Are you heading back into the job search market? Similar to dating at our age, if it’s been a while since you were out there you may be surprised at how much things have changed.
One of the bigger challenges you’ll likely discover, beyond how young the competition is now, is that you’ll likely bump up against ageism, an unfair and illegal practice that discriminates against people based on their age instead of considering their abilities.
This is a battle hard to win by ourselves. So the next best way to deal with the problem is to be prepared. Starting with your resume, make sure you keep the attention focused on your skills and take age out of the equation.
1. Recent and relevant experience only. Employers are interested in your up-to-date skills and capabilities. Although you may have worked for decades, include only those jobs from the last 10-15 years that tie in to the position you’re applying for. Studies show those with the most relevant work experience will often get the interview.
2. Eliminate dates. A general rule of thumb is to exclude dating yourself or your experiences on anything that happened over 15 years ago. You’ll still want to include your education, any certifications for special skills, and recent work experience, but you don’t need to state when they occurred.
3. Keep it brief. Most recruiters spend less than 10 seconds glancing at your resume before they decide whether to move on. Keep your resume to no more than two pages and make every word count. Grab their attention with your experience and skill strength.
4. Include keywords. You may only get the 10 seconds if you pass the applicant tracking system (ATS), a software program that collects and ranks 75% of online applications. To better your chances, make sure your resume includes strategic keywords and phrases that were used in the job listing.
5. Fight back against the technology bias. It’s unfair and inaccurate but something the 50+ job seeker often faces. That being said, if you’re using an AOL or Hotmail email address, create a professional Gmail address with your name, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you haven’t kept up with the latest tech skills used in your industry or need to brush up, check out the many available classes online.
6. Create a LinkedIn account. Set up a professional profile, if you don’t already have one that lists your skills and experience. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn is social media for businesses. One study found that 93% of recruiters will search there if they’re considering you for the job. It’s free and a great resource when looking for work and networking. Include your LinkedIn profile URL on your resume.
7. Don’t include an objective statement. That is old school. Your resume should be about what you can do for the prospective employer so replace it with a summary of the value you would bring. Include specialized skills and quantitative evidence of how you helped another business with similar or related challenges.
8. Customize before you send. You should personalize every application and cover letter you submit, even if only a few tweaks are needed. See if there’s an experience you could highlight differently that speaks directly to their business or requirements. Never create the impression that they were only part of a mass mailing you sent out.
9. Make your resume visually appealing. You want to create a document that’s easy to scan. Eliminate long paragraphs of text and break your information into short sentences, sections and bullet points. And don’t keep the best part about yourself for the end. Work that in upfront in case they don’t read the entire resume.
10. Address your over-qualifications. As counterintuitively as it might seem, someone with a lifetime of experience is not always seen as an asset. Managers may assume you won’t be a team player, won’t take direction well or will leave for a higher salary as soon as you can find it. Tailor your resume to meet their qualifications and possibly a little above – but stop there.
Searching for a job is never easy, regardless of your years. But everyone over the age of 50 really needs to go into this with their eyes wide open. Ageism is a profoundly sad reality that continues to exist today and the truth is that when you’re job searching you’ll most likely experience it. Companies are too smart to get legally caught for age discrimination or can even be unaware of their attitudes. You may not be able to overcome someone’s bias but you can prepare in a way that challenges their assumptions.
A great advantage to being older is that we’re smart enough to know how to push back in a way that’s effective. Make sure you have the abilities needed for your work and then consider the options. Would it be more favorable to apply to a small or larger company? Are there businesses known for their fair hiring and employment practices? Or consider focusing on organizations that target older customers. The more you can shift the odds in your favor, the better.
The old saying that you may have to kiss a lot of frogs may apply here, so don’t get discouraged. Become an unstoppable force. Align your skills and experience on your resume with the job until it becomes very clear that it would be their loss not to bring you in for an interview.
You’re not looking for a Prince Charming but a fair chance. Don’t give up and remember you have value. Somewhere, there’s a company smart enough to see that.
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