As a career coach and professional resume writer, I work with a lot of “older” job seekers. I use quotes there because age is relative. It always surprises me that the people most concerned with age discrimination are usually women in their mid- to late-forties. I hardly consider this old!
However, when launching a job search, insecurities are often heightened, and age discrimination is, indeed, a real thing. So, when people ask me how you hide your age on your resume, I understand where they’re coming from—even if I find the question a little silly.
Hiding your age on your resume is not necessarily a smart move, for a number of reasons. First, depending on the role you’re seeking, a few more years under the belt professionally might be considered a great thing.
Secondly—and this is a biggie—your age is part of who you are, like it or not. You don’t have to shine a great big spotlight on it, but you can’t change it. Unless you’re Benjamin Button, your general age range will become evident sooner or later.
Still, if you’re concerned about age discrimination in your job search, it doesn’t hurt to de-emphasize your age on your resume. Here are a few strategies to try.
The Do’s and Don’ts to Hide Your Age on Your Resume
Don’t Remove Employment Dates
While it may be tempting to simply remove employment dates as a means of hiding your age on your resume, it’s not a good way to go. This is frowned upon by recruiters and hiring managers because it’s out-of-step with normal resume conventions. The standard resume lists employment history in chronological order. Anything that veers outside of that is automatically viewed as suspicious. The ONLY reason someone would remove employment dates on a resume is to hide something like their age or an employment gap. Recruiters and hiring managers know this.
Do Remove Dates on Your Degree(s)
You can, however, remove dates associated with your education and any degrees you have obtained. This is one area where it’s perfectly fine and no one will give it a second thought. There is no real reason why this is acceptable while removing dates on employment history isn’t. I presume it’s simply because, with education, timing doesn’t matter much. The thing that matters is whether or not you have the degree.
Don’t List EVERYTHING; Focus on Relevant & Recent Experience
This is the most important point to keep in mind when creating a resume that de-emphasizes your age. For most people, it’s also the hardest to implement.
Your resume does not have to be a complete history of your employment experience, especially for an “older” worker. Listing everything could generate a 3 or 4-page resume, and that’s not a good look. Standard convention is to keep your resume to 2 pages maximum, which means you will probably have to do some pruning.
The rule of thumb is to focus on relevant and recent experience. Think of it this way—your resume is a marketing brochure. It should highlight what the prospective employer wants to see most. The work you did 15 years ago is probably not nearly as relevant as the work you’ve done in the last 10. We all know the workplace has dramatically changed in recent years—technology and trends in any field are always evolving. Therefore, the things you achieved in the more distant past are not nearly as applicable in today’s world as your more recent achievements.
In general, you want your resume to emphasize the last 10 years of work experience and the key things you did that are most relevant to the role for which you are applying. Anything older than 10 years and not directly related to the current role can be removed. You can list the title and company in an “Other Experience” section if you wish, but there’s no need to add dates or details. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. But that’s the standard.
Do Emphasize Current Tech Skills
One of the biggest stereotypes surrounding older professionals is that they are not tech savvy. Younger workers are “digital natives,” meaning that they grew up with the Internet and a smart phone in hand. Of course, as a non-digital native myself, I know that doesn’t mean anything. But it’s still a preconceived notion you need to overcome as an older job seeker.
To counter this idea, be sure to emphasize your modern tech skills throughout the resume, and leave off old, outdated technology. Be sure to highlight if you’re an expert or advanced user, especially when it comes to heavily relied upon software, like Microsoft Office. If you’re not feeling confident in your tech skills, consider taking some classes or even getting a professional certification to boost your credibility.
Do Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
Above all, remember this: A resume is about quality, not quantity. This is true for job seekers of any age. Older professionals might have more to work with, but that doesn’t mean you have to add more to the page. Be discerning; strategically choose the things you want to include and exclude.
I’ve found that older professionals are often concerned with looking “over-qualified”. However, if you hone your experience down and focus only on the most recent and relevant items (quality over quantity), you will look very well-suited for the role, but you won’t overwhelm the reader with your decades of work history and abundant experience.
This can be hard because most people are proud of their accomplishments and very attached to them; so, they have a hard time removing things. They believe everything is high-quality…but even so, you still have to make some decisions and choose only the best stuff. This is why it can be useful to work with a professional resume writer. Getting an outside perspective can help you identify what information adds to your candidacy and what detracts.
If you’re concerned about age discrimination in your job search, employ the reasonable strategies listed here to de-emphasize your age on your resume. But, at the same time, don’t get psyched out. Being a little older is not necessarily a deal-breaker. Older professionals get hired every day; there’s no reason you won’t.