7 Resume Formatting Tips to Combat Ageism

If you’re a job hunter of a certain age, you probably have mixed feelings about revealing too much on your resume. On one hand, you have so much to be proud of: your accomplishments, your expertise, your network, not to mention your maturity. All of these attributes bring value to the table.

On the other hand, age discrimination is real, as you may have experienced. Until more employers get wise to the significant contribution of older workers, you should consider some strategic resume formatting to prevent your age from working against you.

Let’s be clear: you should never lie on job applications. Even minor untruths have a way of catching up with you, sooner or later.

What I am suggesting is that you take a fresh look at your resume and use the following tactics to frame yourself in the best possible way. Don’t mislead employers, but do present yourself as a vibrant professional who will be a good fit with the company culture. There’s a difference between trying to appear younger and showing your youthful side.

Include only relevant experience

Some career coaches will advise you to omit everything beyond the last 10 years. Others will say to include up to 15 or even 20 years of experience if it’s directly related to the job you’re seeking.

Put yourself in the shoes of the prospective employer: if you were looking at your resume, what would you find helpful? What is no longer relevant? Generally speaking, interviewers want to know what you’ve done “lately,” so focus on your more recent career.

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Consider dropping education dates

If you’re worried that you got your degree in the Jurassic Age, you may want to leave off your graduation dates. Yes, employers can still guess at your age, and it might not prevent age bias. But if it’s a source of concern to you, there’s no reason to call attention to the era in which you attended school.

Show you’re tech savvy

Unless your target industry uses the Morse code to communicate, employers will want to see that you are up to speed with technology. Find out the current software programs that are required or preferred for the job you’re seeking, and highlight those you’re proficient at on your resume.

If you have an online presence—and you should—list your social media accounts like LinkedIn and Twitter. Just make sure they present a professional version of you!

Streamline your template

Nothing screams “old” like a cluttered, stuffy resume set in Times New Roman. Update your document’s look with a modern, clean style. Use a sans serif font. Make ample use of white space. Give your text some breathing room.

Watch your language

The words we use can reveal a lot about us, including our relative years. If you want to convey a youthful impression, lose the overly formal tone and use a conversational style instead. This is not an invitation to skip spellcheck, though; proper grammar never goes out of style.

Check that your industry terminology is up to date. Consider this example: Which of the following sentences seems more current?

“Interviewed, hired, conducted orientation, trained, and fired employees.”


“Sourced, identified, screened, interviewed, onboarded, trained, and terminated team members.”

The second example uses up-to-date language. Take a cue from the company and match the language in your resume to the words used by the employer in the job posting.

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Customize your application

Your application is your opportunity to stand out and get noticed. Embrace your past achievements, but tailor them to the particular employer’s current needs. What challenges are they facing that you have handled in the past? What problems need solving that you have addressed in past work?

Use your resume as a tool to show that your experience, your personal strengths, and your unique brand are exactly what this employer needs at this point in time. Find the employer’s pain points, and figure out how you are the person to relieve them.

Keep it personal

With all of these resume tactics, it might be easy to think you can defeat ageism with one piece of paper. However, the best way to get past employers’ preconceived ideas about age is to have them see you as an individual. Networking remains the job seeker’s best strategy for connecting with potential employers and overcoming stereotypes about older workers.

So go ahead and “age-proof” your resume. But don’t neglect your contacts. Your best shot at a great new job is simply showing up in person, experience and all.