Tips for Older Job Seekers
Part 2: Polish Your Resume and Search for Jobs

By Toni Vranjes

November 25, 2010

Older people are facing new challenges in today’s job market. To help with these challenges, Revive My Career is running a three-part series providing tips for job seekers age 40 and older. The first part examines getting started, becoming tech-savvy, and connecting with others. This second installment helps you prepare job-search tools and find job openings. The third part explores the steps to a successful interview, focusing on research, etiquette, body language, and attitude.

Prepare Your Resume

There are different types of resumes, and each one has advantages and disadvantages. You need to decide which format is right for you.

One type is the “chronological resume,” which is organized by work history. These resumes list positions held, along with dates and job duties.

Although chronological resumes are easy-to-read, the format can draw attention to your age and to employment gaps.

Another type is the “functional resume,” which focuses on abilities rather than work history. Functional resumes highlights skills and accomplishments. This type of resume either eliminates or minimizes references to age.

Employers have mixed views of functional resumes. Some like the format, because it highlights strengths. But “pure” functional resumes — which completely omit references to age — may raise a red flag for some employers, because they think the job seeker is hiding something.

Yet another type is the “combination resume,” which includes elements of the other two styles. This format lists skills and achievements first, followed by work history.

Different types of resumes can be useful in different situations, notes Crystal Prendiz, of the California Employment Development Department (EDD). For instance, if you gained skills relevant to the job within the past decade, you may want to use a chronological resume, she says. However, if you gained them before that time, consider using a functional resume, says Prendiz, an EDD employment-program manager in Los Angeles.

To get started on your resume, first create a basic outline. Later, you can tailor your resume to each job listing you pursue.

When tailoring your resume, convey how you can meet the employer’s needs. Decide which of your skills and accomplishments are most pertinent to the job opening, and emphasize those. Figure out which resume format works best for your situation.

In addition, modify your objective, if you include one on your resume.

Also, incorporate “keywords” that fit the job description. Keywords are words or phrases that employers want to see in resumes, and many companies have resume-scanning software that looks for them. A good place to find keywords is in the job listing, so study it to get ideas.

When writing your resume, career experts generally recommend including no more than 10 to 20 years of work history.

Also consider the following resume tips, provided by the California employment department:

  • Create your resume on a computer, not a typewriter.
  • Be honest and accurate.
  • Use action words (such as “led” and “managed”).
  • Use correct grammar.
  • Mention any relevant classes you’re taking.
  • Don’t mention salary history on your resume. (If asked, include that information on your cover letter).
  • Don’t list references.
  • Don’t use obsolete terms.
  • Don’t mention groups or affiliations related to senior lifestyles.
  • Don’t mention personal information such as age or marital status.
  • Include your e-mail address.
  • Proofread the document, and ask someone else to review it also.
  • If you’re going to mail the resume, use quality paper.

Write Your Cover Letter

Always send a cover letter, even if the employer doesn’t request one, advises Yesenia Evangelista, an EDD employment-program representative in Los Angeles. Make the letter upbeat, and highlight what you can do for the employer — but don’t include your whole life story. Keep it focused and concise.

You should personalize the cover letter, Evangelista says. Write a new one for each job you’re seeking. If possible, find out the name of the hiring manager, and address the letter to that person.

The first paragraph should include the position you’re seeking and where you found the job listing. If someone referred you, mention that person’s name.

If you’ve had long gaps in employment history, briefly explain them in the cover letter.

Use correct grammar, and proofread the letter. If you’re going to mail it, use quality paper that matches the resume, and remember to sign it. Keep copies of all letters you send.

List of Target Employers

You should target firms that appeal to you and are a good fit for your skills. To develop your list of target employers, review relevant databases, directories, chamber of commerce listings, and trade publications. Contact libraries, chambers of commerce, and trade groups to help you locate these resources.

Networking can be another useful tool. For instance, your LinkedIn contacts can recommend companies to add to your list.

Also check out AARP, which ranks the “Best Employers for Workers Over 50”. And if you join the career website Retirement Jobs, you can consult the company’s list of “Age-Friendly Employers.”

Companies have several reasons for recruiting older workers, says Tim Driver, CEO of Retirement Jobs, which is based in Waltham, Mass. Some companies have expanded the definition of diversity to include older or “mature” workers, and hiring them could be part of that diversity mission. If firms tend to have older customers, they may want to hire older workers so that their workforce mirrors their customer base. Another benefit is that older workers have much lower turnover rates than younger workers, he adds.

Search for Jobs

When you’re ready to search for job openings, use many different resources. Check employers’ websites to see if any jobs are posted. Visit major sites like Monster, CareerBuilder, Indeed, Simply Hired, LinkedIn, and Twitter. You also can find job openings geared to older workers through specialized websites, such as Retirement Jobs, RetiredBrains, Seniors4Hire, SeniorJobBank, BoomerJobs, Workforce50, Jobs4.0, and AARP.

Here are some other useful resources for finding job opportunities:

  • Your local career center. An especially good resource is the nationwide network of government-funded career facilities, often called “WorkSource” or “One-Stop” centers.
  • Career fairs. Contact job centers, community colleges, and other groups to see if they’re holding such events.
  • Your networking contacts. They can provide job leads and introduce you to key people at target employers.
  • FedExperience. This pilot program guides older workers who are interested in careers with the federal government.
  • Title V. This federally funded program provides on-the-job training for low-income seniors.

If you want to be your own boss, check out Retirement Jobs’ advice for self-employment.

Apply

Today, applying for a job can take many forms. Sometimes, job seekers e-mail resumes and cover letters directly to an employer. Alternatively, some people apply for positions through online job boards, or they apply through recruiters. In some cases, job seekers apply online at the employer’s website.

If you need to complete an online application, be prepared. On some websites, the sessions “timeout” after a period of inactivity (say, 30 minutes). If that happens, you’ll be automatically logged out and have to start all over.

To avoid being logged out, have the necessary information on hand before applying. Write down pertinent information before you start so you can refer to it during the application process, suggests Maria Mata, of the Los Angeles County Community and Senior Services department. Include specific details about your education history and work experience. You can find practice job applications on the Internet to guide you.

These types of practice forms also can guide you if you’re filling out an application by hand. If you are applying the old-fashioned way, print legibly.

Whether you’re completing a form on the Internet or with a pen, don’t leave any spaces blank. If something doesn’t apply to you, write down “N/A,” which stands for “not applicable” (unless the instructions direct you to do otherwise).

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