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Avoiding Age-Related Bias on Your Resume

Age discrimination is, unfortunately, a reality in today’s job market. Not all employers discriminate, but some do—and as an older individual looking to get back in the job market, you may find it more difficult to land an interview than you did ten years ago.

But employers shouldn’t know how old you are on your resume. If you do it right, you can write a resume that doesn’t give away your age. Once the employer calls you in for the interview, you’ll have a chance to convince them you’re the right person for the job, no matter your age—and they may be sold enough on you that your age won’t be a problem. Here are a few tips on writing an age-discrimination-proof resume:

Don’t include experience that’s more than 20 years old

Older Business Man

Age discrimination can make your job hunt much more difficult than it needs to be.



That’s the first and most obvious thing you can do: take out any work experience from the 80’s or older. If you do have work experience from that time that you still believe would be important to employers, there are things you can do to include it without listing those dates: write a note at the end listing older positions without dates, or mention some of the experience (without dates) in the cover letter, for example.

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Don’t focus on your older experience

Avoid writing a resume that makes it look like your best years are behind you. Focus on your more recent positions—write longer descriptions of what you did in your most recent jobs, and try to highlight the most important achievements you had during your time there.

The only time this wouldn’t work would be if you are looking to switch careers, and your more recent positions are in a field you no longer want to work in. If that’s the case, it may be better to de-emphasize those more recent positions a bit and focus on older experience that’s more in the realm of where you want to work.

However, it’s still a good idea not to emphasize experience that’s more than twenty years old. If you do that, you’re telling employers “I haven’t worked in your field in twenty years”—which is almost as bad as saying “I’ve never worked in your field.”

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Don’t include the dates you earned your degree

This information isn’t as important as you think. It’s okay to leave the dates off, especially if you earned your degree in the 70’s or earlier. It’s better to leave off those dates than to include them and leave yourself open to age discrimination in the resume.

Eliminate or de-emphasize older or obsolete technologies

If you’re in a technical field, you know how quickly technology changes. Including an older technology that nobody uses anymore will give employers a tip-off on how long you’ve been in the business. Instead of concentrating on legacy systems, focus on the emerging technologies you do know—and be sure your certifications and expertise are current.

Avoid including personal details that will date you

Many people include personal details that really don’t help them on a resume—such as information on how many adult children or grandchildren they have. It’s best to avoid giving any personal details. Much of the time, employers don’t care as much as you think whether you’re “well-rounded” in an area that doesn’t pertain to the job. They’re looking for the right fit for a position, and details about your personal life are just as likely to hurt as to help.

Be careful how you frame yourself

Many older employees have been in their business a long time—and are looking to frame themselves as people who’ve been in it since the beginning. But bear in mind that many industries are changing fast, and many employers value current expertise more than decades of experience.

That’s not to say that your extensive experience isn’t important—but don’t let it be your only selling point. Be sure you’re current on the latest technologies and have certifications and credentials in those areas if that’s applicable in your field. Be ready to position yourself as someone who offers both experience and expertise in current trends.

Age discrimination can make your job hunt much more difficult than it needs to be. Avoid mentioning any dates past twenty years old in the resume, focus on your more recent positions and achievements, and emphasize your familiarity with newer technologies if that’s applicable to your field. Avoid including dates of degrees and personal information that could give away your age. If you do, you’re more likely to have a resume that doesn’t work against you.