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Résumés For Those Over 50 Often Need Makeovers

Résumés For Those Over 50 Often Need Makeovers

LaRue Diaforli landed a job at Live Oak State Bank after the Senior Source helped her redo her résumé.

By BOB MOOS / The Dallas Morning News

After LaRue Diaforli lost her secretarial job, she dusted off her résumé and sent it far and wide. But the detailed description of her 30-year work history wasn’t getting her any interviews.

“No telephone calls. No e-mails. It was complete silence,” the Dallas woman recalled.

Like other job hunters over 50, Ms. Diaforli figured she was running into the misconceptions that older workers are unproductive, set in their ways and likely to quit after a few years.

Then a friend suggested a makeover – or, more precisely, a résumé makeover.

Ms. Diaforli turned to the Senior Source’s employment program, which helps workers 50 and older with job searches.

A counselor at the Dallas nonprofit agency helped make her résumé pop, throwing out wordy explanations of Ms. Diaforli’s jobs and replacing them with snappy summaries of her accomplishments.

“The makeover worked wonders,” she said. “I got an interview and then my receptionist’s job.”

Renae Perry, director of the Senior Source’s employment program, said job seekers can hurt their prospects if they write a résumé based on outdated notions.

“A résumé shouldn’t be your autobiography,” she said. “It should focus on your skills and achievements. Its only purpose is to get you in the door so you can sell yourself in person.”

Employers spend fewer than 30 seconds initially looking over a résumé, says career and retirement consultant Jill Pfaff Waterbury of Coppell. Their No. 1 question is how an applicant would add to their bottom line, she said.

“A résumé can’t just announce: ‘Here I am.’ It needs to make the case that your talents are the perfect fit for the job you’re seeking,” said Ms. Waterbury, co-author of the Boomers’ Job Search Guide.

Career counselors offer these tips for job applicants 50 and older:

Size yourself up and figure out what you’d like to do.

“Ask yourself, ‘Do I have the enthusiasm to continue in my current career, or is it time to try something new?’ " said Terri Swain, a human resources consultant in Fort Worth. “That’s especially pertinent for older workers.”

If you don’t know, visit a career counselor, she said.

“Come up with a couple of sentences that describe you, what you’ve done and where you’re headed with your professional life,” Ms. Swain said. “That brief profile will serve as the first part of your résumé.”

Decide which résumé format fits your needs.

Most résumés are chronological, functional or a combination.

A chronological résumé lists your work history beginning with your most recent job. A functional résumé highlights your skills and accomplishments, playing down when you held certain jobs.

A hybrid résumé combines the best of both.

Older workers who choose the chronological format should go back only 10 to 15 years, Ms. Waterbury said.

For workers who have taken time off to raise a family or care for a parent, a functional résumé won’t flag the gaps in their work history, counselors say.

After leaving the insurance industry four years ago, Amy Low of DeSoto is returning to the job market. She wrote a functional résumé to play up her problem-solving skills and computer expertise.

“It’s doing the trick. I’ve already had a couple of job leads,” she said.

Organize your information and target your résumé to the job.

Job seekers who visit employers’ Web sites and research the companies have an advantage over the competition, said Laurie Larrea, president of Workforce Solutions for Greater Dallas.

M.K. McChristian, a former language instructor and school administrator who lives in Richardson, begins with a general résumé but always tailors it to the job.

“I never start from scratch,” she said. “I may delete certain paragraphs or add others, depending on a company’s preferences.”

Ms. McChristian’s strategy helped her become a finalist for one position, and she’s confident it will eventually lead to a job.

Stress what you’ve accomplished for other employers.

“A good way to address concerns about age is to show you’re results-oriented,” Ms. Swain said. “If you can build a case you’ll improve profits, the company won’t care how old you are.”

Describing your achievements in concrete terms is essential, said Brad Smith, a vice president of business development in the Dallas area for DBM Inc., a consulting firm.

“Use numbers. Don’t say you improved sales ‘significantly.’ Say you increased revenue by 52 percent over three years,” he said.

Highlight how you’ve kept up to date with technology and industry trends.

Some employers think older workers aren’t interested in staying current in their fields, so your résumé should stress your training and computer skills, Ms. Waterbury said.

“That’s particularly important if your college degree dates back 30 years,” she said.

Avoid dating yourself.

Career coaches agree that most dates should be left off older workers’ résumés, especially for degrees earned decades earlier or jobs held long ago. They suggest using dates only for recent positions.

Also, be careful how you describe yourself. "Never start by saying you’re a ‘senior engineer’ or an ‘engineer with 30 years of experience,’ " Ms. Waterbury said. “Instead, talk about your ‘diverse’ or ‘extensive’ experience.”

Use a cover letter to head off thoughts that you’re overqualified.

Some employers shy away from an applicant they think is overqualified because they fear that person will quit as soon as a better job comes along.

Still, many people are sincere about trading prestigious jobs for lower-paying but more satisfying work in education, government or nonprofit agencies.

The best way to address those doubts is to explain your motives in a cover letter, Ms. Swain said.

“State that salary isn’t your primary consideration at this point in your life,” she said.

Courtesy of Yellowbrix

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