Resume Tips for the Seasoned Worker

By Laura DeCarlo

To fight the age bias that can keep you out of job interviews, aim for a clean and contemporary resume design and stock it with accomplishments, skills, and experience that make you look sharp and professional by taking to heart the following tips.

Match your target job description

Find or write job descriptions of your target occupations. If you like your current field and are leaving involuntarily because it’s disappearing from under your feet like the world’s biggest sinkhole, start with job descriptions in closely related jobs. Compare requirements of related jobs with your transferable (crossover) skills profile.

To identify occupations closely related to your current field, check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Knowing what you have to offer gets you out of the past and into the future; it enables you to write a resume that readers respect, by, in effect, saying, “This is what I can do for you that will add to your productivity, efficiency, or effectiveness. And, of course, a little bump on the bottom line.”

Shorten your resume

The general guideline is “Go back no more than 10 or 15 years.” But if that doesn’t work for the job you seek, one answer is to create a functional or hybrid resume, in which you emphasize your relevant skills in detail toward the top of the resume and downplay overly impressive titles that might intimidate younger employers. For example, Senior Vice President, Sales becomes Sales Executive.

If you must list jobs prior to the 15-year mark, it’s perfectly acceptable to list them in a section called Other Relevant Experience, Additional Experience, or Prior Work History, and leave off the dates. As long as you cover dates in the more recent positions, the older jobs can be talking points for the interview. This way you won’t give away the actual number of years of work.

Focus your resume

Focus your resume. Concentrate on highlighting your two most recent or most relevant jobs. Don’t attempt to give equal attention to each of your past jobs, especially if the experience is irrelevant to what you want to do now.

What can you do with all the experience that was great in your old job but means zero where you want to go? Lump it together at the end of your resume under Other Relevant Experience, Additional Experience, or Prior Work History. Shrink it to positions, titles, employers, and/or degrees and educational institutions. If extraneous experience is older than five years, boot it entirely.

When your job experience has been overly diverse, your resume probably looks like a job-hopping tale of unrelated job after unrelated job.

Show that you’re a tower of strength

Give examples of how you solved problems, recovered expenses, and learned to compensate for weaknesses in your working environment. Emphasize how quickly such adjustments occurred. Gray heads who’ve survived a few fallen skies are valuable assets in difficult times.

Demonstrate political correctness

Show that you’re familiar with contemporary values by using politically correct terms wherever appropriate. Examples include diversity, cross-cultural, mainstream, multiethnic, and people with disabilities (never handicapped), and women (not girls or gals). Sensitivity is especially important for positions that have contact with the public.

Send your resume online

Doing so helps dispel any ideas that you’re over the hill and haven’t the vaguest idea that you live in a digital age. If you want to be seen as a hub of hip, tweet about your resume.

Murder ancient education dates

Don’t worry that the absence of dates will send a signal you’re hiding something. When you earned your degree won’t sell you at this point, but what you studied might. If a prospective employer really wants to know when you graduated, he/she will ask in the interview. In short: leave dates off your education section.

Regardless of your age, if you have gone back to school to improve your odds or chart a different course, don’t be afraid to adopt the perspective of a recent graduate.

Trim your resume to fighting weight

For very experienced professionals, sorting out the most powerful resume points can be difficult. It’s like being a gifted child with so many choices, and you’re good at all of them! Ask a couple of smart friends to help you decide what information stays and what information goes.

Employ appropriate headings

When you’re relying on freelance or non-paid work — hobby or volunteer — as the substance for your timeline, use the heading Professional Experience so it covers both paid and unpaid roles.

But when you’ve changed your career focus through education, list Education before Experience. To refine the education heading, you can substitute target-job-related learning, such as Accounting Education or Healthcare Education. Your professional experience follows.