Overcoming Age Discrimination With Dates on a Resume

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Dates on a resume tell an employer your approximate age. If you're concerned about overcoming age discrimination, be sure to read this tip for listing dates.

What Dates on a Resume Say About You

Here's a really common question among job hunters: “How far back in my work history should I go?” As a general rule, you don’t need to go back more than 10 years; however, if it’s to your benefit, you may go back further. To help you decide how far back to go, ask yourself the following:

  • How old do you want to appear on your resume?
  • How relevant are your earlier positions to your job objective?
  • How much experience is the employer asking for?
  • How many years of experience would make you look over-qualified for the job?

Although age discrimination is illegal, employers will try to guess your age from the dates on your resume. Employers often have an age range they think is ideal for a particular job, based on the skill level required, the ability to supervise or be supervised, salary expectations, amount of life experience needed, company culture, and other things.

A Formula for Overcoming Age Discrimination

Here’s a great way to understand how the dates on your resume create an impression of your age. I call it the EPT (Experience Plus Twenty) formula:

  1. Subtract the earliest work history date on your resume from today’s date (years only, not months).
  2. Add that number of years to 20 (used as a ballpark figure for how old you might have been when you started working) to get a total of x, meaning that you are now at least x years old.

For example, a resume written in 2012 with a work history that starts in 1998 tells the reader that the job seeker is at least 34 years old (14 years of experience + 20 = 34).

A well-crafted resume uses dates to lead the employer to deduce that you are within the ideal age range for the job you want, regardless of what your actual age is. Here are two examples of how to use dates to create the image you want.

Going For a “Younger Look"
Irene, a 37-year-old women, wanted a job as a makeup consultant in the cosmetics department of a retail clothing and accessories store that caters to young professional women. She figured the employer was probably looking for a woman in her mid-20s — someone who would fit in with the image of the store and who would not expect wages as high as someone who had more experience in the field.

In order to present herself as an ideal candidate, Irene listed only five years of experience on her resume, because she thought the employer would:

  1. Assume that Irene was 20 years old when she started working.
  2. Add the 5 years of work experience listed in her resume’s work history to the age she might have been when she started working (20).
  3. Conclude that Irene is at least 25 years old.

In her education, Irene listed her degree but did not include her graduation date, since doing so would reveal her actual age.

All of the dates on Irene’s resume were true and accurate, but they didn’t tell all. During her interview she will have the chance to show her spunk and professionalism, and talk about salary, all of which will hopefully meet the employer’s vision of the ideal job seeker.

Going For an “Older Look”
Tony is a recent college grad who worked in his uncle’s hardware store throughout high school and college. He's an achiever who's able to handle more responsibility than most people his age. When he applied for a job as a store manager at a local store, he knew that if he could just get an interview, he’d be able to convince the owner that he could do the job.

Tony thought the employer was expecting to hire someone in his late 20s. So he went back eight years in the work history on his resume to when he started working for his uncle in entry-level jobs. Then he listed his growth over the years to higher levels of responsibility. He stated that he had a college degree, but did not list his graduation date, as it might have revealed that he was only 22.

Everything on Tony’s resume painted an honest picture of someone who had the experience and maturity of a 28-year-old (remember, 20 years + eight years of work experience = 28 years old), without ever revealing his real age.

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