It’s a new world for seniors looking for work, so make sure your resume has the right words and avoids revealing your age.
Whether you’re looking for part- or full-time jobs, your resume tells more about you than you might realize. For one thing, in a culture where anyone older than 50 is deemed “old,” listing too much of your work history will peg you as not able to function in a technology- and youth-focused workplace. For another, keywords will either get you in the door for an interview or get your resume tossed on the heap with others.
Whether you’ve found a job opportunity through an online job-listing site, your LinkedIn profile or the old-fashioned method of networking, an important first step is your resume.
Use the Right Keywords
In this electronic age, instead of a human looking at your resume, software will scan it for keywords—terms specific to your industry. That includes your work skills and background (such as human relations, research and planning, management and computer skills) and your proficiency with specific software and technology. To get an interview with a real person, you need to use the keywords that are listed in the job announcement. This also demonstrates that you know the language, are technically savvy and are up-to-date on current buzzwords.
Beyond industry buzzwords are keywords that are more action oriented than “my duties included” or “I was responsible for . . . .” About.com divides keywords into three categories. Examples of skill keywords include wrote, analyzed, quantified, planned, programmed, designed, created, built, taught and trained. Stress your accomplishments with results words such as increased, reduced, redesigned, upgraded, initiated, implemented, reformulated, generated and produced, as in "I reduced turnover by 20 percent by implementing a mentoring system."
Third, recognition keywords emphasize your performance at past jobs, such as being awarded or promoted for having the best sales record. Other words include selected, lauded for, received a bonus for, recognized, chosen and credited.
Make sure you also include keywords in your cover letter.
Age-Proof Your Resume
In a culture that openly discriminates against older adults, you can downplay your seniority in several ways. At some point, your wealth of experience will become obvious to a prospective employer, but there’s no need to emphasize it.
Limit Your Work History
Experts advise that you only list jobs going back 15 years. If you have relevant work experience that goes back further than that, list it in another section titled “Other Experience” or “Previous Experience,” and don’t give dates. Some experts suggest prioritizing your resume, so the most relevant work is listed first rather than chronologically.
If you have volunteer experiences that are relevant to the prospective job, you can beef up your resume by listing your responsibilities, skills or recognition in these non-paying jobs.
Don’t List Years
If you include a summary at the top of your resume, don’t indicate your extensive background, as in “experienced manager,” or reveal how many years you’ve been working. Similarly, don’t include your high school or college graduation dates.
If your resume is not producing the results you want, experts advise hiring a professional resume writer. However, AARP encourages caution.
Check with associations. Resume writers can earn certification from the National Résumé Writers' Association and the Professional Association of Résumé Writers & Career Coaches, but certification is no guarantee that the writer will do a good job. Check the writer’s website for their experience, qualifications and recommendations.
Do an interview. Good resume writers take time to interview clients about their experience, qualifications and goals, rather than sending a template for you to fill out. Also ask résumé writers about their experience and understanding of your industry.
Ask for the price. Many résumé writers charge by the hour—between $15 and $250—so make sure you know how much you’ll have to pay. A good resume could take anywhere from five to eight hours to write, so be prepared to shell out some money. Upfront payment, which is tax deductible, is usually required.
Use the Right Resume
In the past, you may have used a chronological resume, but at this point in your career, a functional resume, which focuses on your skills (but can also include dates), might better suit your purpose. Experts also advise creating a customized resume for each job you apply for, which targets your accomplishments and skills to the posted job rather than revealing your entire experience.
Show You’re Technically Savvy
Make sure you list all the software programs you’re skilled at (but leave off ones that are no longer around) and professional development courses you’ve taken. Include links to your profile on LinkedIn or other professional social media sites.
Many employers don’t want to hire older workers because they assume they will have to pay them more. Avoid giving your salaries at previous jobs, and if the employer specifically asks for salary requirements, note in your cover letter that you are flexible.
Review Job Titles
Some experts suggest downplaying your job titles so you won’t seem overqualified. For example, use “senior manager” instead of “vice president.”
Don’t Forget the Basics
Some things never change when writing a good resume, like keeping it simple and focused. It’s a good idea to look at other resumes to get an idea of the standard for today. About.com offers free templates for various resumes. Other tips:
Make a Statement
Most experts advise a short statement about yourself and the kind of job you’re looking for, but avoid generic phrases such as “seeking challenging work environment” in favor of more specific goals.
Keep it Clean
Stick to a clean format—an easy-to-read font, lots of white space and no bold, italic or underlined words. Make sure to proofread (and use the computer program’s spell-check) and ideally have someone else check it also.
Some employers have specific rules for how you should format and send your resume and cover letter. For instance, they may want you to paste content into the body of an email, or attach documents to an email. Most employers today want you to email your electronic resume or upload it to a company website. So, make sure to add an email signature that includes your email address and phone number. The job listing may specify what the subject line should say; otherwise list which job you’re applying for. Most importantly, don’t forget to attach your resume.
“How to Avoid Résumé Writing Scams,” March 4, 2013, AARP
“Top 10 Resume Writing Tips,” March 7, 2016, About.com
“Cover Letters Tips for Older Job Seekers,” Dec. 14, 2014, About.com
“Job Search Tips for Older Job Seekers,” Dec. 18, 2014, About.com
“Resume Tips for Older Job Seekers, “ Jan. 6, 2016, About.com
“Nine Resume Tips for Today’s Job Market,” Senior Citizens’ Guide to Baltimore
“How to Show Accomplishments on Your Resume,” August 2015, AARP
“4 Résumé Tips for Older Workers,” Aug. 2, 2013, U.S. News & World Report
“7 Ways to Help Your Résumé Stand Out,” Dec. 11, 2014, AARP
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors