Dear Debra: I think it is much less about coming across as potentially intimidating and much more about painting a competitive picture of your candidacy regardless of the age or experience of the hiring manager. Rarely would a job posting—if ever—ask for 20+ years of experience, so you must take your content and keyword cues from the job postings you are applying for. If most of the positions you are seeking are asking for 5-7 or say 8-10 years of experience, present the “expected” 10 or so years of professional experience on your resume. Long gone are the days in which a resume served as a narrative of everything you had ever done in your career; now is the time to make your resume more of a strategic image of what you have done to qualify you for what you now want to do. Hiring managers expect you to present about 8-10 or 10-15 years of experience—school of thought differs from person to person—but there really is no need to go back into the 90s unless there are specific elements of that early experience that add value to your candidacy. I would encourage you to think about presenting your experience in a competitive way, versus thinking you need to potentially “dumb-down” your resume. Personally, I do not think diluting the value of your experience ever leads to a job someone wants; it may get you the interview, but it rarely leads to a solid “fit” between employer and employee. Best of luck to you.
Dear Sam: Do you have any suggestions for a more experienced—62 years of age—woman landing a job? In just about every case I feel the hiring manager will be much younger than I, and I wanted to know how, or if, I should dumb-down my experience to appear less experienced and perhaps less threatening. With more than 20 years of sales experience, I am afraid I will come across as intimidating for some younger hiring managers. Do you have any thoughts on this? – Debra