Resumes and Age Bias: To Date or Not to Date?

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resume-how-to-age-concernEvery day I talk to people who are concerned about putting their full employment or graduation dates on their resume. The concern is that by showing a full chronology or revealing a graduation date, hiring managers will "do the math" and figure out how old you are. Once they have this information, they may decide you are "too old" for their open position.

Does age bias exist? Absolutely. Does that mean you should omit information that would help them decipher the length of your career history? Not really. Here's why.

-- See the average salaries of workers age 44 - 65.

  • Omitting dates forces the reader to come to their own conclusion. Let's say you are a job seeker in your late 40s and you decide to only report your career chronology back to 1998, when the reality is you've been in the workforce since the mid '80s. In addition you don't include your graduation date. The person reading your resume will come to one of two conclusions: a) you are in your 30s and just didn't include your graduation date (unlikely) or b) you are significantly older than your resume suggests and you have omitted the graduation date or early career experiences to mask this fact (likely). So now you have called more attention to the very thing you are trying to hide and potentially given the hiring manager the impression that you are much older than you actually are.

  • Chopping off a section of your chronology is misleading and potentially damaging to your candidacy. Let's assume that you leave off certain telling dates and you are granted an interview. You show up for the interview and it is obvious to the hiring manager that you have been working well before 1998. What do you think is going on in that hiring manager's head? Probably the fact that you have been less than up-front about your career history and you were trying to "put one over on them." Not a great way to start out a relationship. And what if you have worked for the same company for 25 years? Are you going to chop off 10 or more of those years because you are afraid your experience dates you? If you end up being selected for the position and the hiring manager does a reference check to confirm previous employers and dates of employment, the facts won't match up and you could end up with a rescinded offer.

-- Applying for a new job? Find out what it pays.

Strategies to use

So how do you work around the age factor?

  • Be transparent but be strategic. Create a very brief section on the resume that says Early Experience or Additional Experience. Include one or two sentences that explains your early chronology. For example, you might write something like "held a series of customer service positions for companies X, Y, and Z between these dates." Or you might write "10 years experience in retail sales." With this strategy you are being transparent, but you aren't calling a great deal of attention to your earlier history or dedicating too much space on the resume to these experiences.

  • Include information on the resume that proves that you are current in your approach to job search. An easy way to show that you are keeping up with best practices in your job search strategy is to include your LinkedIn URL in the contact section of your resume. This shows your reader that you are familiar with the importance of online technology in a job search.

Gaining job interviews is really about gaining trust. The resume is frequently the tool that is used to gain that trust. By showing the reader that you have the competencies and past successes that make you a strong fit for their open position, you increase the trust and "likability" factor and improve the chances of getting called in for an interview. If you omit key information about your background, it is unlikely that you will make it to the second round of interviews.

If the hiring authority truly has an age bias, there may be little you can do to change their way of thinking. Perhaps that's unfortunate, but it is also the reality. If you are concerned that age bias may be a factor in your search, consider targeting companies that tout themselves as best places to work for older workers. Check out AARP's annual surveys on these companies and start building relationships with companies who brand themselves as great places to work for people over 50 rather than chasing after companies that don't embrace this demographic.


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