With unemployment at historic lows, finding and hiring skilled workers is a challenge for businesses. As a result, some individuals are putting their retirement plans on hold and staying in the workplace longer. There are also some signs that retirees are “unretiring” and re-entering the workforce.
Regardless of the reasons, older workers are actively searching for jobs — which means they need to have their resume in order. It also means they need to take an objective look at their resume to make sure it’s laser-focused on the job they’re applying for and reduces the opportunity for ageism and bias to creep into the hiring process.
According to a survey from AARP, nine in 10 workers age 45 and older see age discrimination as a common occurrence. Here are six tips from Tim Reiter, senior staffing consultant with Unum, that can not only help showcase your skills and experience but help age-proof your resume.
1. Use a functional resume. One way you can keep the focus on your experience is use a resume format different from the traditional chronological format. Reiter suggests starting the resume with a section titled “Relevant Experience,” “Career Highlights” or something similar. This section would draw the reader to focus on what you’ve done in your career, regardless of when or which job it’s associated with. Then follow with a bulleted, chronological job listing only employer names and dates of employment.
2. Have an objective. Another strategy is to use an objective statement to describe your aspirations, so it’s clear you still have career goals and want to achieve them. But Reiter does have a word of caution when it comes to resume objectives. “Only use an objective on your resume if you’re going to customize it to each job you apply to. A generic objective generally ends up being a bunch of buzzwords that really doesn’t tell an employer anything about you.” That won’t make your resume stand out in the crowd.
3. Customize your resume for the opportunity. While this can be labor intensive, having different versions of your resume can be valuable. For example, if you have experience in both sales and marketing, if you focus on both when applying for a pure marketing position, the employer may not grasp the full depth of your experience. Making a resume more relevant to a particular opportunity makes it clearer to the employer how you’d fit the role and how you’d like to take the next step in your career. Reiter suggests having a general resume template you can customize for each job opening.
4. Tailor resume dates. AARP recommends showcasing only the last 10-15 years of work experience. And for good reason: Employers aren’t really interested in what someone did 30 years ago. They want to know what you can do for them today. In addition, Reiter says consider removing older work experience that’s not relevant to the role you’re applying for. But do be careful not to create large gaps in your work history. Think about removing graduation dates from your education section.
5. Use the cover letter strategically. Recruiters are split on the effectiveness or desirability of cover letters. Reiter says, “I’m in the camp that they can be very effective if they’re tailored specifically to the position you’re applying for. Use the job posting to build the letter, and to tie your experience to the role. Using a letter also gives you more space to detail how and why you’re interested in the role and what you want to accomplish in your career.” Also, keep in mind the cover letter can be part of an email that includes your resume.
6. Have a professional email address. Speaking of email, Reiter said he doesn’t get too picky about people’s email addresses when they apply, but he shared three good guidelines to keep in mind. First, the email shouldn’t contain anything offensive, potentially offensive, or even remotely close to offensive. Second, consider having an email you use exclusively for your job search. It could make things easier to keep things organized. And finally, think about a short and simple email address because there are times you’ll have to provide it over the phone.
As we gain skills and experience, that doesn’t mean we can’t show it off to prospective employers. However, it can be helpful to present it differently, so we focus more on our expertise. Because let’s face it, those are two of the advantages of hiring an older worker: skills and experience.