Overcoming Age and Weight Bias
By Dawn Rossetti, CPRW & Melissa Brodeur, CPRW, RelaunchCareerAssociates.com
A reader requests, "I would like to see you address issues such as older workers re-entering the job market. I'm 54 and, due to some limitations, need to make some changes. It'd be nice to see you address how people overcome appearance bias (such as weight issues). Even if someone should lose weight, that won't occur instantaneously and that person may need work now."
Our response: This is a great question and certainly one that many people can relate to. Given the difficult economy, many older workers have found themselves in a career transition and have faced potential age discrimination. As Professional Resume Writers, we work with people in your position every day. Here are a few of the things you can do to put your best foot forward during your job search.
Only Include 10 to 15 Years of Work Experience
It may be tempting to recite every position you have ever held, but the reality is that technology and work expectations evolve quickly and it is important to include only the most recent/relevant accomplishments as they are most likely to reflect the current demands of the position. Furthermore, most people cycle through increasingly responsible positions so you would not want to highlight baseline skills that you have already built upon.
Stick to About Two Pages in Length
Hiring managers are time-pressed and research has shown that most resumes are reviewed in less than 15 seconds. It is crucial to lead with the information that is most relevant to the decision maker. If you have experience that is key to the position of interest but does not show up in that 10 ? 15 year time period previously mentioned, then create a "skills" or "additional experience" section that allows you to include the necessary keywords without drawing attention to when those skills were used. If an employer is interested, they can always ask for more details during the interview.
Highlight Ongoing Training
Have you kept up-to-date on your job skills? Have you attended conferences or took additional courses? Include both your formal education and additional training to convey that you are up to speed on your industry's latest and greatest. If your knowledge is not current, it's a worthwhile endeavor to investigate courses that will supplement this section.
Years ago, resumes included an "objective"- a statement of what the job seeker was looking for. Times have changed and modern resumes should convey the value that you offer to a company instead. Describe, succinctly, your major skills and accomplishments in a way that illustrates to the reader the value that you will bring to their organization.
Review the Qualifications
Do you have the appropriate experience for the job that you are applying for? Is there a risk you will be viewed as "overqualified"? Each resume should be tailored to the specific position. Select your most relevant experiences to include on the resume.
The purpose of the resume is to get you the interview. You shined on paper and were selected for an interview, so now it is time to shine in person. It is at this point that older workers may feel the most concern about their susceptibility to age discrimination.
Use the interview to focus on your past accomplishments, contributions and ability to work as a part of a team. Do your research in advance and go in prepared with just a few questions that demonstrate your interest in the company and how you see yourself contributing to the overall success of the business.
Be aware of your nonverbal communication. Invest in a new suit or interview outfit and use active listening skills. Even if you are a few pounds overweight or carry a few more wrinkles than the next candidate, the interviewer will remember if you looked sharp, asked good questions and were focused on them.
Best of luck in your job search!
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Dawn Rossetti and Melissa Brodeur are certified resume writers and co-founders of Relaunch Career Associates. Melissa and Dawn previously traveled separate career paths but their shared vision and commitment to helping others realize their professional goals inspired them to form a partnership. To learn more about their services, please go to RelaunchCareerAssociates.com.