Resumes and Cover Letters

Age Discrimination – Does This Affect You?

Age discrimination in the workforce is an issue that is not often addressed; however, there are ways to get your foot in the door if you’re a seasoned employee. According to a survey of 168 executives with a median age of 50 conducted by Execunet, a referral network, 74% surveyed are concerned they will be discriminated against because of their age, and 58% believe they have experienced age discrimination in the past. Although age discrimination does exist, it is one of the hardest discriminations to prove, according to research by AARP.

If you find yourself struggling to find a job and think that your age might be a factor, here are a few tips to aide you in your job search.

Start with your résumé. When searching for a job, make sure your résumé offers the most recent and relevant information. Experts advise mature job applicants to reference only the last 10 or 15 years of your job experience. Often times, candidates are overlooked because they have too much experience. Try taking some classes that educate you on the latest technology or trends in your industry, and make sure to list them on your résumé. Also, avoid listing dates such as high school or college graduation, as these can reveal your age.

Update your wardrobe. In an AARP survey, nearly half of the respondents surveyed felt that older workers cannot adapt to change. When you go in for an interview, make sure that not only your résumé reflects your knowledge of current work trends, but your attire reflects current styles as well. This doesn’t mean you have to dress in the latest trends or fashion, but ensuring your wardrobe and hairstyle aren’t aging you unnecessarily is always helpful when searching for a job. This boosts your self confidence, and allows the employer to see that you are up-to-date with what is going on around you.

Sell yourself. Don’t let the age factor get you down. If you show you’re confident and skilled, potential employers will be less likely to consider your age a factor when making hiring decisions. You may feel that younger people are hired to replace older workers, but keep in mind that younger workers feel most jobs are held by people with experience. Instead of focusing on this remember to sell your skills and abilities. Let the interviewer know you are open to training and learning new things. Make sure they know why you’re there and why you’re qualified for the position. Research the company before you interview so you can offer insight on how your past experience can benefit their company. Show enthusiasm and eagerness to learn, but don’t sound desperate.

Network with peers in your industry. You might feel as though you’re too old to network, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Find a local organization that specializes in your desired industry. Get involved within your community and make contacts with individuals that can help you get your foot in the door with companies. By getting your name and face out there with people in your industry, you will not only increase your chances of getting a job, but you will develop valuable and up-to-date information on what is going on in the field.

Age doesn’t have to be a negative factor when searching for a job. It can actually work for you if you follow these tips. Mature workers have confidence and knowledge in a time when we need it the most. With so many workers reaching retirement age, there is a gap in the knowledge between seasoned workers and younger workers just entering the workforce. Utilize your expertise and show how you can be an added value to the company.

Five Tips for Getting Past Résumé Gaps

A reader recently asked a great question in response to our post about telling the truth on your résumé . She asked what to do when you have a spotty work history with many employment gaps but for good reason. We think this is a great question.


Employment gaps happen to a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Those who’ve been stay-at-home parents, had the opportunity to travel, attend school, serve as a volunteer, or be a care-giver for a loved one, often choose to return to the workforce after a period of time. Unfortunately, because employment gaps are typically associated with poor performing workers, employers tend to look negatively on all applicants whose résumés reflect a large period of time without work. This can make it tricky to get in the door for an interview and show that you’re a qualified candidate.


But, there are some résumé techniques you can use to highlight your capabilities and not the gaps.


1. Focus on skills. Using a skills-focused résumé can help you emphasize your qualifications over your work history. Try opening your résumé with your objective and then give bullet points with key skills or qualifications you possess and those you’ve attained while on hiatus instead of launching into your employment history.


2. Use a functional format. Instead of relating your work experience in a chronological format like a traditional résumé, use the functional style. This type of résumé groups experience not by chronological order but by relevance to the position at hand.


3. Highlight unpaid experience. If you served as a volunteer for a religious or civic organization during your employment gap, list the position you held along with the title “volunteer” and describe the transferable skills you used in that position to show that you have unpaid experience in the field you’re applying for.


4. Don’t fudge on the dates. It’s critical not to exaggerate or lie about the dates of employment you’ve held. It’s easy for employers to verify employment dates, and fudging the facts will only make matters worse.


5. Send a cover letter. It’s typically not appropriate to write “Stay-at-home-parent, June 2004-August 2007” on your résumé, but you can talk about your situation in a cover letter, if you feel comfortable doing so. Don’t get into the nitty gritty, and whatever you do, don’t complain about your situation. But you can explain your situation, highlighting how it pertains to the position at hand. For example, you could say that for three years you used time management, care-giving and financial skills by maintaining the family budget and caring for your child at home.


Be honest with prospective employers about the reasons you have a work gap, and keep in mind that if you’ve been busy with other pursuits while away from work, you’ve probably gained a variety of transferable skills that may make you a prime candidate. Your break from the work world may just make you the perfect candidate for the right employer. In fact, recruiters are beginning to look for returning workers with past experience to fill the void of Baby Boomers who are beginning to retire. Using these tips to highlight everything about you that makes you the right candidate can help you make sure recruiters look past the gaps and see what you have to offer as an employee instead.

