How to age-proof your resume to nab that job

Almost half of Australia's Human Resources (HR) professionals (49%) say their recruitment practices 'negatively affect' older workers, according to a 2023 report.

Do you need to tighten up your resume to snare the right job? Today's digital job boards and fast-paced recruiting means hiring managers spend less than 10 seconds screening out resumes and rarely give any feedback about why. Here are 9 tips to help your resume get past the gatekeepers so you can get an interview and keep thriving in the workplace.

By Citro

Most of us know that older workers can struggle to snare a job, particularly after a redundancy or health scare.

It's not just ageism that makes it harder to navigate the job market, but HR professionals surveyed in 2023 said obstacles to recruiting older people included:

  1. a lack of applicants (32%),
  2. a perception that older workers lack the necessary tech skills (22%)
  3. and salary expectations that were too high (20%).  

Sometimes, though, it's just hard to modernise a resume that's chock full of great experience and details. So here's some tips to tighten yours up and have it land you an interview.

1. Reduce your resume to 2 pages

Most recruiters and hiring managers spend less than 10 seconds reviewing a resume before deciding if you’ll go further. With so little time to make the right impression, it’s best to streamline your resume into 2 pages, and use the limited space to highlight your recent work experience and accomplishments that best match your current career goals or job search. 

2. Do your research about your chosen field - and use the right keywords

Yes, you are experienced and know what you’re doing, but read at least 10 job ads for the types of positions you are seeking. 

Pay attention to the language - or the ‘keywords’ - that are common to these roles and make sure to repeat them in your resume. 

We bet you’ll find those words have changed in the last year, and possibly even the last 6 months. 

Artificial intelligence, rapid industry changes and changing consumer demand means every occupation, industry and workplace is more dynamic and changeable than ever.

Online job marketplaces like LinkedIn, Seek and Indeed mean there are higher volumes of job applications - which is why most job applications don’t even get a ‘thanks but no thanks’ response anymore.

3. Stick to your recent experience

The further along you are in your career, the less relevant your earlier work experience is. Employers care most about your recent work in the last 2-3 years rather than the roles you did 15 or more years ago. Spend time scanning newer job ads in your chosen field and describe the wins or skills you demonstrated using the current keywords and qualities that relate to your experience. The more adaptable you appear to be, the more in demand you will be.  

4. Remove dates that go back more than 15 years

Remove the dates related to work experience, education and certifications if they fall outside the 15-year window. While you may want to consolidate older work experience in a separate section or something headed “Other career highlights” including the dates of employment and degree completions is unnecessary. Similarly, it’s important to share your credentials and qualifications but the employer doesn’t need to know you earned your degree more than 17 years ago. Some official forms make this mandatory, so never lie! But try to avoid mentioning it if you can.

5. But don’t try to be a “jack-of-all-trades”  

Although you may have held numerous roles throughout your career, avoid your resume being a laundry list. Tailor your resume content - and the cover letter - to the individual job listing, ideally using words that match the criteria outlined in the job ad. Don’t give generalised summaries when specific detail is likely to be more valuable.    

6. List your mobile phone number and a professional email address

If you’re still listing your landline number on your resume then update your contact information. Only list your mobile number so you can control the voicemail message, who answers important phone calls from recruiters, and what time you respond. If your personal email is still then consider creating a more professional email address (Gmail is mostly free and can be accessed from web browsers on any device). Try to choose a professional username. In some industries - think of designers or even real estate agents - it can help to link off to professional portfolio or review websites that are meaningful in your industry.

7. Join LinkedIn and make sure your other social media profiles are safe for work

LinkedIn is a valuable platform for connecting with others in your industry and uncovering new job opportunities. Many automated hiring application processes often demand you include a LinkedIn profile. Many prospective employers also admit to reviewing candidates’ social network profiles — regardless of whether the candidates provided that information.

If you’ve avoided using LinkedIn in the past, now’s the time to create an online profile that supports your career goals. Then, customise your LinkedIn profile URL and add it to the top of your résumé to ensure recruiters find the correct profile for you.

Another tip can be to reach out via direct message to people in your chosen industry and ask them to give you resume or job-hunting tips - making personal connections in an online world will help you stand out.

8. Showcase your technical proficiencies

The fact that you know how to use Microsoft Office is no longer noteworthy (unless your role requires advanced knowledge of Excel). Show employers that you’ve kept up with the latest tools and platforms related to your field. If you’re in a non-technical profession, create a small section that lists these proficiencies. If you realise there’s a skill or tool outside your wheelhouse that’s routinely appearing in the job descriptions you’re targeting, then seek out free or low-cost online courses.

9. Customise each online application

Small tweaks to your resume make a big difference in determining whether your online application reaches a human being for review. Always make edits to customise your work history and skills so they clearly reflect your personal and professional qualifications for the specific role you are applying for.  

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