Resume review: Refreshing an outdated image

Dear Sam: I lost my full-time job in June. When I started my job search I received several phone interviews and some in-person interviews, but alas, no job offers. Now, at this point in my search, I am not receiving any responses from my resumes or applications. I am 54 years old and believe my age is a major factor in me not getting calls for interviews or job offers following an interview. I am sure my resume writing is "outdated" by today's standards so I wondered if you could offer any advice. — Jeffrey

Dear Jeffrey: Thank you for writing and for sending your resume for review. You are correct in that the approach you have taken on your resume is very outdated, and I am actually surprised you have received any interviews based on the brevity of content and lack of positioning.

First, you have represented your 24-year career in fewer than 115 words! How can you possibly convey the value you contributed to your past employers in so few words? So, let's start at the top of your resume and address the opportunities for improvement.

1) Email address tells your age. You should never have a date that looks like a birth year in your email address. You are immediately allowing a potential employer to "figure out" your age. Set up a professional email address with some form of your name and no numbers that reflect years of importance.

2) Your summary is very lackluster. Do any of the job postings you are reading ask for "20+ years of experience in the distribution, warehousing and trucking industry?" I have yet to see a job posting seeking someone so experienced — unless we are speaking of a senior-level leadership role — so "right-size" your summary to better reflect the skills, experiences and qualifications the jobs you are applying for are seeking. You will want to give this part of your resume some major focus as it will be the reason someone brings you in for an interview or rejects your application.

3) Your work experience section, as stated above, is severely lacking in content. You must describe the scope of each of your roles in addition to presenting some highlights showcasing how you added value beyond expectations. You must also write with some diversity in your language. Currently it looks like you have copied and pasted almost verbatim sections for your two types of roles. Think about that: if you can't spend the time nor apply the creativity to write about your experiences, what message does that send to a potential employer? Dig deeper and think about your roles, what you did well, how you performed your job better than expected, and what you did that added value that was not on your job description. Add this valuable content to your resume to convey what is truly unique about your candidacy — your experience.

4) Trim the amount of experience you are presenting. As you are in your fifties, and as you noted in your question, it is important to present a snapshot of your experience. No employer will expect to read about all of your career and instead will prefer you focus on the past 10 to 15 years. Given you have essentially held two concurrent careers — one type of role in each of two employers, essentially both running 1990-present — I would recommend completely omitting your cashiering experiences. I would do this to avoid confusing the reader, to focus on your related and relevant logistics experiences, and to reduce focus on a part of your career that conveys perhaps an alternate job you will have to tend to while engaging with a new employer.

If you follow these suggestions Jeffrey, I am certain your resume will communicate your unique value to potential employers, fueling those phone calls, interviews and offers. Best of luck.

Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Do you have a resume or job search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at dearsam@ladybug-design.com. For more about Sam's resume writing services, visit ladybug-design.com or call 614-570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).

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