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Should You Fight Age Bias By Only Showing Your Last 15 Years On Your Resume?

Old people. The problem with them is there's just so much...well...experience...

You know I'm kidding. But it raises a good point - should older workers looking for their next opportunity show all of their work history and graduation dates from college, or hide it to a certain degree?

I've come to the opinion that you have to hide it a bit - lest you get caught in a bias-filled resume screen process that says things like "What's the Clinton administration? I didn't know she was president before she lost to Trump last year..."

More on the topic of marketing yourself as an older worker from Fortune: De niro

"The new administration h as put some wind in the sails of the market and, some would say, the economy too—which is potentially good news for job seekers. But if you’re one of those seekers and you’re of a certain age, career guru Marc Cenedella has some critical advice: “Don’t list any dates on your résumé before the year 2000.”

Just zap it. Erase it. Pretend those years never happened.

To be clear, Cenedella, who is 46, isn’t saying that age bias is okay. He’s saying that it exists. The first person who reads your résumé will be an HR department screener who will be right out of college. “They’ll say, ‘Wait, this guy was working in newspapers in the 1980s? No way will he understand Snapchat.’ ”

Boom, like that, your paperwork goes into the trash. Sure, this is biased and unfair. But these are the gatekeepers, and you need to get past them.

Trimming the early experience from your résumé might feel dishonest, but the document isn’t supposed to be comprehensive. “Your résumé is an advertisement, not a product manual,” Cenedella says. Confining a résumé to a single page is good advice for anyone."

That's good advice.  Of course, the key is to not be accused of being too old when you get the first call on the job in question - the one that comes for a brief phone screen before you'd be selected to come in and interview live.  

When that call happens, you're probably going to be identified as part of the the older portion of Gen X - or dare I say - a Boomer.

Someone younger than you is going to be screening you.  The best way around any objections to your age is the following path:

  1. Connect with the person phone screening you - if you have a chance to research them, know a little bit about their background and ask them about it.  Because you're interested and see the value, not because you're skeptical if they're capable of interviewing you.  Be interested in what they do for the company and how they feel about the company they work for.  Making them feel like their opinions matter to you is a great track to them giving you a break for being "over-qualified".  
  2. Have work product available to share as a follow up to your call.  I've written about the portfolio effect for candidates before, so click here to see those thoughts.  You should follow up with something that displays your work - hopefully in a contemporary fashion.  Do it at the end of the business day you talk to them so they have to reconsider you before they make their final determination about whether you're going to move forward.

Most older workers are rightfully paranoid about resume reviewers and phone screeners being dramatically younger than them.  Take some years off your resume and be ready to loosen up and show your interest in your phone screener.  Put all your misgivings aside when that call comes for best results.

Good luck out there.  Peak economic cycle has never felt so hard for so many.



Danna Blum

But then, what do you do when in the interview you're asked questions like "how long are you going to keep working?", or even "how old are your kids?". Sadly, ageism is alive and well.

Sarah Charton

I've given this advice to colleagues, to their deep dismay. Truth is, the concern isn't only ageism: listing 30 years of experience will likely result in a resume that's over three pages long, which no one will read because no one has that kind of time or attention span.

Tl;dr, keep your resume short, deliver the knockout punch on the first page.

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