Age and your job search

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Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer with a graduate degree in Marketing and Communication, and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume writing and interview coaching firm. For more information, call 1-888-9-LADYBUG or visit

Dear Sam: I have been pouring through some of your most recent columns and though you have offered what appears to be well-thought-out strategies for reworking a resume with three to five years of experience, I have an altogether different issue. Having had a company recently close around me, I have found myself in unfamiliar territory having 20+ years of experience encompassing multiple industries and job functions. I have produced many versions of my resume in an attempt to better tailor this information to the reader. I have gratefully accepted help from all comers but am still not happy with the result. – Eric

Dear Eric: I am sorry to hear of your company closing and am happy to offer some insight into how you could improve the effectiveness of your resume. I should note that a good percentage of my columns are focused on the more mature candidate, so look through a few more columns and you will see many that focus exclusively on candidates with significant experience.

Based on a quick scan of your resume, I noticed one major concern that could potentially derail your search: You have absolutely no dates on your resume. This is a glaring red flag to hiring managers and typically the omission of dates paints a far worse picture than reality. I do think pulling key accomplishments out and placing them in a highlights section on page one is the way to go, but you must add some dates to your professional experience section.

As you are a VP/C-level leader, a hiring manager would expect to see a significant amount of experience on your resume, so going back into the early ‘90s and possibly even the late ‘80s would be somewhat expected. You do not need to cut your experience short, remove all dates, or do anything else so drastic when you are a senior-level manager seeking to stay at that level; after all, to be at that level one assumes you are coming with significant experience and exposure.

Follow these tips to improve the effectiveness of your resume:

  1. Target, target, target! Be sure you know how you are positioning yourself in your resume. It is imperative to send a consistent message, showcase areas of expertise, and differentiate your candidacy by presenting a very targeted picture of what you have done which positions you for what you now want to do!
  2. Remove focus on the number of years of experience you possess if you are concerned it ages you. Within the first sentence of your resume you are stating that you offer "20+ years of extensive experience…" By doing this you are immediately doing what you are trying not to do! You do not need to present a total of the number of years of experience you possess; let readers add that up if they are interested. Instead, be sure your summary focuses on just the highlights and key contributions associated with your candidacy.
  3. Make your quantifiers easier to read. Your resume appears cluttered with numbers, and while numbers jump off the page„oa good thing„oyou will want to make them as easy to read as possible. Based on the quantity of metrics you have on your resume, it makes your Select Achievements section difficult to scan. Consider changing notations of $50,000,000 to $50M; it makes for a much quicker and more impact scan.
  4. Add dates to all or select areas of your Professional Experience section. As mentioned above, you must add some dates back into your resume. As this section appears on page two, it isn't as potentially disqualifying as if those dates appeared on page one. You can date just the most recent and not the earliest of your experiences if that paints a better picture. Just be sure to add a subheading of "Foundational Experience" before you break format and omit earlier dates.

Take a look at the resume I have included this week (view on While this resume represents a seasoned candidate, dates are only included back to 1998 with foundational experiences bylined with key highlights and dates strategically omitted. Utilize this approach when you want to include strong early experience without the context of exactly when it occurred.

Best of luck for success.

Would you like ‘Dear Sam' to critique your resume? For a critique, send resume to her.

Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Do you have a resume or job search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at For more about Sam's resume writing services, visit or call 614-570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).