Resume Tips for Older Job Candidates

by Natalya Khaykis

Older Worker

For older workers in search of a new job, experience and longevity are not always the advantage that they should be. For a variety of reasons, those seasoned job candidates often find themselves overlooked by hiring managers. Sometimes, that oversight is due to the perception that these older workers may be out of touch with today’s market needs. At other times, companies simply believe that the costs associated with hiring older applicants are too high. If you’re an older worker, the challenge is to remove age from the hiring equation. These resume tips for older job candidates can help you accomplish that goal.

Common Mistakes Older Workers Make with their Resumes

Unfortunately, many older job candidates make simple mistakes that can sabotage their resumes and harm their chances of landing the interviews they need to get a new job. These mistakes typically fall into two categories: trying too hard to be whatever the employer wants them to be, or stubbornly sticking to what’s worked in the past. The former approach often results in resumes that don’t accurately capture the real value that these workers can bring to any company lucky enough to hire them. The latter can result in a resume that seems outdated and unsuitable for a modern, progressive company’s needs.

Resume Tips that Can Improve Your Odds of Getting an Interview

Your goal should be to create a resume that highlights your most relevant skills and accomplishments, while minimizing the age issue. No, that doesn’t mean that you need to drop the dates from your employment section, or use other techniques to hide your age. Instead, these resume tips for older job candidates are designed to highlight real value and demonstrate that you have the skills and experience the company needs to enjoy even greater success. For example:

Customize Your Resume

Some older workers just make minor changes to the resume they’ve been using for years. That’s an almost sure path to rejection, since it doesn’t allow you to customize the document to tailor it to a given company’s needs. If you think about it, the marketplace has changed a lot since your last job. Companies change too. It’s likely that the great resume you relied upon ten or twenty years ago won’t be successful with today’s hiring managers.

Limit Your Work Experience to the Last 10-15 Years

One way to minimize the age issue is to avoid any mention of your decades of experience. Instead, list work experience and accomplishments – and limit your job descriptions to work you’ve done in the last ten or fifteen years. The fact is that most employers won’t be interested in that job you held thirty years ago. They’re more interested in relevant experience you’ve had within the last decade.

Leave Dates out of Your Education Section

You don’t need to include graduation dates in your education section. Sure, hiring managers want to know when recent grads completed their education, since those workers won’t have any real experience to bring to the table. As a seasoned veteran, however, you should rely on your work history, skills and accomplishments, and other personal assets to showcase the value you can offer as an employee.

Key in on Technological Skills

These days, technology is critical for most jobs. You should work to ensure that you’re up-to-date with technologies, and document your proficiencies in your resume. You can also showcase your familiarity with modern communications by building a LinkedIn profile and including a link to it as well. This focus on technology may not seem like a major concern, but it really can make all the difference in the world – especially when hiring managers are trying to choose between candidates for the same position. Oh – and don’t forget to use email. Most companies rely on emailed resume submissions these days.

Use Keywords Properly

If you’re still clinging to the days when every resume was personally read by an actual human being, welcome to 2017. Today’s companies often use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to narrow down their job searches. These machines review resumes to weed out those that don’t appear to meet the basic requirements for the position. They do this by searching the documents for various specific keywords, and reject resumes that either don’t have the right keywords or make improper use of them.

If you’re unfamiliar with keyword usage, spend some time reviewing the subject or have someone you trust assist you with them. You can typically find the keywords you need by searching through the job wanted posting and identifying skills, job descriptions, and qualifications. The terms used in that job posting are likely to be many of the same keywords the ATS will use when reviewing your resume.

Focus on Accomplishments and Value

One main point that cannot be overemphasized is the importance of stressing your accomplishments and the value you bring to any position. While many hiring managers may not be actively looking for older, experienced workers, they are looking for value. This is not the marketplace of forty or fifty years ago, when companies regularly invested in employees with the intent to keep them on staff for life. Today’s companies understand that employees are more job-mobile than ever before. As a result, these companies are often focused on finding workers who can have an immediate impact on their bottom lines. If you know that you can add that value, find ways to showcase that fact in your resume.

Age Doesn’t Have to Limit Your Chances

The bottom line is clear: age doesn’t need to prevent you from competing with younger workers. You may not be exactly what that hiring manager had in mind when the company advertised its open position, but chances are that the company will be proud to have access to your experience and skills if you do get hired. With the right resume, you can get your foot in the door and give yourself the best opportunity to showcase that you’re the right person for the job.


Natalya Khaykis is a writer and analyst at ZipJob. She graduated from NYU with a masters and currently resides in New York City. She covers topics related to resume writing and job search.

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