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Should my resume disguise my age?

imageI'm often asked by more senior professionals if they should somehow hide their age on their resume. Sometimes, they believe that age discrimination has been affecting their job search and it might open more doors if their resume appeared to make them younger. So they only include the last 10 or 15 years of their work history.

There are many opinions on both sides of this question, and I can understand those that disagree with me. However, I believe it is a bad idea not to acknowledge your entire career on resumes you present to prospective employers.

Here's why, and some best practices…


Starting your interview in the hole. As soon as you show up for an interview they are likely to get a sense of your age. If your resume created an impression that you are someone in their 30's, however, when you show up you're clearly someone in their 50's, they will feel like they've somehow been deceived. Whether age discrimination is an issue for them or not, you will be starting your interview 'in the hole' having to overcome the perception that you were trying to put something over on them. Compared to other candidates that they perceive to be more forthright, it may be an obstacle you can't get past. Perhaps you're someone that looks younger than you are… at some point they will discover your age and still feel you've been less than honest. It's not your age that cools them toward you, rather your deception.

Your resume won't change the problem. If the company truly does discriminate based on age, then hiding your age on the resume only delays the inevitable. If they don't want to hire someone over 50, gaining an interview is not likely to change their bias. It only took things one step further and will lead to greater frustration for both of you. The fact that they are wrong in their bias, and potentially acting illegally is no consolation when you are turned down for the opportunity. Unless you're fishing for a chance to sue someone, why put yourself through the experience? Why would you want to interview at a company that would reject you based on your perceived age on your resume? The idea that "They'll change their mind once they meet me" doesn't address the underlying problem. Even if you get the job, you now work for a company that decides not to interview someone because on their age. It's not likely the company's culture will make you feel at home!

So, what's reasonable? While I believe it is important to acknowledge your complete career on your resume, I don't think it's necessary to emphasize your age either.

Your experience and responsibilities prior the past 10 or 15 years are not generally relevant as you pursue current opportunities. It's not necessary to give much detail to positions prior to that point. Simply listing the Company, Title, and Dates of employment are sufficient. If the role was directly related to the position you are applying to, one brief line of description may be appropriate. Otherwise, the bulk of your responsibilities, skills, strengths and achievements should be listed under your most recent roles. Those are the ones that will matter most to a prospective employer.

Furthermore, if you had a number of positions earlier in your career, particularly if they were unrelated to the role you are pursuing, I believe it's appropriate to group them together. Perhaps even something like:

Companies and positions unrelated to recent career            1978 - 1989

I also don't believe it's necessary to provide your graduation dates, whether it's High School, Trade School, or College. And, if in your Summary section you have a sentence that begins with something like: " Over 30 years of experience…", I believe it's appropriate to say "Over 15 years of experience…". It's still true, and doesn't emphasize your age. If you are acknowledging your entire career in the rest of the document, they can do their own math if they choose to.

These best practices emphasize the most relevant, and minimize your least relevant information while still acknowledging your entire career history and presenting it in an honest way.

While age discrimination in hiring is not dead in today's world, I am convinced it's not nearly as prevalent as many people think. Presenting yourself in as an honest and professional way you can is the best policy when pursuing new opportunities, and ultimately will most likely lead to the greatest chance of success as well.


Too old to get hired?

“Dumb Down” Your Resume?

I can’t get a job because…

Appearance Matters!!!


Carl said...

Hey Harry

I recall a few times in recruitment when an experienced person had a long resume that basically covered every job they'd had and the hiring manager specifically requested that they shorten their resume to say 2 pages. In this instance it was the hiring authority who felt the resume was too long and was basically saying that even they weren't as focused on what the person had done say 10-15 years ago and wanted to know more about what the person had done recently.


Roberta Rosen, Career Coach said...

It might be true that,if you appear older than expected when you get to the interview this might be an obstacle to overcome. However, think of the alternative which would be a bigger obstacle... they don't want to see you at all because of how old they know you are from your long resume with dates.

As far as starting the interview in the hole....I know that the best chance of getting a job is to interview as often as possible. The more interviews you get the more chance there is that one company will like your energy,(which shouldn't seem old and tired), appreciate your knowledge, and think that you will fit in.

Once you get the job I don't believe your age will be an issue. It will be more important how you perform and get along with others. I have clients who work at companies where they are older than most. This doesn't get in their way.

Amelia Austin, TX said...

Sorry, Harry, but age definitely matters. If your resume shows that you are older, you will NOT even get an interview. Your resume just gets tossed in the garbage.

I do not think you are starting an interview out badly because your resume didn't show the extra 10, 15, or 20 years you have worked. Management knows they discriminate because of age and they know that you know it, also. At least, you get the interview and have a chance at getting the job. The alternative is that you remain unemployed longer.

I don't suggest that you pretend you're 30-something on your resume and you're actually 60. However, if you are 60, you can keep 10 years off of your resume and have a better shot at an interview. I wouldn't even list anything about prior employment, especially not the dates.

I think that Roberta Rosen's comments are absolutely true. Maybe she should be writing this column?


Amelia Cates

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