Back in the job market for an executive role? You may have encountered (or wondered about) potential age discrimination when putting yourself “out there” for an executive job search.
If you find yourself experiencing rejection in your job applications, the possibility of age discrimination may seem all too real.
Yet, it’s possible that you’re actually CALLING attention to your age – more so that your leadership qualifications.
Bottom-line, focusing on your executive brand will make the biggest difference to employers. This is particularly true if your work history includes the leadership skills valued in today’s market, such as cost control, team leadership, fiscal stewardship, contract negotiations, and technology expertise.
Consider these 5 ways to get a better reception from employers – and create an “age-proof” executive resume and LinkedIn Profile – if you believe age is working against you:
1 – Use the summarization technique to display your past leadership roles.
Most executives have held increasingly challenging roles at Director, VP, or SVP levels in the past, with career histories extending past the 20-year (or 30-year) mark.
While the career progression itself is important, here’s what employers really want to know: How often have you been promoted? What type of team, country, or P&L authority did you hold? What results did you achieve – and how did these results magnify over time?
In this example of an international CEO and President resume, the main focus is on profit results. With several infographics and charts, this executive’s personal brand message reflected strong cost and revenue improvements in every position.
At the end of the resume, however, earlier positions were shown with no dates—even though specific achievements were listed for these past roles. As a result, the candidate’s age is inferred, but not made obvious from the resume.
2 – Add earlier experience under the last job in your LinkedIn Profile.
While you may have taken steps to craft an executive resume that reflects your currency in the job market, how about your LinkedIn Profile?
The same way your leadership resume benefits from an age-positive strategy, you’ll need similar techniques on LinkedIn.
For example, your last job entry can contain several extra lines that spell out early-career work history:
** Additional Experience includes: Captain, U.S. Air Force: Promoted to high-ranking officer, based on ability to inspire leadership qualities, handle critical missions, and develop junior staff.
This technique allows you to benefit from the keyword hits on the previous positions (such as military experience, which is valued at many employers), without listing dates.
3 – Show your progression (important if your career was spent at a single employer).
Even if you’ve come through the ranks at a single employer for the past 20 to 30 years, hiring authorities are mostly interested in fresh, relevant experience.
Therefore, your last 3-5 positions at a VP, Director, or C-suite level should be highlighted as much as possible in your leadership resume – removing the focus from earlier roles.
This example of a CEO resume shows how to tell a story of progressive responsibility, even when 20+ years of experience are tied into a single employer.
Note that earlier, non-leadership roles are only evident from the overall date range, without details that would detract from the executive branding message.
4 – Be age-aware in crafting your Executive Summary.
A Professional Profile or Summary (on either your resume or LinkedIn Profile) must convey much more important details than years of experience.
Yet, many resumes tout “more than 20 years of experience” as a qualifier. Don’t resort to this technique!
Write your Summary with branded and power-packed language specific to the job you seek, rather than calling out your longevity, as in this example for a COO:
“Strategic & operational executive offering land development, real estate investment, master planning, and turnaround expertise. Negotiator and advisor to developments of significant environmental, community, and financial impact; accustomed to addressing Boards and stakeholders.”
5 – Maintain your focus on relevant facts, such as degrees (but not dates).
Even on your LinkedIn Profile, dates are not required for degree programs. (When entering your degree into LinkedIn, just skip the prompt to add dates of your attendance.)
In some fields such as engineering, degrees can be used to eliminate leadership candidates from consideration because the training is considered outdated.
If you’re unsure whether the graduation year on your resume and Profile is prompting age bias, try removing it – and note any differences in responses from employers.
Remember – employers are mostly focused on the need for adept leaders who can solve their business problems and maintain current knowledge.
For best results in your executive job search, showcase your ability to deliver results in times of mergers, industry changes, and cost-cutting, with less emphasis on the timing of your career milestones.
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