The U.S. unemployment rate hit 14.7% in April, the highest since the Great Depression. Over 20 million people lost their jobs last month.
When was the last time you overhauled your resume? As an older, more experienced job hunter, it’s not enough to simply change a few dates and descriptions when you start looking for a new position. The resume style and design that got you in the door years ago can make you look downright prehistoric now.
It was tough enough out there already before the COVID-19 pandemic: Unemployed job hunters age 55 to 64 spend a median of 34.5 weeks looking for work, vs. 22.2 weeks for workers of all ages, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.
And in an AARP survey of workers 45 and older, three-quarters cited age discrimination as a reason they weren’t confident they could find a new job in short order.
To give you a better chance and finding something new, don’t make these eight mistakes on your resume.
Mistake No. 1: The format is tired and dull
An old fashioned, black-and-white resume won’t cut it anymore, says Louise Kursmark, executive resume writer and co-author of Modernize Your Resume.
Christopher Ward, co-founder at Myer Resumes, agrees: “Society is becoming more visual.”
To give your resume a modern look, add a splash of color to the section headings or incorporate a colorful personal logo. Instead of using Times New Roman, pick a contemporary font like Calibri, Cambria, Palatino, or Verdana — all of which are standard typefaces, so they’ll translate just fine between operating systems.
But stick to one font. Also, leave some white space on the page to make your resume easier to read, suggests Kursmark.
Mistake No. 2: You list every job you’ve ever had
Your resume is a way to sell yourself to employers, not your complete biography. “Recounting unrelated experience from the distant past is a surefire way to make your resume seem dated,” says Scott Vedder, a Fortune 100 recruiter and author of Signs of a Great Resume. “There’s no law of resumes that says you must include every job you’ve ever had.”
As a general guideline, only highlight jobs from the past 10 to 15 years. The caveat? “Include a quick nod to a job from long ago when it relates to the opportunity you’re pursuing,” says Vedder.
For example, skip your fast food job in college, but, he adds, “an application for an HR role at a major food and beverage outlet may be well-served by referencing prior experience in the field.”
This culling will also help you keep your resume to no more than two pages, Ward’s recommended max (one page is even better).
Mistake No. 3: You brag of skills that are passé
Employers are looking for professionals who keep their skills fresh. “Stating you’re proficient on software or a program that is no longer commonly used probably isn’t relevant in today’s market,” says Vedder.
The same applies to soft skills, such as “leadership” or “problem solver.” Employers should be able to glean that you possess them from your work experience.
And don’t list obvious skills or software, like Microsoft Word.
Use the skills section of your resume to highlight proficiencies that show you’re current with industry trends. So, for example, if you’re in sales, you’d want to include Salesforce or other up-to-date software on your resume.
Not sure what’s in demand today? Scour job listings for the skills employers are singling out.
Mistake No. 4: Your email address is vintage 1990s
“It’s ridiculous to think something as innocuous as aol.com at the top of the resume will knock you out of the running, without a further consideration, but there is a chance that it might,” says Dawn Bugni, a professional resume writer in Atkinson, N.C. “Is it fair? No. Does it happen? Yes.”
Instead of using your Hotmail or AOL address from the 90s, upgrade to a Gmail account.
Mistake No. 5: You make employers work to reach you
Include a link to your LinkedIn profile and any other social media accounts that you use professionally (read: not your personal Facebook page). That’ll save a prospective employer from having to search for you online.
Pro tip: Create a customized LinkedIn URL to reduce clutter on the page, Ward recommends. (Go to your profile page, then follow directions under “Edit public profile & URL.”)
If you’re in a creative field, such as graphic design, link directly to your online portfolio or work samples.
Mistake No. 6: You highlight a career objective
Still sporting an objective at the top of your resume? Get rid of it, says Bugni.
Rather than leading with what you’re looking for in a job, focus on your prospective employer’s needs by writing a career summary instead. This section should explain, briefly (think roughly 50 words), what skills and experience you bring to the table, and how you’ll add value to the company.
It should also have a headline describing your profession and level of experience.
Mistake No. 7: You call attention to your age
Although the Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits employment discrimination against persons 40 years or older, plenty of 50-plus workers sense that it can be a problem.
Many job seekers make the mistake of revealing their age by including their college graduation date on their resume, says Ward. The best approach is to simply leave it off.
That may not solve the problem, of course. In AARP’s survey, 44% of respondents who had applied for a new job in the past two years reported being asked their age or graduation year.
For tips on how to answer that and other ageist job interview questions, check out this story.
Mistake No. 8: You state the obvious
Including the phrase “references available upon request” on a resume used to be commonplace. Not today. Potential employers expect you’ll be able to provide references. You don’t need to waste space on your resume saying so.