Why It's OK to Say How Old You Are

By Perri Capell

Older job seekers think omitting details that show their ages on their resumes will help them win more interviews. But will it?

Employers, recruiters and some successful older candidates say no. Experience is the real reason candidates are selected for interviews, they say, and tactics such as not citing diploma dates sometimes create problems.

As a job seeker two years ago, David Russo, chief people officer for Peopleclick Inc., a Raleigh, N.C., recruitment-software and consulting firm, made no secret of his age when he interviewed for his current position at age 60. Mr. Russo had retired in 1999 after 19 years as head of human resources for SAS Institute Inc. and was consulting when he applied for the Peopleclick role. His graduation dates are on his resume, he says.

His age wasn't an issue, says Mr. Russo, now 62 and glad to be working. "I thought I had a lot of juice left to help an organization," he says.

But some older job seekers think it's best to leave off resume information that will "date" them. Tim Hickey, 56, is seeking a senior marketing role near his home in Portland, Ore. His work experience on his resume includes only the past 18 years, and he cites only the dates of a recently earned M.B.A. and recent undergraduate course-work.

"Pretty much everything you read is that there's no reason to hammer anyone over the head with your age," says Mr. Hickey, adding that his resume probably makes him seem to be in his mid-40s.

Recruiters don't like diploma dates being omitted, says David Hardie, a managing partner with search firm Herbert Mines Associates in New York. About one-fourth to one-third of candidates exclude college-graduation dates on their resumes, he says. "I tell them, 'We recruiters are a skeptical group, and if you don't include the dates of your degree, we assume you didn't finish or are trying to hide your age,' " he says.

As a hiring manager, Mr. Russo says he isn't concerned about whether information that dates a job seeker appears on a resume. "It has no importance," he says. "I want skill sets and contributions."

Job seekers who lack confidence in their skills and experience are most likely to leave off diploma dates, says Deborah Wile Dib, an executive coach in Medford, N.Y. "It's likely they don't have a super-firm grasp of their value proposition -- their reasons to be hired -- and their resume isn't filled with a ton of accomplishments," she says.

On the other hand, older executives who present rock-solid reasons why employers need them never fret about their ages being an issue, she says.

If you're worried your age might keep you from getting hired, put more thought and effort into identifying reasons why you would be valuable to a future employer, Ms. Dib suggests. With plenty of accomplishments to cite, your age will become a nonissue.

Most older candidates have more valuable experience and knowledge to put on their resumes than they realize, she says. "They have a lifetime of institutional memory, experience with market cycles and so forth, and that's irreplaceable experience," Ms. Dib says. "Their resumes don't say that."

Job hunters who feel the need to trim the length of their resumes could list their most recent 20 years of experience and then summarize early jobs in a statement at the end of their experience section, says Louise Kursmark, president of Best Impression Resumes in Cincinnati. Use a heading such as "Early Career," above a statement such as "Progressive sales, marketing and management roles at XYZ Co., culminating with Division Marketing Manager position," she suggests.

If you decide to omit graduation dates on your resume, be prepared to answer a question about it when you first talk with an interviewer, Ms. Kursmark adds. "Any time you have a strategy to hide something on a resume, such as a work gap or graduation dates, you need to prepare yourself to deal with it when it comes up," she says.

-- Ms. Capell is a senior correspondent for CareerJournal.com.

Email your comments to perri.capell@wsj.com .

Article from CareerJournal.com October 2006

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