Resume Mistakes

When You're Over 40


ONE: We Can't Tell What You Do Professionally

Start with a Summary at the top, just under your contact section (don’t list your home address but city and state is important). We need to clearly know what you do professionally and where you're headed in your career.

Don't show hiring managers a list of past jobs and expect them to determine what you intend to do next -- make it plain with a declaration in your resume Summary, like "I'm a Product Engineering Manager who loves to make products and process better."


TWO: Don't be a "Jack of all Trades"

Tempting as it is to throw every scrap of experience you've ever had in your resume and be the "jack of all trades" to show hiring managers how versatile you are, don't do it. The worst brand in the world is the brand "I can do anything!" No one will believe you. Even if you CAN do everything, you need to choose something that you especially love to do - otherwise you come across as someone who doesn't know him or herself well enough or doesn’t have the confidence to plot your own course.

You can maintain three or four different resume versions to use as you pursue two or three different 'prongs' in your job search -- Engineering Management, Design Engineering and Process Improvement, for instance. Just don't use one resume to cover every base. It doesn't work.


THREE: We Can't Understand You

Typos, misspellings and English language errors are the quickest ways to get your resume thrown into the shredder. You can't afford to have errors in your resume, no matter how good you are at your work.


FOUR: TMI - Too Much Information

The ideal resume is two or three pages long, even for people with thirty years of work experience. The more senior you are, the less detail and more successes you need to include. Keep it very simple -- just tell us what you worked to achieve at each job (your mission) and how well you did it (your successes).

Four bullets per last two recent jobs in your career history are plenty and two bullets for everything else, and it should have story narratives like this one:

When our two biggest competitors merged, I did an analysis of their product features and then retooled ours to be better. My team re-launched our newly enhanced product which increased sales 25% to $21M the next quarter.

No one cares about your tasks and duties. That's just telling us what anybody in the job would have done. We want to know what YOU accomplished – and what you bring to the table.


FIVE: You left out ½ your experience

You don’t need to tell them your age by listing your year of graduation but you don’t want to mislead them by leaving out half your experience. When you do and they eventually realize it, you’ve created some trust barriers that may bite back when you come in second.

At the very least, instead of the old “references furnished upon request,” try replacing that last statement with “Prior experiences enhanced my success”.

Larry Rubin is currently the Managing Partner of both Talent Partners and IT Services – Engaged Search Consultants and Executive Search.