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5 Resume Tips for Older Job Seekers to Avoid Age Discrimination

by THEA kelley | January 4, 2024

Older job seeker working at laptop.Wondering how to avoid ageism with your resume? You may be pleasantly surprised by what a difference you can make with some smart formatting and attention to key details.

Resume Tips for Older Job Seekers

  1. Don’t put an old-fashioned email address at the top of your resume.

One of the first things a recruiter sees on your resume is your email address. Using Hotmail, AOL or even Yahoo sends a signal that you’re old and set in your ways. If you’re still using one of these providers, I recommend you get a Gmail address. Just make sure you check it frequently, or better yet, forward it to the account you do check often.

2. Use an up-to-date resume format.

A modern resume doesn’t have to mean an elaborately formatted one. A few simple points will ensure your resume doesn’t bring bifocals and a walker to mind.

Don’t put an “Objective” at the top of your resume. This resume feature has gone out of style, and for good reason, since it focuses on what the job seeker wants, while the employer is more interested in what they want. Instead, use a headline (below your name and contact information) stating what you do, e.g., Business Analyst, or Senior Human Resources Professional. You can expand on this by working a key selling point or two into the headline–e.g., Business Analyst with MBA & Pharma Experience–or into a subtitle.

Leave out “References available upon request.” This line has been abandoned because it’s unnecessary; it goes without saying that you have references.

If you’re proud of your LinkedIn profile, include a URL. (If you’re not proud of it, read 10 Ingredients of an Excellent LinkedIn Profile.) If you have a professional website, blog or portfolio that supports your brand, include that too. Note: Hyperlinks can be interpreted as viruses by applicant tracking systems.

For more tips on resume writing, read 10 Resume Must-Haves.

3. Omit long-ago jobs—or include them in a special section without dates.

How far back should you go in listing past jobs? Ideally, you want to show a few years more experience than they’re asking for, but not vastly more.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave out that highly prestigious company you joined in your twenties. A section headed “Additional Experience” can be a great way to mention or summarize key points about your earlier experience without including dates. It might look like this:

ADDITIONAL EXPERIENCE

Built skills in quantitative analysis and team leadership through challenging roles within companies including X and Y.

Or, if the job titles are important:

ADDITIONAL EXPERIENCE

Job Title, Name of Company

Another Job Title, Name of Company

(Note that the two jobs included in the example above need not have been consecutive, and you can pick and choose which jobs to mention here.)

There are many ways to customize the structure of an Additional Experience section to best serve your purpose. For example, you could add a line or two under each job to highlight an extremely impressive accomplishment. Just don’t add so much information that your Additional section begins to look too similar in format to the main experience section. That would only draw attention to the one thing that’s different–the omitted dates!

4. Skip the outdated skills.

Leave out skills and tools that aren’t used these days. They’re dinosaurs, and they make you look like a dinosaur, too.

5. Don’t date yourself in your education section.

It’s quite common these days to omit the dates you earned your degrees, and if you graduated a long time ago, it’s probably a good idea to do so. But let’s say you earned your bachelor’s 20 years ago and your master’s last year. You’d like the employer to see that you’ve updated your knowledge with the recent master’s, and yet it would look odd to list a date for the later degree and not for the earlier one. I suggest you either leave the dates off both, or consider listing only the second degree.

Bonus Tip: Don’t be outed by your LinkedIn profile.

It’s very common for recruiters to go straight from your resume to your LinkedIn profile to see what else they can learn about you. All of the suggestions above can be applied to your profile, except that you can’t create an “Additional Experience” section like you can on a resume. Instead, if you want to mention earlier roles without providing dates, you can mention them toward the end of your About section, or enter them as projects (click Add Profile Section, select Accomplishments and then Projects).

What about the photo? A photograph can certainly give away your age. On the other hand, profiles with photographs are more credible and engaging, plus they get 21 times more views, according to LinkedIn. Rather than omitting a photo, consider making it a high priority to obtain a photo that makes the most of your appearance. It doesn’t have to cost any money; a shot taken by a friend can be very effective if you take care with the lighting (outdoors in the early morning or late afternoon, or in the shade), take a lot of shots in different locations throughout your back yard or park (because the lighting will vary, as well as the backgrounds), and choose the best of that large batch.  Taking many, many shots is one of the secrets of professional photography.

Now that you know how to avoid ageism on your resume, get ready to prevent age discrimination in your interviews, and how to succeed in interviews where the boss is younger than you.

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