Six Reasons to Tell the Truth on Your Résumé

Your résumé reflects who you are and is an important tool to help you get an interview. How you present your skills and abilities says a lot about you as a person and as a potential employee.

When looking for a job it is important to present yourself in the most accurate light, so it’s imperative that you stick to the truth instead of stretching it – especially when it comes to your résumé.

Obviously lying on your résumé is a bad idea, however many people have no objection to setting their personal and business ethics aside to try and land a job. Providing false and misleading information has become relatively common, with job seekers believing – or perhaps hoping – that employers will not bother checking the details of applicants.

Today’s lies can haunt you the rest of your career, so factual is the way to go. If you elect to exaggerate or misrepresent the facts you are bound to be caught in the act:

Education. Not every job requires a degree – high school, GED or college – but if you state you have a particular degree you better have earned it. With electronic alumni databases it’s too easy for employers to verify whether you graduated or not.

Experience. Work accomplishments and job responsibilities are the most common areas where job seekers stretch the truth. Employers can sniff out résumé padding, and your embellishments will lead to your downfall in an interview when you can’t support what you’ve presented on paper.

Title. It might seem harmless to give yourself a title boost from specialist to manager or from coordinator to director. But, if your responsibilities don’t match up with your title you will have a lot of explaining to do.

Dates. If you had a lapse in employment, it’s better to have a gap on your résumé than to state you worked at an employer when you did not. Common missteps here include listing inaccurate start or stop dates or listing that you worked somewhere for multiple years (from 2005-2006) when you only worked there in December and January.

Compensation. You are better served to list your real income on a job application than to give yourself a pay boost. It is better to leave those spots blank or write n/a (not applicable) then to falsify your compensation history.

Skills. Are you really proficient in Word and Excel or do you only know how to open the file? Ordering office supplies does not equate to managing the department budget. And working in a cubicle with three co-workers does not grant you supervisory or managerial responsibilities. Only list the skills you possess.

All these blunders are easily discovered from a simple reference call to a prior employer. One call and a hiring manager can determine your job title, pay rate, dates of employment, job responsibilities and if you are eligible for rehire.

No matter how bad you want the job, it’s simply not worth it to stretch the truth. Let your talents and experience speak for themselves – without embellishment.

Video Résumés – Fad or Future?

the video resumeMy résumé is boring. Twenty years of accomplishments condensed on two sheets of ivory parchment. I have all the bases covered: relevant experience, transferable job skills, recent accomplishments and education.

Although the information is accurate, it is not a complete picture of who I am, which is why I’m considering creating a video résumé. It would serve as an excellent complement to my traditional résumé, allowing me to highlight certain skills, such as strategic planning, leadership and problem-solving abilities.

Many of the video résumés on YouTube focus too much on entertainment rather than providing answers to commonly-asked interviews questions. Sites like Jobster combine aspects of social networking with job search functions to connect users with people, information and opportunities to further their careers.

Just imagine – you can turn your MySpace or Facebook profile into a living, breathing résumé. You could turn your personal blog into a virtual job interview, complete with links to your portfolio of work. You can provide detail on how you took a concept from inception to completion, how you overcame a difficult situation or what traits you are looking for in a boss. If you live in Denver and are looking for a job in Nashville, you have an opportunity to make a first impression that is more provoking than 20-pound résumé paper.

But, there are some considerations to take into account when creating a video résumé.

Can it be viewed? If an employer does not have broadband or a high-speed Internet connection you could create a frustrating obstacle for the manager. You shouldn’t rely on a video résumé alone. Make sure you provide a traditional résumé as well.

Will it be viewed? Hiring managers might only spend 10, 20 or 30 seconds scanning (reviewing) paper résumés when filling an open position. It is feasible to go through 120 résumés in an hour. But with video résumés lasting one to five minutes, a manager might only get through a dozen in an hour. Fortunately, not many job seekers have adopted résumés, so utilizing a video résumé may be a key differentiator for you.

Is it appropriate for you? Video résumés are not for everyone. But, if you work in a field where you are constantly competing with a large number of applicants, a video résumé might help grab the attention of the potential employer. Or, if you are trying to break into an industry where you have limited experience, a video résumé could be your solution.

How do you feel about video résumés? Have you used them? Have they helped or hurt your job quest?

12 Résumé Tips to Get You Hired

resume to hiredYour résumé is your introduction to a prospective employee. What it says, or doesn’t say, will be a major factor in whether you land an interview – the first step to getting the job.

To craft a résumé that highlights your strengths and sells your skills, check out the tips below.

1. Tailor your résumé to fit the job description. By rephrasing a few key words and phrases, your résumé will showcase why you’re the right candidate for the job.

2. Find out the hiring manager’s name and send your résumé directly to him or her, instead of just sending it to a generic company e-mail or mailing address.

