Nearly 14 million Americans are unemployed. And for older workers, finding a new job can be especially difficult.
According to a study by Urban Institute, a nonpartisan economic and social policy research organization, for those 62 and older, the likelihood of finding a job within a year is only 18 percent. That's reason enough to take care when updating your resume that you aren't signaling to prospective employers that you're past your professional prime.But why is freshening up your resume so important?
On "The Early Show" Wednesday, Amanda Gengler, writer for MONEY magazine, said employers are seeing so many resumes these days that you have to make your resume stand out in some way or you'll quickly be overlooked.
"Your resume is your first connection to a prospective employer," she said. "It's your best sales tool, so you must make it work for you. We're hearing from a lot of older workers that they feel aren't getting jobs because of their age, so there are ways to appear a bit younger on your resume. We're talking about highlighting your experience and demonstrating that you've kept up with your industry and technology."
So how can you freshen up your resume?
Gengler brought along a fictitious resume for someone named Brad Webber. She pointed out too many phone numbers could make you look old.
She explained, "Brad is around 57 and has had a variety of jobs from billing associate to vice president of business development for a small company. Brad is on the hunt for a new job and you have tips for making him appear younger -- at least on paper. Contact information is one of the most important details of your resume - since this is how an employer can find you, but what you write can demonstrate your age. If you list several phone numbers and include a fax machine, you'll look like a dinosaur. No one uses a fax to communicate anymore. Another 'tell' is labeling an email address with the word "email." Just by looking at it, everyone knows that it's an email address."
The Fix - Instead, our fix suggests contact information that simply includes one phone number and an email address that you will consistently check. Since most business is conducted online, be sure to check that email address often.
Gengler added there are also buzz words you should avoid.
"Perhaps on your last resume, you were encouraged to write an objective statement talking about how you'd like a job," she said. "In this objective, you might have used words like 'innovative, motivated or results-oriented,' but those are just common words that don't give meaningful examples of what you can do. In fact, LinkedIn found these words and others, such as 'dynamic, proven track record, team player, fast-paced, problem solver, and entrepreneur' to be the most overused in online resumes."
The Fix - A better option is to leave out the objective statement entirely, clearly brand yourself, Brad is a "Consumer Products Industry Executive" and then include a summary or career profile focusing on what you can contribute to that company. Brad also included a bulleted list of his expertise. In writing the top of your resume this way, you're more likely to skip the overused words and phrases which will help you get past the resume scanning programs that many companies use.
Also, how you describe your past employers and prior job experience is key, Gengler adds. However, she noted, some folks are dating themselves in these descriptions.
But what are the pitfalls to look out for?
Gengler said, "On Brad's resume under 'experience,' he noted that he worked at Acme Consumer Products. A younger hiring manager may not have the same scope of the industry and may not be familiar with the Acme Consumer Products Company. That manager may not be able to put Brad's experience into context. Also note how the dates of employment appear on the left hand side of the page. It's a small detail, but very revealing.
The Fix - In the revised resume, Brad's "Professional Experience & Achievements," include a little more information about that company. From reading the new resume, prospective employers will know that Acme Consumer Products is a $250 million money dollar company that makes, distributes and sells 515 products in over 50 different market sectors. And remember how I mentioned the dates? Well that is a dead giveaway that you're older because that is old formatting. Also list the years, not the months, right after your title.
But what about time you've spent out of the workforce? How do you describe time spent away from big companies?
Gengler said employers don't like to see gaps in resumes.
"While you might want to downplay a time when you were trying to build your own business, or doing freelance or consulting work, don't undersell self-employment," she said. "Many companies look at this as a very positive experience. You can show that you're a self starter. You can see things from the ground up. If you've tried to build your own business, you've had to work at that ground level. You can do a ladder of projects. You're not just a big thinker."
Moving on down the resume, Gengler also noted Brad's education and skill set.
She said many applicants list the year one graduated or earned a degree, but that obviously, immediately reveals age.
"In Brad's resume we can see that he graduated in 1976," she said. "If a potential HR rep wasn't born the year Brad graduated, he might not want to draw attention to it. You don't want a hiring manager to think Brad isn't familiar with the industry of today. Also, look at Brad's skills. He's basically just showcasing run of the mill skills such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Technology has come a long way since your last resume, and if you list any of those programs as a 'special skill,' you will immediately look outdated."
