Right-size your image and avoid aging your candidacy

Oklahoman Modified: June 15, 2012 at 11:33 am •  Published: June 16, 2012
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Dear Sam: I am 57 years old and have just lost my job due to downsizing. I am concerned that my age will turn off prospective employers. As a result, I have removed the years of service on my résumé from each employer I have had; that 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. They often ask, as I am reviewing it, “How many years were you with them?” Would it be unethical to remove the last employer on the résumé which accounts for about 12 years of my 36-year career? I would, of course, answer any questions asked in regards to whether I have any experience other than what is listed on the résumé; I am just concerned that all of my experience is causing people to decide that I may be too old to invest their time in. Thanks for your help. – Jim

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 hiring managers will make when not seeing a single date will likely be far worse than reality. Typically I hear that when candidates leave out dates, their phone never rings.

First, omit your 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 and they do not expect you to explore 30+ years of experience unless you are at the senior executive level. Be sure that your qualifications summary isn’t immediately dating you either. You shouldn’t be opening your résumé with a statement as to how many years of experience you have; doing so can be easily calculated by reviewing your tenure with each employer. Instead, make sure your summary is written using up-to-date jargon and industry buzzwords and that your most recent experiences are focused on much more heavily than your early career roles. I think when you take this approach, your résumé and your candidacy will be much more marketable.

Dear Sam: After working 27 years in a family-owned technical sales and marketing rep 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 where there is only one employer, but numerous facets of one's responsibilities covering outside sales and in-house management within said company over the years? – Nancy