! In terms of our older candidates, I always advise on a functional skills matrix at the top of the CV/resume ? this makes the initial focus about capability rather than time/age. As an aside, I also recommend guys with 2 or less years? experience do the same, especially if they are very capable and have a broad range.

cfc2000
cfc2000

I was part of a team of auditors recently and I was easily the oldest member. One of the other team members kept making comments about older people struggling with IT. But guess who had to help her again and again with such simple activities as editing a pdf document, adjusting tables in word, getting access to the mainframe database etc? This clapped out old idiot. I wouldn't have minded, but as a contractor I was on a lot less money than her and yet had to suffer her condescension. Part of growing old I suppose.

eggy55
eggy55

The article was very informative. I have worked in many fields,after all unless my piers are experts in the total realm of the work, I can learn to be productive. Still I think my resume' needs a little help. I will use your advice and maybe the market will be more receptive. Ignacio Aizcorbe

kjohnson
kjohnson

When I sent my CV to Wendy, as invited, the address wendy@trendresumes.com bounced. However, if anyone else wants to see my CV, they're welcome to it.

Sirgwain
Sirgwain

That's all fine and great, but as I have found out through experience, I can have the best resume prepared, get an phone interview and it goes really well and when the hiring personnel see my face and age, it stops there--dead in its tracks. Until this society of ours gets over its obsession with youth and age-bias, I'm afraid that no matter what you try to do will not overcome age discrimination. Yeas, I know I've gone off topic a little, but this does have to do with older workers trying to get jobs.

peter.kearney
peter.kearney

I disagree partially. I originally qualified as a Chartered Accountant (like a CPA in the US) and then diversified into managing IT projects, managing businesses, general business consulting - all related to the general field of business transformation and change management. If I present my resume in chronological order listing my employers and titles - most recruiters say they dont understand what I am. If I present myself as a project manager and rearrange and underplay the distinct job titles - then I get a lot more attention. I still present it in chronological order though and I do identify the employer - but whereas I might have been running a business - I actually distill out the projects that consumed most of my time and underplay my title. So, I think there is some merit in arranging the resume so that it emphasises the relevant functional experience for the job is important.

Meesha
Meesha

I agree with Wendy. As a manager I often receive hundreds of resumes for one posting. Functional resumes rarely make it to the top of the pile. Yet at the same time it's not that a resume is more than two pages that tends to bother me but the incompleteness of this snapshot of a perspective employee. I don't select based on age but on what I NEED and if that applicant fulfills the NEED, they have a good shot at being asked for an interview. In my career, I've always kept in mind that the resume is your sales tool - it sells you. Given an interview helps you close the deal.

kjohnson
kjohnson

On a team of auditors you are in one of very many positions for which experience is more important than qualifications. To me it sounds as though your colleague made ageist remarks because she felt insecure. Give her a reply that combines your own authority and experience with reassurance and helps her to stabilise her ego lossage. "Shut up, you bastard" might do it.

mwclarke1
mwclarke1

Dye hair (all) no old style clothing be up with language your kids are these days but proper, no slang and do not mention anything about getting old, health issues, etc. :-)

wendy
wendy

Thanks for your support in this Meesha. This is what most hiring professionals tell me. I also agree with you on the issue of a resume being a sales tool. The most important thing you can do to conduct a highly-effective career search campaign is provide your potential value as a prospective employee in the opening of your resume and continue that theme throughout with measurable contributions in each position you have held. Resume writing is truly an art with many intricate rules to sharply focus the document to your target market.

cfc2000
cfc2000

Thanks for making me laugh - I've spent a whole life time fantasizing about doing just that to some of the arrogant b******s I've had to work with! Cheers Charles