3. Include specifics such as how big a budget you managed or what percent you increased sales.

4. Use descriptive verbs like “streamlined,” “accelerated” and “oversaw.”

5. Don’t list the reasons you left past jobs. This can be discussed in an interview, if necessary.

6. Be consistent. If you list contact information for one of your past employers, do so for all of them. If you capitalize some job titles, capitalize them all.

7. Don’t use the words “I,” “me” or “myself.” Instead, just start each sentence with a verb. For example, “Oversaw the work of 15 CNAs in a long-term care facility.”

8. Keep your formatting simple. Excess bold, italics or underlining is distracting.

9. If you provide an e-mail address, make sure it sounds professional and isn’t something like hotstuff4ever@email.com.

10. Don’t oversell yourself. Only list skills and training you actually possess.

11. Proofread. Typos and grammatical errors make your résumé look sloppy and may land your résumé in the trash. Mistyping your contact information can also prevent an employer from being able to get a hold of you.

12. Include a cover letter with your résumé. Making the extra effort to create a brief cover letter can do a lot to help your résumé stand out.

A well thought out résumé always makes a better impression than one that is thrown together at the last minute. So, if you really want to grab an employer’s attention, take the time to create a solid résumé.

How do you try to make your résumé stand out? What are some of your struggles in creating a résumé?

Additional Resources:

Resume and Cover Letter Articles

What Not to Do When You’re Job Hunting

Countless eager job seekers are going to extremes to stand apart from the crowd. But, their efforts, though well-intentioned, can miss the mark. Last year, one video resume from an aspiring job seeker  became a YouTube sensation when it was posted without his consent after he sent it to several Wall Street recruiters. The resume and the buzz it generated subjected its creator to internet ridicule – and didn’t exactly help his job prospects. But in some cases, a video resume has been just the ticket. Another job seeker, featured by Career Journal, actually landed four job offers from his video resume.

Video resumes aren’t the only new trend being used by job seekers to stand apart from the crowd. Recruiting bloggers often post horror stories of job seekers trying too hard to set themselves apart from the pack – from dressing up in costume to sending lavish gifts to hounding recruiters with frequent calls and e-mails. So how can job seekers figure out if these efforts will help or hurt their job search?

The Brand Dame, a professional recruiter, recently posted a list of things not to do in a job hunt – from the perspective of the person picking through resumes. Though it sounds a little harsh, her insights should be taken seriously by job seekers. Recruiters, she says,  “…are looking for reasons to eliminate you.” It’s your job to sell yourself as the right candidate for the job, not eliminate yourself by making a dumb move. And in a competitive job market, it can be hard to find the right balance between not trying and trying too hard. Here are a few top ways you can ensure your resumes gets put in the “no” pile. (Hint: Avoid these at all costs.)

  • Try too hard. Give your job search serious effort, but don’t become a nuisance to the recruiters and hiring managers you are applying with. A unique way to stand out from the crowd isn’t necessarily a wrong move, but whether it’s a right one or not will depend largely on the type of job and industry you’re trying to get into. An off-the-cuff video resume probably won’t appeal to conservative companies or industries, but it might work for creative fields.

  • Oversell yourself. Some people can make themselves sound pretty impressive on paper. Others just make themselves sound self-absorbed and self-important. Present your skills and your abilities for what they are, and keep it at that.

  • Bribe. Recruiters don’t take kindly to being bribed for an interview. Some have legal obligations with the companies they work for to not accept any gifts or outside compensation for their efforts. Don’t go overboard on gestures you send recruiters. Keep your efforts professional, simple and to-the-point.

  • Lie. Don’t say you graduated from Yale, with honors, if it’s not true. It’s the job of recruiters to verify your resume for facts, and these days, a simple Google search or call to a university can quickly uncover the truth and lies behind applicants’ resumes. A recent story on Career Journal highlighted how one woman’s high-powered career fell apart after it was discovered she fudged the truth on her resume when she lied about her credentials.

  • Hassle/harass. Yes, believe it or not, recruiters have been hassled, even harassed or stalked by overly eager job seekers. While a thoughtful gesture can set you apart from the pack, showing up at a recruiter’s front door with a singing telegram and a $100 flower arrangement probably isn’t going to land you a job. Unless you’re applying to be a birthday party clown.

Do you have any stories of job hunting tips gone awry? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Cover Letter Tips: Keep Your Cool

Be professional

Above all, show your maturity and professionalism by avoiding these common cover letter vices:

  • Negativity
  • Profanity, slang or inappropriate sayings
  • Overselling, aggressiveness and gimmicky language
  • Using a passive voice and downplaying strengths
  • Making demeaning comments about old employers, co-workers or clients
  • Using the same letter for all job positions

You can stand out by staying positive, brief and relevant. Remember that the employer doesn’t owe you the job; you have to earn the right to be considered for it. By making your letter simple, straightforward and well written, you’ll have a good shot at landing an interview.

The cover letter is simply a tool to market you and your job skills. Presenting a cover letter that gives an accurate picture of your abilities will allow the potential employer to discover your strengths and determine if you’re a good fit for their opening.