Dear Sam:I am 51 years old and looking for a part-time clerical position. I haven’t had much response in sending out my résumé, and I feel it could have something to do with my age.
I’m not sure how to hide my age because I was at one company for 17 years. I have omitted my first employer from my résumé, so I have two jobs listed: one for 17 years and the other for four. I have not listed any years regarding my education. — Martha
Dear Martha: If you are presenting only 21 years of experience, then a reader could assume you are in your early 40s, making your fear of being seen as 10 years older less of a concern.
Perhaps it is more than just your chronological age that is dating your candidacy. Take a look at the roles you have included and make sure you are using up-to-date jargon and hard-hitting keywords that position you for what you now want to pursue.
What I find in a lot of résumés is that when candidates are presenting a long-term tenure with one employer, they often take brevity to the extreme. Be sure you have a nice mix of your roles presented along with (and most important) the value you contributed presented in the form of accomplishment statements.
Try to spread your experience onto two pages versus trying to squeeze it all onto one. Also, be sure to open with a strong Qualifications Summary that frames your experience and your candidacy for the reader. It is easy to pin a lack of response on a fear of ageism, and while I do understand that is a rational
fear, I think the lack of response in your case is likely due to formatting and content strategies.
Take a look at some résumé samples on my Web site to confirm you are presenting a document in line with best practices and, once you revamp it a little, I’m sure you will start to hear your phone ring.
Dear Sam: I lost my management job a year ago. Since then, I have held two jobs, each lasting six months. I am afraid that I may not be hired by another company, as I am 59 years old. What would you suggest? — Simon
Dear Simon: First, determine an appropriate amount of experience to list on your résumé. Based on the level you want to pursue, I imagine that would be between 10 and 15 years. You may want to omit the earlier of your recent short-term positions — as I assume they are not incredibly strong, based on your short tenure. Doing so would not cause a gap when presenting only years and not months of employment.
As your management position would encompass many more accomplishments, I suggest including a Select Highlights section on your résumé, where your achievements could be previewed on page one. By doing this, you will push your most recent, short-term experience toward the bottom of page one (or to the top of page two). This will ensure that it plays a much less significant role during the screening process.
Once you present a strategic amount of experience (to avoid unnecessarily aging your candidacy), highlight your accomplishments up front and minimize the impact of having moved around twice in one year, you will find you have a strong résumé that will open doors.
Dear Sam: I retired from the Department of Defense with 31 years of service, during which I held different positions. At present, I am trying to find a part-time position, with no luck. Most of the part-time jobs I have located are for positions similar to what I did more than 10 years ago. How can I incorporate my older work experience in my résumé in order to be considered for a part-time job now? — Carole
Dear Carole: To avoid unnecessarily aging your candidacy, include only your most recent positions with the dates you performed each role after each title. Then, add a byline to note that you have additional experience with the organization. Focus on the past 10 or so years of employment and the related achievements and responsibilities.
To incorporate notes about your previous positions — and to avoid a presentation of numerous years of experience — add a Career Highlights section to your résumé. You may want to employ a functional approach to this section if you are trying to highlight certain areas that relate to your current job search.
By this, I mean include a Career Highlights section after your Qualifications Summary but before your Professional Experience section.
Within the Career Highlights section, utilize functional subheadings to focus the hiring manager’s attention on the experience within your background that supports or enhances your candidacy for what you want to do now. Here you can highlight achievements and responsibilities related to the positions you held 10-plus years ago without exploring them in detail within the Professional Experience section.
In the Professional Experience section, after you hit about the 10-year mark, you can take the byline approach to present additional positions.
I wish you well.
Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Do you have a résumé or job-search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about Sam’s résumé-writing
services, visit ladybug-design.com or call (614) 570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).