Dear Sam: I am 57 years old and recently lost my job due to downsizing. I am concerned that my age will turn off prospective employers. As a result, I removed from my résumé the years I worked for each employer, which seems to have helped a little.
When employers contact me, they always want me to walk them through my résumé, and I can almost hear them counting the years as I do. In fact, they often ask, “How many years were you with them?”
Would it be unethical to remove the last employer from my résumé, which accounts for about 12 years of my 36-year career? I would, of course, answer any questions in regards to whether I have any experience other than what is listed on my résumé. I am just concerned that all of my experience is causing people to decide that I may be too old in which to invest time. Thanks for your help.
Dear Jim: I’m so glad you wrote, as you are committing a big résumé no-no. Never remove all dates of employment from your résumé. The assumption that hiring managers make will likely be far worse than reality. Typically, I hear that when candidates leave out dates, their phone never rings.
First, omit the first 12 years of employment from your résumé. It is not unethical to remove this experience. In fact, removing positions from the ’70s and ’80s is a very common and expected practice. Hiring managers typically want to see 10 to 15 years of experience. They do not expect you to explore 30-plus years of experience unless you are at the senior-executive level.
Be sure your Qualifications Summary isn’t immediately dating you either. You shouldn’t open your résumé with a statement that discloses how many years of experience you have. Doing so could easily be calculated by reviewing your tenure with each employer.
Instead, make sure your Summary is written using up-to-date jargon and industry buzzwords. Also, focus more heavily on your most recent experience.
I think when you take this approach, your résumé and candidacy will be much more marketable.
Dear Sam: After working 27 years in a family-owned technical sales and marketing firm, my husband needs to make a change. He has an electrical engineering degree from Purdue and an abundance of U.S. and international marketing and sales experience.
What are your recommendations on setting up a résumé with just one employer, but listing numerous facets of one’s responsibilities covering outside sales and in-house management over the years within said company?
Dear Nancy: Great question. To demonstrate diversity in his position and to overcome the potential disqualifier of having only worked for one employer, I would suggest the use of a combination-résumé format.
In this format, he would open with a Qualifications Summary based on his current career objective. Don’t try to make this too broad, as it won’t end up speaking the language of any hiring manager. Instead, be sure your husband spends time searching the job market and to see what is out there that he is interested in and for what jobs he might be qualified. Then tailor the résumé in that direction.
Next — and the critical element of a combination résumé — is presenting your husband’s Career Highlights. In this section, I suggest that he organize highlights of his career within functional areas. For example, he might list subheadings such as Global Marketing, Business Development and Technical Sales.
Then he would place key achievements related to each subject underneath the appropriate subheading. The key in this section is to make these functional subheadings relate to what he now wants to do. This way, the hiring manager can get the idea at a glance that he is qualified for the position.
Following his career highlights would be a fully developed Professional Experience section. This section should take the hiring manager through what your husband did in each position with the company, probably spanning the last 15 years (of course this depends on the level of position he is seeking).
I’d start questioning the value of the experience from the 1980s. When he goes back that far, include only those positions that are absolutely relevant and valuable based on his current career objective.
Presenting 27 years of experience is typically not recommended, as it will likely age his candidacy and possibly make one assume he will be too expensive. I am assuming he held different roles throughout his 27-year tenure, which makes selective inclusion and omission of positions possible.
When you follow this format, you will not only satisfy your husband’s need to present a diverse career, but also the hiring manager’s desire to know what responsibilities he held in each position and how his career translates to what the company is looking for in a new hire. Best of luck.
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 www.ladybug-design.com or call (614) 570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).