For the job seeker over the age of 50, or anyone with 20-25+ years of experience in their career, it’s hard to know what to highlight and what to leave out when writing a resume.
With so much experience, a resume could easily get to three or four pages. But as the Star Tribune article How to write a resume for the older job seeker points out, it’s important to think of the resume a marketing tool, not a career autobiography.
“An effective resume for a highly experienced person is one that tells a story that captures the best of what the person has contributed and achieved during their career, as well as delivers a clear message about what they want to contribute going forward,” says Debra Magnuson, a highly-popular career speaker and author and Vice President of Talent for CPI Twin Cities, an organization that provides a variety of executive, leadership and career transition services.
The resume for the experienced worker shouldn’t be a 3-4 page document detailing every single aspect of one’s career. It should simply communicate “what’s next?”
Two pages should suffice. And keep this in mind: “The purpose of a resume is not to get you a job,” says Magnuson. “The purpose is to create confidence in your credentials, as well as interest and curiosity that gets you an interview.”
If you are an experienced worker struggling to write your resume or stuck in the job search consider reaching out to the career professionals at CareerToolBox for resume assistance, personal branding and LinkedIn profile writing or executive coaching services.
If you are still confident enough to go about your job search alone, consider these four resume writing tips for the job seeker 50+, from Magnuson:
1. Be succinct
Keep the resume to two pages unless you have a complex history of many different companies that highlight relevant experience that needs to be included.
Do you have to include every job? Focus on the last 20 years. Even if a job was a year or less, include it. Keep it in chronological order, recruiters want to know what you did and when you did it. But they put the most emphasis on the last 10 years – maybe 15, pending on work history.
For those with an extensive resume, be selective about the kinds of bullet points you choose to include – you don’t need to include everything you’ve done. The best bullet points include facts and numbers. Like this:
Do NOT write “Sold products and met quotas.” Write: “Sold $516,750 in one year while exceeding all four quarterly quotas by an average of 21%.”
Do NOT write “Produced substantial savings.” Write: “Saved $45,890 in 45 days.”
TIP: Executive recruiters will want you to include every job you’ve ever had, and they are often very sensitive about leaving off experience. If you are participating in an executive search, include everything—they don’t mind a four to five page resume. This is only if you are in a search working directly with an executive recruiter who has requested such a document. However, have a shorter two page resume available for interviews, sending in online applications and emailing to networking contacts.
When listing your experience that dates past 20 years, simply just list the title, company name, city/state and years. Like this
Project manager, Acme Technology Solutions, Fort Myers, FL (1986-1989)
Bold job titles and key successes in your resume to help those stand out.
TIP: Recruiters don’t read resumes top to bottom like we read a book. Instead, they scan a resume first, looking for key elements that stand out. Bolding key successes, keywords and achievements helps point out key successes to a recruiter.
2. Be clear about what you want
When writing a resume, open with a summary paragraph that lays out a clear message about the role you want and what makes you a great candidate. Don’t call it an objective – this is a dated term. Instead, use “Summary” as the first header for your introducing your resume.
And look ahead, not back.
“Make sure your resume is focused on the role you want, not just on where you’ve been,” says Magnuson. “Say less about the roles/tasks you no longer want to do.”
3. State your value proposition
What skills, experience, and credentials do you bring to the role you want? What are your unique differentiators for the role—what do you do/have that separates you from others with similar skills and background?
That’s where you have to come up with achievements and show proof of accomplishments to really prove your point that you are the person they should bring in for the interview.
4. Share relevant career highlights and accomplishments
“Focus on what you’ve achieved, not the tasks you were responsible for,” says Magnuson. “Include measurable outcomes whenever possible.”
Resume writing is tough. But remember, it’s not about what you did in the past. It’s about what you can do in the future, for the NEXT employer. Highlight a specific skill set that fits the needs of each job. Those are the resumes that get noticed.
Experienced workers may struggle when writing resumes. But focus on your most recent 10-15 years and highlight the last 20. Keep it two pages and focus on successes, achievements and language that matches the job description for the job you are applying for.
That’s how a resume for an experienced worker gets noticed by a recruiter.
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