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
Dear Nancy: Great question! To demonstrate diversity in his position and to overcome the potential disqualifier of him 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 some time searching the job market and seeing what is out there that he is interested in and qualified for; then tailor the résumé in that direction.
Next—and the critical element of a combination résumé—would be the presentation of your husband’s career highlights. In this section, I would suggest 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, so at a glance, the hiring manager can get the idea that he is qualified for the position in question.
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 or so (of course this is dependent on the level of position he is currently seeking). I’d start questioning the value of experiences that occurred in the 1980s; so when he gets back that far, only include the positions if they are absolutely relevant and valuable based on his current career objective. Presenting 27 years of experience is typically not recommended, as it would likely unnecessarily 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, making 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!