September 27, 2011 at 3:09 PM

Job Application: Obscuring Your Age or Obliterating Your Chances?

"All too often, excellent job candidates are not being selected for interviews because their old-fashioned, one-size-fits-all resumes are missing crucial information"

By Patty Armstrong

Where’s My Great Career?

Patty Armstrong is a career counselor and educator on a mission to help people of all ages find careers they enjoy.

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It’s not uncommon for my job-seeking clients who are over age 50 to tell me they’ve been advised by others not to put dates on their resume that would help identify their age. A bit of deflection is fine, like leaving off your much older BA when you also have a more recent MA. But you can’t just leave off dates.

All too often, excellent job candidates are not being selected for interviews because their old-fashioned, one-size-fits-all resumes are missing crucial information. If a job application computer program or human resources staff can’t find the year of your listed jobs or degrees, or the months when you started and ended your job, they’ll likely consider it an incomplete application and ineligible for consideration. If you can’t remember or find out what month it was, guess the best you can. Otherwise, you’re not going to be considered.

In the new world of hiring that relies on computers and human resources staff, the written job description is key, and you’ve either got what they’re looking for or you don’t. If the computer or HR person can’t recognize or find your skills and experience, then you go to the “Does not meet qualifications and is ineligible for consideration” file.

You must look at the job description – or a similar description, if you can’t access one online or from an HR office – and tailor your resume, cover letter and job application to ensure you’ve clearly shown you have the skills and experience they are seeking. If the minimum qualifications section says five years of experience, the computer and/or human resources staff reviewing your application package needs to be able to add up 60 months of direct experience.

You will also need to demonstrate that your skills are up-to-date. Listing continuing education courses and certificates in your education section or a statement such as “Proficient in 2010 Microsoft Office Suite, QuickBooks and other proprietary database software” should suffice.

Mature job seekers often have a hard time accepting the harsh reality of the new job search process and impatiently ignore instructions, leaving younger, less qualified candidates who play by the rules as the only candidates passed through to the hiring manager or search committee. It can feel like age discrimination when that inexperienced 20-something gets the job you could do with your eyes closed and both hands tied behind your back, and you weren’t even interviewed. But your lack of clarity and completion are more likely the reason you weren’t considered.

Human Resources staff want to be able to hand off great candidates to the management. They have to pare down applications to only a select few candidates for consideration. So make sure you’ve done everything you can to present your best self. After you’ve hit “Submit” on the online application, call them. Don’t wait till the position is closed and it’s too late for corrections. Say, “I just submitted my application online. But I’m not sure whether my resume uploaded correctly. Can you check that?” The link might not have happened when you assumed it did. When the HR person comes back on the line and says “Yes, it’s all there”, you can follow up with the question, “Can you tell me if I demonstrated
clearly that I meet the minimum qualifications?” They should be willing to tell you. That’s where most people get stopped and not passed on to the hiring committee, not when they look at the year you graduated or how long ago you started in the industry.

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