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Was It My Age or Was I a Bad Candidate?

June 26, 2019

Geoffrey decided he wanted to look for a new job.  Geoffrey had always been a model employee and he was proud of his work experience. He’d had only two employers since he began working in the late-70s.  He was still employed by the second employer even surviving several layoffs over the years, but the work environment had changed and was no longer satisfying.  He decided it was finally time to move on.  He thought he had the experience and skills that any employer would be glad to have so he included his full career on his resume. Yet, after applying to several positions, his background had not generated any interest. He thought his age was holding him back.

I met Geoffrey at an expo event for 50+ older adults.  The event included free resume reviews, mock interviews, and a job fair.  I volunteered to review and provide feedback on resumes as well as other job search tips.

I have been through this before, giving my opinion and knowing it would not be received well—people sometimes feel personally criticized about the path they’ve taken. The feedback is not meant to do that. Having been in talent acquisition for many years, I have read my fair share of resumes—so I look to use that insight to help others.  I first tried to give general tips around resume writing:

  • The purpose of the resume is to get an interview, not a job.
  • It is no longer beneficial to use a job objective; the goal is to provide more of a career summary statement,
  • One to two pages max (not the three pages he gave me)
  • Delete “References Available Upon Request”
  • Put at least your name/phone number on the second page should that page gets separated from the first
  • Avoid potentially discriminatory information like organizations that might show a potential political leaning
  • Definitely remove that AOL email address; consider adding a Gmail address instead
  • List accomplishments rather than responsibilities.

Do your own research on resume writing in 2019, etc.  and the biggest tip you’ll find?  Expect to create multiple versions of a resume so that it demonstrates the employer’s requirements.

I then drilled down on specifics of his resume.  I find resumes to be one of the toughest documents to write.  Once someone has spent the time creating one, they aren’t as open to feedback that results in rewrites. So, Geoffrey did not receive my tips well nor my suggestions for him. I even told him that I’ve accumulated about a seven-page “resume” document that is only used to pull tasks/work accomplishments from so I can create the shorter resume version I need for a specific open position.

Resume

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) provide recruiters criteria they can then select from to weed out candidates; meaning someone’s resume may never even be seen by a recruiter if the ATS screening criteria removes the resume from consideration.  So, I told Geoffrey this is one critical reason anyone should adapt a resume to a single job posting.  So, if one has a chosen career path, and applies for that jobs within that path, tweaking resumes to fit individual job postings should not take too much time.

For good or for bad, this world and specifically the world of work has seen monstrous change that continues as I type.  Traditional job functions like Accounting or Human Resources operate very differently today than they did 20 years ago.  A resume showing experience in those functions 20 years ago is, frankly, no longer impressive because everything has changed.   Yes, there may be a certain savviness or wisdom one may bring to a position because of that experience.  Get to the interview to demonstrate that value!   A hiring manager focused resume based on the company’s needs can get you there! And yes, even with modernizing his resume to fit a prospective employer’s needs, Geoffrey may not be selected for every job he applies for.

And yes, it could be that his age, unfortunately, might be a deterrent to hiring. But if he becomes more customer-centric in the crafting of his resume, his interview prospects will improve.  And of course, looking for a job involves more than merely applying for jobs online—the least successful step.  Job searching can no longer be taken lightly or as a necessary evil to make a career move.  It requires a multi-pronged approach to be successful.  Geoffrey also has a stake in this process to ensure he finds the right organization for him.  Worth the effort, yes?

By Donna Satterthwaite
Chief Operating Officer