Concerns mature candidates face

Oklahoman Modified: September 14, 2012 at 11:55 am •  Published: September 14, 2012
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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 current résumé and I feel it could have something to do with my age and I’m not sure how to “hide it” 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 4. I have not listed any years regarding my education. – Martha

Dear Martha: If you are only presenting 21 years of experience then a reader may assume you are in your early 40s, making your fear of being seen as 10 years older not 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 candidates, when presenting long-term tenure with one employer, often take brevity too far. 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. I hope you are spreading your experience on two pages versus trying to squeeze it all on one, and I also hope you are opening with a strong qualifications summary which “frames” your experience and your candidacy for the reader. It is really easy to pin a lack of response on a fear of ageism, and while I do understand that it is a rational fear, in your case I think the lack of response is likely due to formatting and content strategies. Take a look at some résumé samples on my website to confirm you are presenting a document in line with best practices and, once you perhaps revamp a little, I’m sure you will start to hear your phone ring.

Dear Sam: l 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 which you want to pursue, I would imagine that would be between 10 and 15 years. You may want to omit the earlier of your recent short-term positions—as I am assuming they are not incredibly strong, based on your short tenure—as doing so would not cause a gap when only presenting years and not months of employment. As your manager position would include many more accomplishments, I would suggest having a “Select Highlights” section on your résumé where your achievements could be previewed on page one of your résumé. By doing this, you will push your most recent, short-term experience toward the bottom of page one (or the top of page two), ensuring 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.

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