The age factor

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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 just turned 55 and am concerned my age is going to impact the success of my job search. I hear horror stories of more mature candidates being screened out based on age and I don't know at what point to start being concerned that my resume won't get my foot in the door regardless of whether I am the most qualified candidate. How do I ensure my experience sells me before my age disqualifies me? – Mark

Dear Mark: I understand your concern and hear the same worry on a daily basis from my clients. There is a way to ensure you maximize your candidacy while minimizing the potential "age" disqualifier. I believe the potential of being disqualified in a screening process is far less based on your age, as it is that a more experienced candidate may be, well, just too experienced. Being overqualified, too expensive, or less flexible than a junior counterpart are all factors a hiring manager may consider. While I understand age can play a role, we should think past the knee-jerk reaction of blaming "age," and instead figure out how to create a more compelling and "qualified" presentation of your candidacy. I thought the best way to illustrate what you can do to serve your candidacy well was to tell you about a Baby Boomer I had the privilege of working with and the challenges we were able to overcome.

Rebecca came to me seeking help in positioning her for what she hoped would be her last career move. With 33 years of experience in the field of human resources, she wanted to show potential employers that she was an expert of her craft while not aging her candidacy. Rebecca had a jam-packed two-page resume that was not aesthetically pleasing, was difficult to read, was missing a more balanced presentation of duties and accomplishments, and was aging her candidacy given the resume explored roles back to 1978.

The challenge a lot of the Baby Boomers I work with face, is the need to present the "right" amount of experience on paper. While one would assume you should present all of your experience in order to differentiate from your lesser-experienced competition, in doing so you highlight your age and assumptions, among others, of higher-than-average salary expectations. This presents quite a conundrum for candidates who want to showcase how experienced they are, but in doing so over-qualify themselves for the job.

In Rebecca's case, given she was seeking more senior-level roles, it would have been acceptable to explore 20 or so years of experience, however her first employer was one she stayed with for 18 years so including it in a traditional manner would have immediately aged her candidacy. To ensure we didn't do that, I explored her positions back through 1996, which provided hiring managers with a solid 15-year career track record, while doing something called bylining her early experience.

Bylining early experience is a key way for more seasoned candidates to present their experience while avoiding the potential of unnecessarily aging their candidacy. To do this you add a subheading—Foundational Experience or a similarly named subheading—at the end of your Professional Experience section that breaks formatting. In this section you remove all notes of dates, allowing you to include early experience without the context of how long you were employed.

In Rebecca's case, this was key in presenting her depth of knowledge and experience in the field while not presenting experience back into the 1970s and 1980s. In following this strategy, delivering compelling content that would speak to her target market's needs, adding a third page to her resume to provide critical white space—three page resumes are common and often necessary in presenting a more senior level candidate's career—and creating a compelling visual aesthetic, Rebecca's new resume was far more effective and attractive.

Read of Rebecca's success and view Rebecca's before and after resume on

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).