In an article from the Associated Press, older workers are facing higher unemployment numbers because of the pandemic. I wish that I could say that I’m surprised by this, but I’m not. What I am surprised at, is when I hear that older job seekers rely on outdated job search strategies.
I understand that an older job seeker maybe hasn’t looked for a new opportunity in a while. That’s okay. But recruiters are using new tools to find the best candidates, so you have to update your strategy accordingly. One of the first things you’ll want to revisit is your resume.
I asked my friend Meg McCormick SHRM-SCP if she would share some resume tips with us. Meg provides customized resume services at HR Meg. I’ve known Meg for years and she’s a super smart HR professional. She knows what’s happening inside organizations and what companies expect in a job seeker’s resume.
Meg, one of the advantages in being an older job seeker is you have lots of experience. But many career experts say that long resumes (over 2 pages) can be detrimental to your job search. How can someone decide what to include on their resume?
[McCormick] Two pages should be enough space to present your work experience. Anything beyond that, the hiring manager isn’t going to read. I recommend including more details about your current / most recent experience and accomplishments, and fewer (if any) details for any work you did more than 15 – 20 years ago.
Another approach is to summarize earlier jobs under a catch-all heading, such as ‘prior sales experience, 1987 – 1994’. That gives the hiring manager some context into your career history.
Another area of a resume that job seekers are regularly told to get rid of is the objective. What are your thoughts on including an objective in a resume?
[McCormick] The objective usually goes at the top of the first page – this is prime resume real estate. It’s the first place the hiring manager looks, and what you put in that space is critical to making them want to keep reading your resume.
That valuable space is better used for a ‘Professional Summary’, which is a brief statement that explains your unique value proposition for prospective employers. Some call it your ‘personal brand’. You can explain your career objective in your cover letter.
I can see older job seekers using their job search time to not only look for a job but relocate to where they want to be in “retirement”. What tips do you have for someone who is trying to get a job in a new city or state?
[McCormick] The internet is your friend – you can search job postings anywhere in the world!
- Research the job market in your destination of choice and discover location-specific job boards.
- See if there are regional placement agencies or recruiters that specialize in your field with contacts in your new locale.
- Use LinkedIn to see if you are connected with anyone who has contacts in companies located where you want to move and ask if they would make an introduction.
- Check out regional newspapers and local news channels online to get a feel for what’s happening in terms of business, the economy, and lifestyle in your potential destination.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a job that is well-suited for telework, you might be able to arrange with your current employer to continue remote working for them, but move to your new location. Be sure you agree on work hours, especially if you’ll be leaving your employer’s time zone, and other details of your arrangement. This could end up being a win for both you and your company. One caveat: Don’t make a move like this without checking with your employer first; especially if the move would take you out of state (or even out of the country), there may be tax and legal implications that impact both you and your employer.
An older job seeker might also be faced with taking a pay cut. How can they convincingly answer the pay question, so a potential employer understands they’re cool with less money?
[McCormick] I think it’s better to approach this one first in terms of what’s the salary range for the job. If you’re pivoting to a new career field, your most recent salary is irrelevant to the new job. So, you could say that you’re comfortable accepting a salary in the range of $X – $Y, which you feel is reasonable based on your research and the job description as you understand it. Do your research up front so you have an idea of what the job ought to pay, and adjust for locality and other factors to come up with a fair range.
The nature of the salary negotiation process has changed in recent years. In many states and some localities, it is now illegal for employers to ask for an applicant’s salary history or to use it as a screening factor, such as requesting it on a job application. If you are specifically asked what your last salary was, you can respond by explaining that you know it’s not relevant given the nature of the job you’re interviewing for, and instead asking what the pay range for the position is. Some jurisdictions require employers to provide this information.
Remember to consider other components of the total compensation package in addition to salary. For example, additional paid time off might be more valuable to you at this stage in your life than salary. Or you might be in a position to save a big chunk of your pay in the employer’s retirement plan to maximize their matching contribution. There’s more to compensation than just base salary.
Last question. If a job seeker hasn’t had someone review their resume in a long time, I think it would be a good investment to do so. What does a professional resume writer (like yourself) offer that a job seeker would find helpful?
[McCormick] I think it makes sense to have an HR professional review your resume, especially if it’s been a number of years, or if you want to change careers. I have the ideal background and experience to create resumes that get noticed. You’ve probably only ever worked on your own resume; I’ve read and written more than I can count. I have a good sense of what hiring managers want, and I can tell a good resume from one that’s trying too hard to impress. I keep up on hiring trends so I can bring current HR knowledge to each client.
It’s also worth considering that with resume services, you get what you pay for. Less expensive services base pricing on volume, and you probably won’t get an individual consultation with a pro. I provide individual attention and communication throughout the process. You’ll come away with a customized resume that’s appropriate for your industry, featuring a professional summary that conveys your unique personal brand to hiring managers. I do all the work – I don’t outsource. I can also offer assistance with customized cover letters targeted to specific job postings and can review and recommend updates to your LinkedIn profile.
A huge thanks to Meg for sharing her knowledge and expertise with us. If you want to learn more about her services, visit her website at https://hrmeg.com and be sure to subscribe to her blog.
Older job seekers can offer organizations a lot of skills and expertise, but you have to get the interview. Resumes are the first step. Make sure yours will stand out in the crowd.