Resumes for Older Workers

The title of this article might be resumes for older workers, but its purpose is to help guide those individuals with a great deal of work experience.  Older, or more senior, employees have an advantage over their younger counterparts.  They've been around longer, and have knowledge that is more valuable.

In this article, we're going to provide some guidance to those "older" workers that are interested in updating their resumes.  Part of that guidance will include a brief explanation of the three major resume types in use today.  We'll also explain why the combination resume is usually the best choice for workers with a lot of experience.  Finally, we'll provide some examples, including a document that can be downloaded.

Resume Styles for Older Workers

There are three main types of resumes in use today:  functional, chronological, and the combination style.  Each of these has its strengths and weaknesses as listed below.

  • Functional:  a good choice for an individual that is just starting out in the working world, or someone that is trying to step up into a role from a junior position.  The key feature of a functional resume is the skills and knowledge possessed.
  • Chronological:  a good choice for individuals that have been working for several years, and believe their work experience is more important than the skills they've acquired over time.  The key feature of the chronological resume is a listing of prior job titles and workplaces.
  • Combination:  the most marketable of the three resume styles in use today.  This is the best format for older workers that have a lot of experience, and possess strong skills.  The combination resume contains the best of both the functional and chronological styles.

The working assumption in this article is that an "older" worker is going to be looking for employment that's aligned with their current career.  That is to say, they would be looking for a promotional opportunity or a lateral position, and not looking to switch careers.  If the objective is to switch careers, the functional format may be a better choice.

Special Considerations

Federal laws protect many classes of job applicants against discrimination when seeking employment.  The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) is one such law that aims to protect individuals who have reached age 40 years or older.  Within the ADEA we find the following prohibitions:

  • Statements or specifications in job notices or advertisements of age preference and limitations.
  • Discrimination based on age by apprenticeship programs, including joint labor-management apprenticeship programs.
  • Denial of benefits to older employees.

Individuals that are older, and afraid an employer may discriminate against them because of age, can make the following adjustments to their resume:

  • Avoid mentioning dates that may provide a hiring manager or future employer with information that can be used to calculate age.  For example, the graduating year from college or high school.
  • In the work history section of the resume, provide dates of more recent employers, while omitting dates of employment in the distant past.

Sample Resume

The sample resume we've assembled for older employees is in the combination resume style, modified to accommodate the suggestions made in the previous sections.  The following is a link to a downloadable Word document in the combination format:  Older Worker Resume.

For individuals looking to learn more about this topic, this website also contains a number of resume writing resources on subjects such as how to write a resume as well as additional resume writing samples.


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