Overcoming Age in Your Resume

Nancy Anderson
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Older workers have an uphill battle when it comes to changing jobs. Although employers are not supposed to discriminate against older workers during the hiring process, some hiring managers do have a bias in favor of younger employees. If overcoming age bias is one of your biggest concerns about the hiring process, there are several things you should do when updating your resume.

When you write a resume, there's no rule that you have to list every position you've ever held unless you are applying for work with an organization that requires some kind of security clearance. Overcome age bias early in the hiring process by listing only your most recent jobs on your resume. If you have been in the same industry for 25 years, eliminate information about jobs you held more than 15 years ago.

Another way to overcome age bias is to include information that shows you are comfortable using technology. Many employers assume that older people are not good at using computers or mobile devices, but this is a harmful myth. If your resume has a separate section for skills, list any programming languages or industry-specific software packages you have used. Doing so helps you overcome age bias and shows hiring managers you have what it takes to succeed.

Some employers shy away from hiring experienced workers because it is more expensive to hire and retain them. The salary range for an employee with two or three years of experience is typically much lower than the salaries offered to workers with 25 or more years of experience. To overcome age bias in this regard, use your resume to convince the hiring manager that your experience is an asset. Younger workers might not have experience leading teams or managing employees, so focus heavily on these skills if they are required for a particular position.

Make sure your resume shows growth in your industry, not stagnation. Some people think having the same job for decades is a sign of loyalty, but many employers find it worrisome. Skilled employees are usually promoted or moved into positions with greater responsibility, so if all of the positions on your resume are similar, prospective employers might wonder if your work wasn't good enough to help you advance your career.

Finally, consider using a functional resume if you are concerned about age bias during the hiring process. Traditional resumes include the dates you held each position, but a functional resume leaves dates off in favor of focusing on skills and achievements. If you try to overcome age bias with a functional resume, make sure you highlight your achievements, not just your job duties. It is especially beneficial if you can show prospective employers you played an important role in saving your company money or improving an inefficient process.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act forbids employers from making hiring or firing decisions based on age bias, but this only applies to employers with 20 or more employees. If you are applying for a job with a small business, overcome age bias by writing a strong resume that positions you as a skilled professional in your industry.


Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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  • Lisa C.
    Lisa C.

    I feel that if you love, care, and compassionate about your job or job your applying for as well as being honest you should have no problem regarding your age.

  • Pamela R.
    Pamela R.

    I highly agree with the comment. But will attempt not show age.

  • connie c.
    connie c.

    I am a retired paralegal that was employed by a very prominent law firm for 40 years, starting at 21 years old. I am looking for part time work, but not at the same level of intensity as the positions I held at the law firm. This article contains invaluable advice for the older person seeking employment. I intend to immediately make some revisions to my resume using the suggested guidelines.

  • lea o.
    lea o.

    That is my confidence to have job

  • Harry S.
    Harry S.

    "Some" the author says? If you think that's tough try "Senior" and Disabled......They run or simply state that the job search has been discontinued.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Angela thanks for the research and the statistics. We are pulling for you to find that gem of a job! @Gregory truly understand. Sad but true - this is the way of our world now. The millennials are in the higher positions now and we are at their mercy. You are absolutely right that the interviewer is NOT allowed to ask questions concerning your age, your lifestyle, etc. What does being single or not have to do with the job? The next question is why are the hiring managers in their mid 20's? Because the company got them right out of college and were able to offer them a lower salary because they didn't have the experience. Companies just don't want to pay for our skills, experience and accomplishments. Now this is not true of ALL companies but we hear it over and over again how companies want to pay minimum wage even to those of us with years of experience. If you can afford to wait - them wait for the perfect position. If not, you just might have to work for a company where your "boss" is much younger. Either way, we wish you all the best.

  • Gregory Kelso
    Gregory Kelso

    I want to work, but not for socially inept idiots. I have worked hard all my life, and I am proud of the accomplishments I have gotten. I want some respect, a smile, and not "kids" as bosses.

  • Gregory Kelso
    Gregory Kelso

    Totally inappropriate. I complained to the head of HR, and got them fired!

  • Gregory Kelso
    Gregory Kelso

    I have encountered the age discrimination thing only once, but it was extremely apparent as the interviewers were 26 and 25 years old, and one has a degree from MIT. This guy, 3 different times during a 2 hour interview, asked me why I ws single and had no kids!

  • Angela A.
    Angela A.

    Angela A.

