Dear Sam: I want to apply for a teller position at a local bank and a requirement listed in the job posting is to have at least one year of teller experience. I actually have over two years of experience but from 1999-2001. How can I incorporate this experience into an attention-grabbing cover letter without drawing attention to how long ago that experience occurred? Also, any suggestions on including this experience on my resume and which format is best to use for this situation? — Stumped

Dear Stumped: In order to promote your candidacy to the hiring manager, I recommend focusing on your most transferable talents, experiences, and qualifications, thereby “proving” you have the skills needed to succeed as a bank teller. You can open your cover letter with a strong statement that grabs the reader’s attention and immediately presents you as a top achiever who can fulfill the employer’s needs. For example:

“With a proven history of providing diligent support to internal and external clients, I have developed broad-based skills in the areas of customer service, problem resolution, policy and procedure dissemination, and perhaps most important, leading teams to bolster performance and better serve clients. At this juncture in my career, I am excited to transition my skills, dedication, and service-centric approach into a new and results-oriented environment. Allow me to present some of my key strengths and contributions…”

It is not necessary to discuss dates in a cover letter, so focus instead on summarizing your career strategically, and include information about your foundational roles in banking (sprinkled with keywords).

You have a few options for formatting. One option is to utilize a traditional chronological resume with a section toward the end that says, “foundational experience.” Since this was 18+ years ago, I would omit dates from this section entirely and just list your title, company name, and a line or two about your key responsibilities and achievements. Throughout the rest of your resume, be sure to highlight your most transferable skills and make it clear that the work you’ve been doing for the past 18 years has still prepared you well for the duties of a bank teller. I recommend performing a keyword mapping exercise to ensure your resume is speaking the right language and therefore positioning you as “qualified” and not over- or under-qualified.

To perform keyword mapping, I suggest the following steps:

(1) Print a representative sampling of bank teller job postings (10 or so).

(2) Read the postings and write desired qualifications, skills, etc. on the left side of a piece of paper. Focus on the actual job description, not just the “requirements” for the job.

(3) Cross-reference the list with your qualifications and experiences, transferring the items you possess to the right side of the piece of paper, and crossing them off the left side of the paper.

(4) If you see items that you “sort of” have, “move” those to the middle of the paper.

This “master list” will then illustrate an overview of your qualifiers (right side of the page), disqualifiers (left side of the page), and potential disqualifiers (middle of the page). These keywords and phrases then need to be incorporated into your resume, being very careful how you handle or perhaps address items that remain on the left side of the page or fall in the middle.

This exercise will provide you with a roadmap for the language (keywords) you need to speak to develop a targeted resume based on your area of interest.

Another formatting option would be the combination resume. A combination format is a blend of the chronological resume with a functional format. Combining the two could allow you to focus the hiring manager’s attention on what qualifies you most for the role you’re pursuing, while minimizing the appearance and impact of disqualifying factors.

To utilize a combination format effectively, start with a keyword-rich qualifications summary, followed by a career highlights section (organized by functional subheadings), and then present your professional experience section with employer names, titles, dates of employment, and responsibilities. By having this information appear further down on page one or even page two of your resume, you can strategically choose to present your most transferable skills first.

If you present a strong enough image of your career history and relevant skills, a hiring manager could qualify you for an interview before even noticing that you do not have recent employment as a bank teller. Experience is truly what makes a candidate unique and what actually “qualifies” us for opportunities, so sell what you have and be confident in your presentation!