Job hunting is difficult for professionals of any age. However, it can be particularly challenging for those over 50 who are re-entering the job market or changing careers amid rapid technological advances and older-worker discrimination.
To help workforce veterans polish their resumes and present themselves in the best light, career experts from AARP and resume-writing service TopResume have identified actionable tips for age-proofing resumes. Here’s everything you need to know about packaging your in-demand career skills and experience as a workforce veteran.
Follow these tips when updating your resume
Employers want to attract and retain the best workers, and they use resumes to sift through applicants and hire employees who’ll contribute meaningfully to the organization. Specific strategies can help older workers stand out on their resumes and show they’re the best candidate for the job. Here are some resume tips for workforce veterans:
- Focus on your recent experience. The further you are in your career, the less relevant your earlier experience becomes. The last 10 to 15 years are really what matters, so focus on detailing experience related to your current job search. If you really want to add older work experience, add it to a section of your resume called “Career Note.”
- Eliminate older dates. Not every position you’ve held must have the start and end dates listed on your resume. Remove the dates related to work experience and certifications if they don’t fall within that 10- to 15-year window.
- Limit your resume to two pages. Recruiters spend less than 10 seconds reviewing each resume and application that comes across their desk before deciding if the candidate deserves further consideration. If you want hiring managers to notice your resume, keep it short so they get the gist of your work history within that 10-second timeframe.
- Tailor your resume to the job you want. Although you might have held multiple roles throughout your career, tailor your resume to support your current career objective instead of providing a general summary of your entire work history.
- Optimize your resume with keywords. Improve your resume’s chances of making it past the applicant-tracking system and reaching a human by adding keywords within your resume from the job description.
- Upgrade your email address. Don’t give employers a reason to believe you aren’t tech-savvy. Ditch your AOL or Hotmail email account for a free, professional-looking Gmail address that incorporates your name.
- List your mobile phone number. Include only your cell phone number on your resume to ensure you answer hiring managers’ calls. This also lets you control the voicemail message potential employers and recruiters hear.
- Join the LinkedIn bandwagon. If you’ve avoided using LinkedIn, now’s the time to create a profile that promotes your candidacy to employers. Once your profile is complete, customize your LinkedIn profile URL and add it to the top of your resume.
- Showcase your technical proficiencies. Show employers that you’ve kept up with the latest tools and platforms related to your field by creating a small section near the bottom of your resume that lists your technical proficiencies.
- Customize your online application. Minor resume tweaks can make a big difference in determining whether your online application reaches a human for review. After reviewing the job listing closely, make minor edits to customize your resume to reflect your qualifications clearly.
- Ditch the objective statement. Avoid using a run-of-the-mill objective statement full of fluff that focuses on your wants and needs. Instead, replace it with your elevator pitch, which should be a brief paragraph summarizing your job goals and qualifications.
- Aim for visual balance. Your resume’s formatting is just as crucial as the information it contains. Focus on leveraging a combination of short blurbs and bullet points to make it easy for the reader to quickly scan your resume and find the most essential details that support your candidacy.
- Focus on achievements, not tasks. At this point in your career, recruiters are less concerned with the tasks you’ve completed and more interested in learning what you’ve accomplished. Use bullet points to describe your results and your significant contributions that benefited your employers.
- Avoid seeming overqualified for the job. You may have a wealth of experience to be proud of, but you don’t want to build a resume that announces you’re overqualified for the job you want. Be honest about where you worked and what responsibilities you held, but stay concise and focused on the job you seek.
- Ask for feedback. If you made it through the interview process at a company and weren’t hired, take the rejection as an opportunity to improve for the future. Ask the employer how you can improve your resume and interview skills with language like the following: “Thank you for the opportunity, and I understand your decision. As someone focused on improvement, I’d love your feedback on how I navigated the overall application process. Could I have been more clear about my work experience or qualifications?”
If your challenge is having limited work experience, consider creating several resume variations that highlight relevant experience from volunteer positions, internships and extracurricular experiences.
Stay wary of age discrimination
Amanda Augustine, a career expert for TopResume, cautions older job seekers to stay aware of age discrimination. “It may be unfair, but age discrimination is a real thing in today’s workforce and job search,” Augustine noted. “Some employers are concerned that candidates of a certain age aren’t looking for a long-term gig because they’re close to retirement.”
While hiring managers and businesses may not openly admit it, they may be concerned that older applicants won’t bring what the position requires. For example, they may be concerned that older workers aren’t tech-savvy or are resistant to change, potentially making them more challenging to train and work with.
An age-proofed resume can help fight age discrimination by showing you’re a qualified candidate, and your interview can further dispel misconceptions about workplace veterans. “It’s important for 50-plus candidates to dispel these concerns on their resume and cover letter as well as during the interview process,” advised Augustine.
During interviews, older workers can highlight their emotional intelligence – including self-awareness and empathy – and soft skills like work ethic and reliability.
Resume writing tips
Writing a resume at any age or experience level can be challenging. The following tips will help you build a resume that best reflects your experience and sets you up for success:
- Keep your resume concise. Recruiters may spend mere seconds reviewing a resume, so you have a very limited window to make an impression. Don’t bury relevant experience on the second page; instead, showcase your most relevant experience and skills.
- Don’t use abstract language on your resume. Employers are interested in how you specifically impacted your previous employers. Instead of vague generalities, highlight the quantifiable, actionable contributions you made.
- Focus on transferable skills on your resume. When you apply for a job, tailor your resume to that job’s description. Focus on the transferable skills from previous jobs that helped you succeed. For example, showcase concrete skills, like using a specific online tool or platform, or highlight your interpersonal, management-based skills.
- Highlight your commitment to growth on your resume. Recruiters appreciate employees who demonstrate a willingness to learn. Because you are a workforce veteran, it’s crucial to highlight your commitment to continued growth and education. Share what you learned in past roles on your resume, and use your interview time to focus on the lessons you learned and what you hope to learn and contribute to the new position.
Keep your skills sharp and relevant
Workplace veterans may be concerned that their skills aren’t as updated as they’d like. Employers may assume job candidates are proficient with new technology, software packages and even jargon.
To be proactive and stay on top of current tech skills, thought processes and industry trends, consider the following resources:
- edX: edX has courses on tech topics and myriad other subjects. You can audit courses on edX for free, but you’ll need to pay for exams and certificates.
- Coursera: Coursera is an excellent educational resource for education to advance your career. Some courses are available for free; paid subscriptions are available.
- Skillshare: Skillshare has free and premium courses on various subjects that can enhance your job search.
- Ted Talks: View Ted Talks on a wide range of subjects for free to expand your mind and learn new skills and ideas.
- Google Digital Garage: Google Digital Garage is a nonprofit program that provides free training, certifications and courses to help people sharpen their digital skills.
- HubSpot Academy: HubSpot Academy offers free online courses and training in marketing, customer service and sales.
- AARP: AARP offers free webinars designed to help older workers stay competitive in today’s job market.
Streamline your resume to get the job
Updating your resume doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In fact, creating and polishing your resume can remind you how qualified, skilled and successful you really are. If you’re a workforce veteran, set yourself up for success by streamlining your resume to showcase just how valuable you can be in your next position.
Matt D’Angelo contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.