We had a great response to our recent articles for mature job seekers, What’s Your Job Seeker Age? and Ageism: Are you inviting it? As a result we did some free critiques for job seekers who contacted us after reading the articles. We noticed a number of consistent errors that we’ve listed below. If you recognise them in your résumé, it’s time for a revamp!
Secondary Education (High School)
Listing education is unnecessary. If you have a degree or qualification, that should be included, but high school information is not required.
Skills you possessed in the dark ages
Listing languages like French and German are immaterial unless you are fluent and the skill is relevant to the role you are applying for. When questioned, most candidates said they in fact couldn’t read or speak much of the languages but they had taken classes at school and thought it would look good on the résumé. It doesn’t help.
Similarly listing every skill you’ve ever possessed is not advisable. One lady had listed skills like stocktaking and merchandising because while she was a student she worked in a retail store. That was 23 years ago. She is now an accountant so the skill is not only dated, it has no bearing on her current profession.
Not listing email address
Many mature jobseekers are quite concerned about listing their email address for security reasons. In my opinion you age yourself unnecessarily by doing this. Everyone communicates this way and you make it difficult for employers to contact you when you don’t provide an email address.
Listing outdated computer packages
WordStar and Lotus 123, for example, were packages popular in the 1980s and haven’t been used for years. I’ve even seen a résumé that listed an IBM Golf Ball typewriter, which hasn’t been used for decades. Including old, obsolete packages in your résumé immediately dates you! A good rule of thumb: if you’re not using it now and haven’t in your most recent positions, then it’s not worth mentioning.
Nothing cries “mature jobseeker” more than a résumé that opens with:
Name: Mary Smith
Address: 123 Black Sheep Ave, Nursery Rhyme NSW 2000
Telephone: (02) 9999 9999
Drivers Licence: Current ‘C’ Class – Manual
Date of Birth: 01/01/19XX
Marital Status: Married
Health: Fit and healthy (non-smoker)
Dependants: 3 children (ages 10, 14 and 16 years)
Interests: Gardening, bushwalking, spending time with family and friends
This style of résumé was used many years ago: we’ve come a long way since then. I understand this style of résumé worked for you in the past, but at the risk of sounding blunt, it won’t anymore. Times have changed and you have to modernise your document.
These personal details have absolutely no place in today’s résumés. Include your name, contact phone number and email address. Residential addresses are optional. Any details about health, marital status, religion, interests or date of birth are not required and will, in fact, hurt your job search efforts as you expose yourself to the possibility of discrimination.
“I am a hard working person who seeks a role where I can apply my skills in a company that rewards hard work and effort.”
Apart from the fact that the above statement is empty and meaningless because it’s not quantified, it is also all about you. Employers are busy people with a problem they want fixed. Instead, open your résumé with a strong profile that tells the employer what you can do for them. Résumés are not about your wants, nor are they an autobiography: they should be written for the audience – the employer. Focus on their needs rather than your own. Your profile at the beginning of your résumé is one of the most important parts of the document and will win or lose you an opportunity. Opening with a career objective is just plain foolish these days.
Old Style Fonts, Boring Format and Paragraphs
For example: I commenced my career as a bank teller with the XYZ Bank in 1978. My duties included serving customers as a teller, cash-handling, dealing with complaints, open new accounts, filing, balancing monies at the end of the day. I completed training courses on how to handle customers and some of the banks processes. After 2 years I was moved into a supervisors role and oversaw a team. An opportunity arose within the lending centre so I moved into a Loans Officer position and helped customers secure personal loans, lines of credit and mortgages. I also worked with commercial clients to cover absences in that area.
Not only does that paragraph not list any achievements, it is difficult to read. Bullet points and white space make a résumé much easier to identify key points and criteria. Using an old style font is also aging. Try using Arial or Helvetica and you will see an immediate improvement in readability.
Technological advances have eradicated the need to bind or present your résumé in fancy folders. Most recruiters and employers prefer email applications. Recruiters scan résumés into Applicant Tracking Systems, so any effort or expense you have gone to having your document bound will be wasted as they rip it off anyway.
Certificates, Licences, Qualifications
Photocopying and attaching these to your résumé is a thing of the past, especially when it includes items like your high school leaving certificate or trade qualification papers which were attained years ago. Unless you have been requested to supply these details, don’t. If you get an interview you can ask if there is any supporting documentation required.
Listing the duties of a job was another common error. Of the many résumés I critiqued fewer than a handful included achievements. When applying for work you can safely assume that your competition will have similar experience and qualifications. The way you stand out from the competition is through achievements – how you did the job, what you did well, what value you added, how the company is better off for having hired you. This is your point of difference, and success sells.
In addition to only listing duties, many had included menial tasks. For example, a senior debt collector listed amongst his responsibilities ‘type letters, fold and put in envelopes, buy stamps and post letters at the post box’. This man handles 45 regular client accounts, has brought new business into the organisation based entirely upon his reputation for settling accounts swiftly, without the need for legal action, and supervises a team of 4 junior collections staff. He ‘de-values’ his capabilities by including such basic tasks. Everyone, irrespective of the position or level of seniority, has done menial duties, but you don’t list them on a résumé. It is assumed that a team player will contribute; unless you’re employed as a mail clerk, there is no justification for including this information.
I was amazed at the number of résumés I critiqued with these errors. By following modern résumé-writing methods and using a crisp, modern format, you’ll do wonders for your job search and will undeniably make a better impression to employers.
Take a look at your résumé again and make sure it is not inadvertently adding years. After all, you’re only as old as you look on paper.
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