What do employers notice when they view your resume?

Does your professional resume proclaim "experienced" or does it squeak "old?" Does it represent the capable you that you want recruiters to see? Your resume may be saying things about you behind your back … things that may cause employers to perceive you as obsolete. You may be keeping up with the latest technologies, but if you are committing one or more of these resume faux pas, recruiters may incorrectly assume that your skill set is archaic, that your thinking is rigid, or that you may not fit the modern workplace.

As we progress through our careers, we tend to hang on to the status quo. However, when we're facing a world of fierce competition in the job market, it’s essential to modernize our resume to combat age discrimination. Unless you are OK with being passed over by younger, less experienced candidates, you’ve got to look at your first line of defense: your resume.

It’s empowering to know that what you convey on your resume can be adjusted to reflect a more up-to-date sensibility. A few subtle resume updates can go far in undoing a hiring manager’s preconceived notions of antiquated skills, fixed thinking or inability to change. The 10 areas below are a good place to start with updating your resume:  

1. Your resume’s length

The sheer number of applicants per position makes it unlikely that any recruiter will be able to spend more than six to 10 seconds on any given resume – a time frame which has continuously shrunk over the years. Though you know you should have a one-page resume, it’s often hard to determine what to leave in, and what to take out, particularly when you have years of relevant experience behind you. This is where a professional resume writer can help you fine-tune your document.

2. Your contact information

If you are still putting an AOL email at the top of your resume, you’re dating yourself. While AOL’s familiar “You’ve Got Mail” message inspired a Hollywood movie, AOL harks back to the early days of email and Instant Messenger. If you want to be seen as someone who is more current, now is a good time to start a dedicated Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo email account (something like JohnSmith1972@gmail.com) to be used solely for your job search. Resist the temptation to share your new email address with family and friends, so that all the mail that you receive there is exclusively for employer communication.

3. Your phone number

While we’re on the subject of contact information, make sure that you are only listing ONE phone number at the top of your resume: your cell. Millennials are known for their love of technology at the same time that companies are abandoning landlines, so having a landline immediately marks you as a bit of a relic. Smartphones’ dominance in the marketplace stems from their multi-functionality, which has made the need for listing both landline and mobile numbers an obsolete practice. Besides, do you really want to wait until you get home to find out that an employer called, and realize that you can’t call them back until the next day?

4. Your education section

Once you have been out of college for 10 years or more, you can safely update your resume and move the education section to the bottom, removing the graduation date and the GPA. Because ‘reverse chronological’ order is the standard, placing outdated information at the top of the resume can cause a recruiter to think items listed subsequently are in the more distant past. Remember that the experience you’ve gained since graduation often outshines the degree you’ve earned, and therefore takes precedence.

5. Your font style

For years, we’ve been told that Times New Roman and Arial are the two best fonts to use on a resume. The default font on most Word programs is now Calibri, which is more compact and subsequently is able to fit more text on the page. If you’re still using Times New Roman, it’s time you tried out something a little more contemporary like Calibri, Garamond, Cambria or Verdana.

6. Your prehistoric information

Ok, we get it. You’re a Renaissance Man. Or Woman. Conveying that your experience lies in four different industries over 30 years, however, roles that show you as a Jack of All Trades - Master of None is not optimal. Instead of a three-page resume that describes every role you took on, each activity in which you participated, every conference you’ve attended and all job-related tasks, update your resume and keep it to one page of only the most relevant information – in a bulleted, not paragraph, format. The more experienced you are, the more selective you need to be about what you tell prospective employers. Match your prior responsibilities with the job’s responsibilities as laid out in the job description. When you need further help deciding what’s relevant and what’s not, a professionally-trained counselor can come in really handy.

7. Your resume format

Older candidates’ resumes seem prone to the gratuitous use of graphic elements. You’ve got carte blanche if you’re a Graphic Designer who wants to show off your typographic talents with an artistic use of font placement and formatting. For the rest of us, use bold only to emphasize your name and company names, employ italics for your job titles, and let underlining point the way to website URL links and/or your email address. Overuse of capitalized text can appear as if the writer is shouting, so use it sparingly if at all. Another good reason to ditch the overuse of fancy formatting is that some electronic scanning software can be tripped up, rendering your electronic resume indecipherable.

8. Your interests

Unless you’re looking to identify yourself as a dinosaur, then it’s fine to update your resume and omit the Interests category. Two exceptions to this are: 1) if you’re still in high school, or 2) if there is something inherent in the job’s duties wherein disclosing a certain talent (such as photography) or interest (i.e. international travel) might snag the opportunity for you, then by all means go for it, but make sure that what you are sharing is relevant to the job. TMI is never a good idea.  

9. Your subjective statements

Far too many resumes state that the person has a “proven record” or that he or she is “considered an exemplary performer” in one area or another. Long ago, such statements were considered suitable for a resume, but not any longer. The more objective and factual you can be when describing your role, the better. So instead of “Accomplished retail professional,” a more effective way to describe your awesomeness would be “Awarded Employee of the Month for strong Customer Service three years in a row.”

10. Your use of social media

Are you living like it’s 1999? These days, companies use LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to identify the best hires. Putting your LinkedIn profile URL front and center on your resume, right up there with the rest of your contact information, is one way to ensure that hiring managers have an easy time distinguishing you from all the other “John Smiths” out there. According to one survey, up to 94 percent of all industry recruiters use social media – particularly LinkedIn – to search for candidates, to vet candidates and to post job opportunities.   

Communicating your background without awareness of what else you’re conveying is a sure path to frustration. If your resume verbiage has not budged in years, it may be time to deconstruct that venerable document. With a few of these quick fixes, you’ll be able to unleash the power of your fresh new resume upon the workplace, where it’s bound to catch more notice than before.

Is your resume giving away your age? Check with a  free, objective resume critique today!

Photo credit: SportSuburban/Flickr

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