Dear Sam: After 27 years with my current employer, I was recently informed they will be going out of business at the end of the year. I am almost 60 years old and need to find another job. I have a lot of experience in manufacturing, but I do not have any formal education post high school. I had a three-page resume and have since trimmed it to two then one page.
I went to an employment agency and the consultant told me that employers are only interested in the last five years of your career. I had two other jobs listed that I did part-time and she told me to omit them. I showed her my new version and while she liked it, she told me to cut out my education on the bottom of the page and install my references.
My wife told me that it looks like she is having me tailor the resume for her own personal gain and is not really looking out for my overall welfare. I feel she might be right, but I need your professional opinion. I want a full-time job and am getting very desperate. — Claude
Dear Claude: I am so sorry to hear of your employer’s recent news, I am sure this is a challenging time for you. I think it’s great that you were proactive and reached out to an employment agency for support as they should be able to help guide you through this transition. In terms of the decisions you and the employment consultant made on the presentation of your candidacy, I have a few comments.
First of all, with a 27-year career no one would ever expect you to be able to “fit” that on one page. The “one-page rule” is antiquated and hasn’t been in existence for more than a decade. With that much experience I would expect you to need two pages in order to communicate the “value” you offer to potential employers.
As far as how much experience to present, hiring managers typically like to see 10 to 15 years of experience. I have never heard about them only caring about the last five years and actually, if you only presented five years of experience, that would deliver a very misleading presentation of your candidacy. I am also not sure what it would do in the consultant’s best interests to position you as that junior in your career. I do not know if your title changed throughout your tenure, so if it did not you would have to present all 27 years with your employer. If your title or roles did change throughout your journey—which I am assuming is the case based on your initial ability to have enough content to fill three pages—then you can “trim” what you present by positioning years after titles and not after the company name. So, for instance, if you joined the company as an associate and spent the first 10 years in that role, you don’t have to present that. You could start listing your experience from your first or second promotion, allowing you to strategically present somewhere in that 10- to 15-year range. I also agree that if your part-time roles were prior to the last 27 years, omit them. If they were concurrent, and add value to your candidacy, you could certainly present them, just perhaps include them in an “Interim Experience” section so they do not confuse the picture.
As far as presenting your education goes, I agree with the consultant. There is rarely any need to present a high school diploma as it is assumed a candidate with a professional resume possesses that minimum qualification. In fact if you presented your diploma, all that section would really communicate is that you do not possess a college degree.
Now, regarding references, we never place references on a resume. It isn’t standard protocol anymore to include a line at the end of your resume that references are available on request. In today’s job market, it is assumed references will be provided when requested, therefore we do not waste very valuable resume real estate stating the obvious.
I hope my advice helps put you in the right direction in terms of positioning yourself for a swift and successful search. I do have many samples on my website that will provide you will confirmation of best practices-based approaches for a 21st century search. Best of luck.