Job Search Strategies: speaking of resumes, the problem of dates

Aurora Donnelly is a solo practitioner always looking forward to the next exciting transition.

Reading Tiffany’s posting regarding resumes I am reminded of an issue that I haven’t resolved definitively on my own resume. I am pretty sure that other people have the same difficulty. That is, what to do about dates you’d rather not mention?

What if a long time ago you held a job that is highly relevant to the one you are applying for now and you determine it is important to mention it? I understand the requirement to put down dates for all your jobs, usually within the past 10 years, but what to do about really old dates? In my case, the work experience that old job provided is still highly relevant to the financial markets of today, but I am afraid that the dates when I held that important position may be before some of my interviewers were born! Experience is a wonderful thing, but not if it brings to mind someone whom they may think is too old to do a competent job, or as they like to term it, “be a good fit.”

As a side bar, people are aging differently now, and to say the new 40 is the old 30 is absolutely true in many cases, but numbers create stark images, and if an interviewer sees a resume that has her parents’ range of dates on it, even the most broad-minded and non-age-discriminating person might pass up your resume in favor of someone seemingly younger.

Deborah Walker in her online article, “Baby Boomers, Beware! Don’t Let Your Resume Date You!” has a good suggestion: Figure out the approximate age of the person they are looking to hire for the position you are interested in and begin your resume with an experience date that puts you at that age.

The way I have dealt with it so far is to list this type of jobs under a category titled Other Relevant Positions, without dates, as a sort of functional section inside my chronological resume. I don’t really like doing this because I think recruiters and hiring managers notice the dates are omitted and wonder about it. Actually, I am pretty sure they know the reason for the omission. But I am not sure what to do about it.

Job seekers with gaps in employment have a “date problem” as well. Maybe you spent six months traveling after quitting/being laid off from your most recent position and it was a highly beneficial life experience, but would add nothing that would help your professional career transition. Unless you can find a way of listing that time period to  enhance your resume, you probably don’t want to mention it.

One way to “cover up” an employment gap is to create a functional resume. But most recruiters and hiring managers do not like functional resumes, precisely because they are often used to cover things up and are more difficult to decipher than a chronological resume.

Probably the best way to handle a career gap is to explain it in the cover letter, very briefly, and to be prepared to discuss it, again, very briefly, in your interview, if you get one.

I have not found any better ideas online or in career books for handling resume date problems, but if you readers have some ideas that work on this topic, let us know what they are.


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