Dear Sam: I am a professional in the entertainment business—with more than 20 years of experience in my home country—who relocated to the U.S. in 2019. As of the beginning of 2020, I have sent 5,453 applications, many of them especially tailored for the job opportunity at hand. So far, I have had one job interview with a company that used me as an unpaid consultant for 2 weeks with the promise of a contract that did not materialize, and another interview that lasted less than 10 minutes.
I suspect I am too old (60) and that this industry is much more biased against age than I ever could have imagined. Would you have a look at my most recent resume and tell me if I should perhaps deal more or less openly with my age to get better results? — Mike
Dear Mike: While it is prudent to be concerned with appearing overqualified and potentially too expensive when you possess 40 years of experience, one of the critical problems in your search is that it is not targeted enough. There is no way, in 4 weeks, you should have applied for more than 5,000 positions. It is clear from that approach that you are not delivering a thoughtful message to the majority of your audience.
Also, from reviewing your resume, I can see you were only dating your experiences back through 2006; hence a hiring manager is only seeing that you have 14 years of professional experience. The only area on your resume that is further aging your candidacy is your education section, as you have listed your dates of graduation from your master and doctorate degrees.
I imagine, based on the in-depth cover letter you sent to me for review, you were spending your time customizing the cover letter and not your resume. While this might seem like a good idea, with only 50% of hiring managers even looking at cover letters, that leaves half of your audience with the need to interpret a resume that is misaligned with the messaging they are looking for in a qualified candidate’s resume. I encourage you to continue to customize your cover letter as that is an essential document for half of your audiences who read it to understand more about your story and the narrative behind your career, but you also have to spend time making sure your resume is targeting the right audience and it includes the appropriate keywords and key phrases to trigger not only a human screener but also an applicant tracking system (ATS).
When looking at where to go next, I would first spend time narrowing down and defining the purpose of your job search. A job search for one type of role is a full-time job, so I cannot even imagine how much time you were spending sending more than 1,000 applications per week. I know you are new to the area, so your network is likely not very established, but it would be a much more effective use of your time to narrow down what types of opportunities you are looking for, and to dig deep to find networking connections to help open those doors for you.
There is no doubt from looking at your professional history that you are an incredibly qualified and skilled professional in your field, having won notable awards, engaged in significant projects, and developed deep subject matter expertise. When you combine your level of contribution with the presentation of a Ph.D., you may be very overqualified for many of the positions for which you have applied. Be sure to take a look to make sure the opportunities you submit your resume for are well aligned with the level in which you have contributed because candidates rarely receive calls for positions for which they are overqualified. I have heard so many candidates express confusion over the fact they have applied for jobs they could do in their sleep, and do not understand why they do not hear their phone ring for an interview. The truth is, you are not a good fit for positions that are misaligned with the level at which you have contributed in the past, especially when you have held many executive-level titles.
Take some time and thought to define your next steps, select the best-fit opportunities based on your background and what exists in your geographic region, and be sure your resume is presenting a competitive picture of your candidacy. Some considerations you may want to make would be removing the years of graduation from your degrees, possibly omitting your doctorate if that is not an expected qualification, and being sure your resume and cover letter possess keywords and key phrases you see repeatedly in the positions aligned with your candidacy and interests. I wish you much success in moving forward.