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Does Your Résumé Give Away Your Age?

5 surprising ways you might be revealing your age before you wow them with your experience. Here are resume mistakes to avoid.


by Douglas Quenqua

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You've spent hours crafting your résumé. It's beautifully designed and impeccably written. The information is accurate and up to date. You even had your friend, the one with good grammar, proofread it for you.

Still you aren't getting interviews. What's the problem? If you are over 50, it could be that your résumé is dating you. Even though you know not to include the year you graduated college, it's easy to overlook other clues that out you as a super-seasoned candidate.

Not that your age should ever cost you a job. There are laws, after all. But "if I have 500 résumés on my desk, the first time I go through them, all I want to do is eliminate as many as possible," says Wendy Enelow, a careers consultant and author of Best Résumés for $100,000+ Jobs. The resume mistakes of presenting yourself as older (which may unfairly translate as set in your ways, expensive, bad with technology) can get you eliminated.

Some things are obvious. "One guy included work experience going back to the 1940s," says Enelow. Another client wrote "Married to Mary Elizabeth for 47 years" on his résumé. Obviously don't do that. But don't do these things either.

Here are 5 common resume mistakes to avoid:

Mistake 1: Listing Too Much Work History

It sounds counterintuitive, but too much experience, no matter how relevant, can sometimes disqualify you for the job. "Your résumé is not an autobiography," says Enelow. "It's a career marketing document." Imagine a 30-year-old human resources worker seeing a résumé that cites jobs stretching back to the year she was born. Her first thought: "This person could be my dad." Instead, list jobs going back 15 to 20 years, then sum up any other relevant experience with a quick, strong, date-free paragraph.

Mistake 2: Using Old-Fashioned Formatting

If you learned to type on a typewriter, you were probably taught to put two spaces after a period. If you're still doing it, you're committing one of the cardinal sins of typography—and telling employers you graduated before the computer age. Other old-fogey formatting sins include indenting every paragraph and using fonts like Courier 10 that mimic typewriters. You aren’t wedded to Times New Roman, says Enelow. "Try Cambria or Tacoma just to stand out a little.”

Mistake 3: Giving a Fax Number

It's good to show that you're up on technology -- just be sure it’s not obsolete. Unfortunately, some job seekers have been including a fax number with their contact information for so long, they don't even remember it's there.

Mistake 4: Using a Birth Year in Your E-mail Address

Think about it: Is your e-mail handle something like Joan51? Any savvy hiring manager is going to realize you were born in 1951. Get yourself a date-free e-mail address (and while you're at it, choose a popular provider, like gmail. To anyone under 30, classic addresses like aol signal "over 50").

Mistake 5: Including Passé Categories

As with fashion and music, what feels hip on a résumé today looks sad and dated tomorrow. Are you still listing an "objective"? "In the world of professional résumé writers, use of an objective went out about 10 or 15 years ago," says Enelow. Instead, write a short but dynamic career summary. Steer clear, too, of the "personal information" category listing hobbies and interests, advises Enelow.

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