The Fix - We combined these sections in the revised resume and are now highlighting Brad's "Education & Professional Development." We've left off the year Brad graduated. We're not trying to hide it, but we don't want to draw attention to it either. We also listed specialized programs and new technologies. In doing so, Brad is showing hiring managers that he's stayed on top of the technology advances in his field.
Brad's resume ends with his "interests" such as bridge club and football. Should you list this information?
"Many people like to list their hobbies," Gengler said. "They probably assume that this will engage prospective bosses. Shared hobbies may create common ground, but be careful what you list. Brad's pursuits -- playing bridge and watching football -- are inactive hobbies."
The Fix - Instead, list athletic pursuits like cycling and biking. Those activities show energy and vitality. The other option is to list charity work. Employers like to see prospective staffers giving back.
EXAMPLE OLD/BAD RESUME
61X Beaver Court, Naperville, IL 60089
Phone: 656-555-5555 Cell: 630-555-5555 Fax: 624-555-5555 Email:email@example.com
Innovative, results-oriented problem solver with proven track record of success seeks senior product management and marketing position in a progressive organization with an opportunity to advance.
June 1999-present Vice President, business development
Acme Consumer Products, Naperville, Ill.
Responsible for introducing and supporting multiple new product lines. Introduced online catalogue and ordering system for wholesale customers. Manage staff of 45. Served as director of marketing from June 1999 to May 2002.
June 1996 to May 1999 Marketing consultant
Brad Webber Inc., New York, N.Y. Provided marketing consulting services to small businesses in New York City.
Sept 1980 to May 1996 Director of retail sales
EZ Consumer Products, New York, N.Y.
Responsible for introducing new business segments that added $60K in annual sales. Developed new order pipeline that improved on-time delivery.
May 1978 to Sept 1980 Retail/wholesale sales manager
Proctor & Gamble, Cincinnati, Ohio
Responsible for introducing new product lines to major retail stores. Received numerous sales awards.
June 1976 to May 1978 Billing associate
TMZ Manufacturing, New York, N.Y.
Responsible for assisting CFO with billing.
Masters of Business Administration, University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill. (1980)
Bachelor of Arts in English, cum laude, Columbia University, New York, N.Y. (1976)
Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and integrated accounting and manufacturing and computer systems
Bridge club, football fan
EXAMPLE NEW/ REVISED/GOOD RESUME
Brad R. Webber
630.555.5555 61X Beaver Court, Naperville, IL 60089 firstname.lastname@example.org
Consumer Products Industry Executive
Converged classical sales, marketing and brand management expertise with first-of-their-kind business development initiatives to drive double-digit revenue growth in markets worldwide. Launched new products, captured new markets and outpaced major competitors through strong and decisive business leadership and outstanding success in client relationship management.
Mergers & Acquisitions
Joint Ventures & Alliances
Professional Experience & Achievements
Vice President of Business Development 2002 to Present
Director of Marketing1999 to 2002
ACME CONSUMER PRODUCTS, Naperville, IL
($250M manufacturer/distributor/sales organization with 515 consumer products in 50+ market sectors)
Recruited by CEO to orchestrate a complete turnaround and revitalization of marketing organization as part of company's plan to recapture lost market share and restore profitability. Realigned the entire marketing function, restaffed key positions, redefined performance goals and instilled a culture of customer-centric performance excellence.
Director of Retail Sales1980 to 1996
EZ CONSUMER PRODUCTS, New York, NY
(Leading US consumer products supplier to major retailers - Macy's, Saks, Lord & Taylor, Ann Taylor)
Fast-track promotion through a series of increasingly responsible sales management and leadership positions during a period of spectacular growth and expansion, from 3 manufacturing locations and $22M in annual revenue to 17 manufacturing and distribution centers throughout the US, Canada and Latin America and $345M in annual revenue.
Previous Experience: Honed classical sales, marketing and CRM skills as Sales Manager with Procter & Gamble. Specialized in product launch, customer capture and new market penetration. Honored with 6 "Sales Manager of the Quarter" awards and 3 "Top Producer" awards for specialized product incentive and marketing campaigns.
Education & Professional Development
MBA - Marketing, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business Administration, Chicago, IL
BA - Cum Laude Graduate, Columbia University, New York, NY
Executive Leadership Development Program, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Mergers, Acquisitions & Joint Ventures, Ernst & Young, New York, NY