In a competitive job market, we have to do everything we can to make our resumes more attractive to hiring managers. This can be difficult for older workers, who fear that even if there’s no bias (subconscious or conscious) against job seekers on the mature side of 40, a resume may make them look “overqualified” for the positions they want.
Here are five ways to make your resume more youthful, so you can score the interview—and make an impression with your experience and enthusiasm, instead of your assumed birth date.
- Remove dates from your education. Hiring managers (as well as resume-reading software) may be looking for certain minimum requirements in the area of education. But they likely won’t think about dates unless you mention them. If your life followed a typical pattern, the dates of your college degrees are an age indicator. (But education dates are a double-edged sword—if you got your degree or certification relatively recently, you may seem inexperienced; too long ago, “over the hill.”)
- Focus on recent relevant experience. Of course you’re proud of all your accomplishments—but the people looking at your resume are interested only in the skills and achievements that relate directly to the position they’re trying to fill. Many job seekers (not only those with long work histories) make the mistake of putting too much on their resumes. For example, if you’re a 45-year-old marketing professional applying for a management position, the fact that you were Congressional page in the early 1980s is interesting—but probably not relevant. (And the fact that you were, say, a data-entry clerk for eight months in the late 1980s is neither of those things.) Look at the earliest jobs on your resume—do they say relevant and unique things that will make you more attractive to this particular employer? If not, cut them.
- Focus on new technologies. “Teletype,” “DOS,” Wite-Out correction fluid: your resume should have none of these things on it. Demonstrate that you’re not an “old fogey” by removing all references to outmoded technology from your resume. If you’re a graphic designer, for instance, you know that the design program Macromedia xRes is no longer being used—so why would you waste valuable resume space on touting your xRes skills? List only software programs and technologies that are current in your industry.
- Get online and get connected. Like it or not, many jobs now require a familiarity with social media. And almost all job seekers can benefit from the knowing how to navigate Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and industry-specific online communities. For many hiring managers and recruiters, if you’re not online, you don’t exist.
- Give your resume a personal voice. Old-fashioned resumes contain a lot of lifeless writing, vague generalities, and “job-seeker jargon”—words and phrases that have lost all meaning through overuse: “detail-oriented,” “team player,” “responsible for,” and so on. Instead of saying that you’re detail-oriented, give an example of how your attention to detail saved a past employer money. Instead of saying that you’re a team player, tell the hiring manager about how your team worked together to increase profits. And never tell a hiring manager you were “responsible for” something—tell her what you achieved. Use numbers to quantify those achievements, and use strong verbs. Finally, don’t be afraid of “I” statements in your resume—enthusiastically telling your story as only you can will give your resume more vitality and help it stand out from the pack.