Several years ago I wrote the post Is Your Executive Resume Still Partying Like It’s 1999?, and then updated it more recently.
Sadly, I’m still seeing executive resumes that look and read like the ones I was writing 15-20 years ago.
If you’re sticking to a resume with the same look and kind of content you’ve been using for decades, you’re probably in trouble.
People assessing you through your resume will probably peg you as older right off the bat, and you could experience age discrimination.
It’s time to modernize your executive resume for today’s job search.
Beyond minimizing your age, a modernized resume presents you as social media savvy and up-to-date with the new world of work in the digital age.
Keep in mind that all the information in your resume needs to revolve around what makes you a good fit for the employers you’re targeting . . . based on your company and industry research. Nothing included should be arbitrary.
If any of the following things show up in your resume – or in some cases, if something is lacking – your age is probably showing.
9 Things on Your Executive Resume That Show Your Age
1. An ancient email account provider
Are you still using a HotMail, or AOL, or Yahoo email account?
I understand. They’re still working for you so you figure, why change.
In an article on Poynter.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, suggested:
“People have always used various signaling and screening techniques. Ignoring people who use older technology doesn’t strike me as a particularly effective way to screen people but if someone is truly overwhelmed with applications, perhaps even noisy and often inaccurate signals like that can reduce the information overload a bit.”
It may not matter to people if you’re using a vintage email provider, but then again, it may. Why take the chance?
Gmail is an obvious option that will help make you appear up to date.
And I hope this goes without saying . . . whatever email provider you use, don’t create an email address that includes your year of birth or numbers that represent when you were born.
2. Street address in your contact information
Putting your actual location on your resume is so old school. Eliminate it.
3. No links to social media or other relevant content online
Using hyperlinks in your executive resume leads readers to more in depth information about you, and helps position you as social media savvy.
Here’s what to link to in your resume:
- Your LinkedIn profile (with your contact info at the top of your resume), as long as your profile is robust and fully fleshed out. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, get busy and build one now.
- Other social media accounts where you’re active (also at the top of your resume). If it’s been months since you’ve posted on these accounts, that doesn’t count as “active”.
- Your employer’s websites (typically in the Experience section of your resume)
- Relevant white papers and articles written by you that are published online (either in the initial resume summary or Experience section)
- Articles about you or honors/awards you’ve won that are published online (either in the initial resume summary or Experience section)
4. Old style formatting
Wide left margin
A standard resume twenty years ago or so included about a 2-inch indent at the left for the Experience section and most of what followed.
Often, to allow for all that white space in the margin, the content was very densely packed and hard to read.
Extending the margins to a normal 1 inch or so all the way around should allow for more white space within the entire content.
Double spaces between sentences
Thanks to Marc Miller of Career Pivot for explaining why this is a mistake:
“Putting two spaces after a period is obsolete. It is how most of us were taught to type on a typewriter. Therefore, most of us who do this (I have taught myself to stop putting two spaces after a period and it was hard) are over 50 years of age. Over the years, I have heard that this has been used as a method of screening out older candidates.”
5. No personal branding or “personality” in the content
Personal branding is no longer optional in today’s executive resume.
Your brand is a combination of all the things that set you apart from people like you. These are the attributes you’re known for . . . the things people rely on you for . . . the things you tap into every day, as you navigate your work day and personal life.
Likewise, a brand-reinforcing, interview-generating resume is all about differentiating your value to the employers you’re targeting over everyone else competing for the same kinds of jobs.
Branding helps you communicate what makes you the best hiring choice.
Branding helps you generate chemistry and convey at least somewhat, your personality and what you’re like to work with. This is important to employers.
6. Objective statement
A designated “Objective” section is so yesterday and, because it sits at the top of your resume, sets you up right off the bat as outdated.
Also, avoid including anything in the Summary section like “seeking a growth position that will utilize my expertise in XYZ”.
Employers don’t care so much what you want. They want to know what you’ll do for them.
I’ve been writing resumes professionally for about 25 years. I never, in all that time, included either of the above in a resume. That’s how old-fashioned these things are.
7. Generic, resume-speak and age-identifying information in the summary section
If your resume starts with a description that is actually just a string of relevant keywords lumped together . . .
Or, if you rely on time-worn, anemic “resume” type phrases like “results-oriented” or “visionary leader” . . .
You’re not differentiating yourself from other candidates like you.
The top half or so of your resume is prime real estate. It should stand on its own to support your candidacy, because many people will spend only about 10 seconds reviewing your resume, and may read no further than the summary.
Capture their attention and compel them to want to read the rest of the document by creating a dazzling summary section that includes some or all of these things:
- Add a quote. Insert a short compelling quote from someone you’ve worked with about you and the value you offer. Or include a quote of your own – something you’re known for saying.
- Add 3-5 bullet points using storytelling to highlight hard-hitting achievements and/or metrics, focused around your top relevant keywords and phrases, with a brief description of how you achieved these things.
- Create visual appeal with a graphic box or two to draw attention to important points. (It’s best NOT to use graphics or visuals in your ATS-friendly resume. They can keep your resume from making it through the ATS.)
Also very important for the summary section – don’t indicate your age with statements like “25+ years’ experience at [type of work or area of expertise]“.
8. Years you earned your earlier degrees
Unless you’ve earned an advanced degree within the past 5 years or so, leave off the dates in the education section.
For years, career professionals have been using this practice to avoid a glaring red flag for your age.
9. Outdated, irrelevant certifications and training
Are you still listing obsolete certifications you earned more than 20 years ago? How do you suppose that will look to people assessing you?
Remember, if it doesn’t support your good-fit candidacy for the employers you’re targeting, get rid of it.
One caveat with my suggestions above
No matter how well you’re able to hide your age in your resume, a quick Google search of your name will likely bring up your actual age. But eliminating dates may help you get past the gatekeepers, at least initially.