Advice from career coaches and hiring managers
If you suddenly find yourself back in the job market after age 50, you might need to dust off your résumé and spruce it up for today’s changing job market. Here are seven strategies older workers can use to get their résumé to the top of the stack, score an interview, and—yes—land a new job:
- Play down your age. Age often brings wisdom, but wisdom can seem awfully expensive to a hiring manager. You don’t have to include all of your achievements on your résumé. “You should consider not putting dates like graduation dates on your résumé,” says Tom Musbach, senior editor of Yahoo! HotJobs. “You don’t want to lie if asked, but on your résumé, you don’t want to broadcast that you graduated in 1960.” According to an October survey by Gray Hair Management, a career coaching and networking firm, 65 percent of senior-level executives age 40 or older say they’ve adjusted their résumé to downplay their age. Older workers need to appear up-to-date with the modern workforce. Be sure to list the work experiences most relevant to the description of the job you’re applying for so that your résumé will turn up in job bank searches.
- Use examples. Don’t just say you have good communications skills: Give concrete examples of how your abilities boosted a former employer’s bottom line. “If you’re applying for a financial position, you can find out what system of accounting the company uses and tell them about your experiences using [that system] at your last three jobs,” says Steven Greenberg, CEO and founder of Jobs4Point0.com, a job-search website for those 40 and older. It helps if you can also describe how much money your skills made or saved the company. You might be expected to show as well as tell. “In a sales or marketing-related position, your follow-up has to be excellent because that’s part of the job and you’re showing me what kind of salesperson you are,” Greenberg says. That goes for other industries too.
- Emphasize your flexibility. A common misconception is that older workers are unfamiliar with new technologies and are resistant to change. “You have to demonstrate your flexibility and adaptability and comfort with technology,” says Mark Anderson, president of ExecuNet, a networking firm for senior-level executives. So play up any computer experience you have: Include a link on your résumé to a website you designed, or describe a program you implemented that improved work flow.
- Offer new info. Most people know that following up is the best way to make sure your résumé gets a reading. But don’t pick up the phone without a plan. Offer a new piece of information about yourself that’s not included in your résumé or cover letter that applies to the job. “You want to call out something to your experience each time you follow up,” says Greenberg. “You’re creating more data points for the employer to have about you and make a decision about you.”
- Be a problem solver. Companies are looking for employees who can improve their bottom line. “Finding out what problems a company may have and then positioning yourself as a solution to that problem is a really important way to set yourself apart from a person who comes to the interview and just answers questions,” Anderson says. “You have to demonstrate what you can do that is better than what others can do.”
- Apply to companies that aren’t hiring. Many positions are never publicly posted. “With so many people seemingly out of work, employers don’t want to be bombarded with a lot of unqualified candidates that they have to weed through to find the jewels,” says Renee Ward, founder and publisher of Seniors4Hire.org. “The recruiter will network and/or search résumé databases to select candidates.” Sometimes it’s better to look for jobs that aren’t posted by sending your résumé to companies that don’t have open positions listed on their websites. Also, let your network of friends and colleagues know you’re looking for a new job. “The way you are going to find your next opportunity is through a network of people who know what you can do,” says Anderson.
- Focus on fields that welcome older workers. After age 50, you probably don’t want a strenuous job that requires standing or repetitive motion all day. There are plenty of industries that welcome older workers, such as healthcare, higher education, and government positions—all industries that are also proving to be relatively recession resistant. Check out the 20 fastest-growing jobs for aging boomers.