Many older adults from all walks of life are returning to the workforce after a layoff or retirement, some are joining it for the first time and others are just looking for a better job after years in one place. Regardless of their motivation to look for work, these folks have a tough job ahead of them. It may have been years, even decades, since any of them thought about writing a résumé, and some of them may never have had one. Is your résumé designed for today's extremely competitive job market? Many of the old rules no longer apply.
Old Rule #1: Your résumé should fit on one page.
Reality: There is no need to trim your résumé to one page. Since most résumés are now submitted electronically, many employers never see a printed copy, and instead see yours as a continuous page, much like a website. Besides, you have more experience than a recent graduate and your résumé should be long enough to convey that. That said, you still have to respect the reader's time. Keep your résumé interesting, readable and under two pages long.
Old Rule #2: Once your résumé is done, make several copies and have them at the ready.
Reality: You need to target your résumé to each position for which you apply. This doesn't mean you need to totally rewrite your résumé for each job application, but rather that you have a "base résumé" that you can work from. Then, for each job, remove experience and skills that aren't relevant and play up the skills that are relevant, add keywords to job titles and descriptions, reorganize it to speak to the employer's needs and revise your objective to tell them you are the person for the job.
Old Rule #3: Your résumé must include your entire work history.
Reality: The person who is the most talented, has the most relevant skill set and has proven his or her value to former employers gets the job. Don't list jobs that are not relevant to the one you're applying for. Instead, expand on the jobs that are relevant.
Old Rule #4: Your résumé should list your job duties for previous positions.
Reality: Focus on measurable achievements in each job, as opposed to a play-by-play of your daily responsibilities. Stress the results you've achieved, describe how they made a difference to your previous employers, and quantify them whenever you can.
One rule hasn't changed: Above all, carefully proofread your résumé for spelling or grammar errors and have at least one other person proofread it. Also, pay particular attention to things like your name, address and contact information, as our brains tend to skip over this information. It is so easy to miss something important, and it is much better to catch a mistake before a prospective employer does.
You also still need to avoid including information in your résumé that an employer could use against you, such as:
- Dates of education;
- Dates of jobs more than 20 years old;
- Personal information, such as age, height, race, religion or health status; and
- Reasons for leaving past positions or statements that could be interpreted as negative.
Finally, never submit a résumé by itself. Always include a cover letter that explains why you are applying for the position, highlights how you meet the employer's desired qualifications and asks for an interview. You also should have at the ready, but not send to the employer until asked, a list of references and salary history or requirements.
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