    Angela A. • Delete • Today

    After being a "finalist" for many interviews, I have discovered the following: 1. My salary history (required) intimidates the market (they prefer to pay less); 2. Even if I'm not including experience irrelevant to the position, I'm still overqualified (Ph.D. & 3 more degrees impossible to hide, they check it ); 3. 99% of the academic positions I've applied, they hire either their own graduates (over protectionism) or Ivy league faculty; 4. after checking the co. or orgs I've applied 6 months or a year later, 70% of these positions are advertised AGAIN (obviously not getting the right person!) 5. 70% of positions I qualify are PT or do not offer benefits (health insurance, retirement, etc. Very popular in academia now!). I hope my personal experience and research help others to find jobs.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Louise thanks for your comment. Wow - 35 interviews. Have you gone back and asked the big "why" question? Getting feedback? That's a lot of interviews with no visible results. Are you applying for positions that require more skills than you possess? Maybe you are applying for positions for which you are over qualified? Companies will not hire if they think that you are way over qualified and will ditch them as soon as something better comes along. Sometimes it's good to take a step back and do a restart. Obviously your resume is working because you are getting in the door. So now it's either something occurring during the interview that is turning them away or that, after interviewing you, they feel that you will not stay with them for the long term. How do you feel when you walk out of the interview? It could be age Louise but it doesn't sound like it because they have a good idea how old you are based upon your resume. It has to be something else that you are just not putting your finger on. I would make sure to follow up after the interview and find out why you were not chosen. Not the pat answer that they had another applicant that was more qualified but the real reason. We wish you the best of luck and hope that interview 36 is the one!

  • Louise M.
    Louise M.

    I liked this information. The functional résumé is clearly the way to go. Thanks for the insight. Wish me luck, it has been almost two years and 35 or so interviews which I was certainly qualified for but really believe it is the age showing......meh...53....gotta pay the mortgage and send the kids to school.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @MaryAnn don't listen to them. If you are healthy and able and want to continue working then you should. Look at some of our politicians who are running for President and look at their ages. So I say you do what feels right for you.

  • MaryAnn Rose
    MaryAnn Rose

    It's not only employers who discriminate against older workers. Many of my friends consider wanting to work after you reach 70 as inappropriate. Personal goals to return to work is out of the question.

  • Steven T.
    Steven T.

    It is very hard for an older worker to find a job these days. I'm fifty five and I have been out of work for four months. To some who are in the same situation , this may not seem like a long time, to me it seems lie a lifetime. Even though employers can't discriminate due to age, they often do

  • Nancy A.
    Nancy A.

    @Jerrold, typically if the experience was at the beginning of your career and is greater than 10 years old, employers aren't all that interested. The work world has changed so much in just the last few years that experience gained more than 15 years ago would be outdated. Unless you have kept up with that particular trade, it's probably not going to do you much good. You certainly could mention it and I would suggest that you mention it in the cover letter. Typically employers only want the last ten years of your employment and aren't interested in anything older than that. Hope this helps.

  • Jerrold M.
    Jerrold M.

    What if you are seeking employment in an industry that you have experience in but that experience was gained at the beginning of your career? Should you disregard that experience in your resume and only list the employment for the past 15 years? Is there some way of only showing the past 15 years of employment but also showing that you have relevant experiences and education applicable to the new opportunity?

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Geraldine, many government positions require the applicant to have a security clearance. This means that the applicant's background is subject to scrutiny by the government. They will contact family and friends as well as former coworkers to make sure that you are not a security risk for the perspective company.

  • geraldine f.
    geraldine f.

    what does security clearance mean??

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Tracy - the company actually said that they chose someone "thinner"? If so, then you might have a lawsuit. A company should NEVER say something like that. They can tell you that someone more qualified got the position but never should say anything about weight or age!

  • Tracy Strahl
    Tracy Strahl

    I also tend to think there is a weight bias as well. Not all of us are thinner than a toothpick, and eat just as much. I was passed over for a thinner person for a job that I was well qualified for, I was even told they were interested and ready to hire me, but decided on someone who was a lot younger and thinner. I have not worked in almost a month, and I have a teenager to provide for.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @John that was a great tip - thank you. Wish you the best on your search.

  • John R.
    John R.

    I absolutely agree with playing to your strengths. I was talking to a employment counselor who suggested using the term "Mastery Level Skills". I felt empowered when I think of myself this way and was able to define 5 diverse skills areas that illustrate depth of experience, the "acquired" skills. Hopefully this will help to differentiate my abilities.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Patsy, if you can prove that the reason you were let go was age, then you could have a lawsuit against the company. You could notify the EEOC and file a complaint against the company. They would have to respond. Maybe it won't get your job back but hopefully it will wake the company up to the fact that age discrimination is against the law. Best of luck in your new position.

  • Patsy Feuerbacher
    Patsy Feuerbacher

    I was hired and then let go at 90 days and I am certain it was age discrimination as one of my coworkers said several times she could not understand why company hired someone my age. Another kept asking me if I received SS I know I did a competent if not exemplary work it was my age

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