It is often difficult for older job seekers to get interviews. A recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco that sent out fictitious resumes to job postings found that older applicants received the fewest interview requests. "Once it's clear that you are an older worker, you are less likely to get callbacks," says Patrick Button, an assistant professor of economics at Tulane University and co-author of the report. Here's how your resume is giving away your age.
[See: 10 Jobs Hiring Older Workers.]
Your high school or college graduation years. Potential employers can infer your age from the year you graduated from high school or college. "If you list your high school graduation year, they can get within a couple of years of your age," says David Neumark, an economics professor at the University of California, Irvine, and co-author of the report. "It's not clear you should hide your age, but it's not crazy, either."
What to remove from your resume right now
A long work history. You may want to downplay or leave off roles you held in the 1970s or 80s. "The last eight to 10 years of experience are considered the most relevant on your resume," says Dana Leavy-Detrick, the founder of Brooklyn Resume Studio. "While you may not want to cut earlier roles off altogether, consider how you can condense earlier – and potentially less relevant – experience to keep the bulk of the focus on your current skills and contributions."
However, if you worked for a high-profile employer or earned a prestigious award several decades ago, it might be worth finding a way to include it. "You can get creative in how you present earlier experience without using the traditional chronological approach," Leavy-Detrick says. "Create an 'additional experience' section that omits the dates, but still lists employers and job titles, or include a footnote in the 'experience' section that highlights your earlier roles in a much more condensed way."
Failing to emphasize computer skills. Older workers are often perceived as being uncomfortable using technology. Take care to refute this stereotype. "I recommend including as many technical and computer skills as possible, and social media skills if they might be part of the job," says Janet Raiffa, a career advisor and former corporate recruiter who shares resume advice at resumemama.com. But don't take this too far by writing that you know how to use a web browser or word processing software, which goes without saying in many fields.
No social media presence. An interested hiring manager might type your name into a search engine or want to see a personal website. He or she will probably check out your social media profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or other sites."Build out a solid LinkedIn profile, customize your profile URL so that it includes your name instead of all characters and include that on your resume," Leavy-Detrick says. "Having a polished digital presence really complements the resume and shows that you put serious thought into your personal brand."
Listing two phone numbers. There was a time when many professionals had two or more phone numbers, including a cellphone and a landline. But many younger people now get by with only a cellphone. "Having two phone numbers can be seen as aging since millennials tend not to have landlines," Raiffa says. "Younger job seekers generally only have one."
An old fashioned e-mail address. Your email address might be saying something about your age. "AOL addresses suggest being beyond 40 or 50 [years old], so I recommend using a Gmail address," Raiffa says.
Using an out-of-date format. Resume formats go in and out of style. "Having an objective statement and 'references upon request' were common resume features in the past, but both should no longer be included," Raiffa says. "Your objective is to get the job you're applying for, and any verbiage about the types of job you want should be saved for the cover letter."
Mailing a paper resume. Your resume is probably going to be viewed on a computer screen and needs to look good in that format. "Avoid using antiquated visual elements, such as page borders, drop shadows or tired font styles," Leavy-Detrick says. "Go for a polished, clean look that uses thoughtful design decisions and appropriate layout that's designed for screen reading."
Not including personal interests. Some employers want to get a sense of who you are outside of work, and you can provide some clues by listing a few hobbies or volunteer work. "I also suggest adding interests that convey vitality or youthfulness, such as marathoning, fitness, hiking, skiing, Tough Mudder, weightlifting or kickboxing," Raiffa says.
Using the same resume for every job. Employers increasingly want to see a resume that conveys skills relevant to the open position. "Candidates often want to keep options open by creating a general resume they believe will resonate with varied audiences. When doing so, however, they do not realize they are alienating each audience by not being able to include the keyword relevance needed to get through both the automated and human screeners," says Samantha Nolan, a resume and job search advice columnist and owner of Ladybug Design. "The more on-point you are at marketing your candidacy and relevant skills and experiences to your target audiences, the more traction your resume will receive."
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