How To Write a Resume if You’re an Older Worker

We'll cover how to avoid age discrimination, deal with career breaks and write your resume. Downloadable templates included.

6 months ago   •   8 min read

By Resume Worded Editorial Team
Table of contents

Like anything in life, there’s no one size fits all solution to writing a resume. This means that a lot of tips geared toward first-time job seekers can leave older employees with even more questions. Like: Do I really need an education section if I graduated a few decades ago? How am I supposed to fit thirty years’ experience on a one-page resume? And how I make myself appear younger on a resume to combat potential discrimination?

Tips for writing a resume as an older worker

Avoid age discrimination

We’d love to tell you not to worry about age discrimination, but unfortunately, it does happen. The best way to avoid it? Leave the dates off your education.

We’re not talking about dates of employment — those should always stay. On the other hand, if you graduated more than a decade ago, it’s perfectly fine to leave off your graduation date. And never directly list your age or date of birth on your resume — in fact, the fewer personal details you list, the better.

Leave graduation dates off your resume to avoid age discrimination.
Leave graduation dates off your resume to avoid age discrimination.

How To: List your college or university, the degree you attained, and your major. Other information — like your GPA, coursework, and date of graduation — is unnecessary once you’ve been in the workforce for more than a few years.

How to avoid age discrimination on a resume
How to avoid age discrimination on a resume

Only include recent (and relevant) experience

You don’t need to list every job you’ve ever held on your resume. In fact, if you entered the workforce 20+ years ago or have changed careers, you definitely shouldn’t. Stick to jobs that demonstrate skills and accomplishments that are relevant to the position you’re applying for — 10-15 years of work experience is plenty, unless you’re applying for a senior-level position that explicitly requires longer. Older positions can be left off your resume entirely or restricted to 1-2 lines.

Leave off the accomplishments when listing older experience on your resume.
Leave off the accomplishments when listing older experience on your resume.

How To: Leave off any positions older than 15 years, and check out our guide on how many years your resume should go back for more detailed advice on how to list older experience.

Address career breaks

If you’re returning to the workforce after a long break, the best place to address this is in your cover letter. Give a brief explanation of what you were doing (like raising children or caring for a family member) and reiterate your enthusiasm for returning to work. You can also deal with career gaps directly in the work experience section of your resume with a simple heading like “career hiatus.”

Address career breaks of longer than six months simply and directly.
Address career breaks of longer than six months simply and directly.

How To: Read more about how to list gaps on a resume.

If you’re an older worker wondering what else, like age or graduation dates, should or shouldn’t be included in your resume, upload it to the tool below — it’ll perform a quick scan and let you know what to remove or add into your resume.

Embrace new technology

The biggest concern hiring managers are likely to have is whether your skills are up to date. You can allay these concerns by listing hard skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying for, like software as a service (SaaS) or Slack (especially if you’re working remotely). By the same token, leave older or mostly defunct technical skills off your resume. This includes skills that recruiters expect as a bare minimum, like basic proficiency with Microsoft Office.

List relevant technical skills at the end of your resume.
List relevant technical skills at the end of your resume.

How To: Use our skills and keywords finder to search for relevant skills in your role or industry.

If you need help finding new technology and hard skills that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for, use the tool below to get a list of relevant ones.

Highlight recent training

Another way to prevent your skills from getting rusty is to freshen them up with a short course or relevant certification. Search for reputable providers or well-known qualifications, especially if you’re looking for online courses. Depending on how essential the qualification is to the position you’re applying for, you can list it at the top of your resume in your education section or resume summary, or at the bottom with your skills and additional information.

List the date you completed the certification to highlight that your skills are recent.
List the date you completed the certification to highlight that your skills are recent.

How To: The complete guide to listing certifications on your resume.

Optimize your resume

If it’s been a while since you last applied for a job, you may not have had to deal with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). ATS are automated software that screen out applicants who don’t meet basic requirements by searching for set words or phrases and are used by an estimated two-thirds of companies.

What does this mean for you?

In simple terms, make sure the software can read your resume by including relevant keywords, avoiding images and decorate fonts, and uploading your resume as a pdf.

Make sure your work experience section mentions key skills and uses an ATS-friendly format.
Make sure your work experience section mentions key skills and uses an ATS-friendly format.

How To: Upload your resume to a free resume checker to make sure it includes necessary keywords and is compatible with ATS. You can also read our detailed guide on how to beat applicant tracking systems.

Leverage your experience

Older job seekers have a lot of advantages over those who are newer to the workforce, not least of which is a bigger network. Whether you’re returning to work after some time off, changing careers, or looking to move on after a long stint at the same company, it’s time to reach out to ex-colleagues and other professional contacts. Ask your network for potential job leads, advice, and connections within their company or industry — anything that can give you an edge over your younger competition.

How To: Use our ready-made email templates for reaching out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while.

If you’re ready to jump right in, keep scrolling for resume templates you can use.

Resume examples for older workers

If you’re an experienced hire seeking a senior-level position

This is where your years of experience shine. Focus on your ability to lead a team, work in a high-stakes or high-pressure environment, and deliver results that affect the company’s bottom line.

Resume template for C-level or executive positions
Resume template for C-level or executive positions

Download this template: Google Docs | PDF

In this template, we include only relevant experience — just the last 10-15 years is more than sufficient. We've left off older educational experience pre-MBA.

If you’re changing careers

It might feel weird starting from scratch, but you can still include any skills or accomplishments from previous roles that are relevant to your new industry or role. You don’t need to include every job you’ve ever held, but do focus on transferable skills and accomplishments that are relevant to the new position.

Resume template for career changers
Resume template for career changers

Download this template: Google Docs

If you’re returning after a career break

The most important thing to do when returning from a long hiatus is to address the break and explain what you were doing during that time. Don’t try to hide the gap or format it as if it were paid work experience, but you can include any relevant skills or accomplishments you gained during that time.

An example resume for an older worker who's returning to the workforce after a brief career hiatus or gap
An example resume for an older worker who's returning to the workforce after a brief career hiatus or gap

And here's a second template which highlights the career break in a new 'Other Experience' section. It's another option for an older worker who's returning back to the workforce.

Resume template including a career break

Download this template: Google Docs | PDF

Common misconceptions older workers make

A fancy resume will make you appear younger

Fancy resume formats aren’t impressive, and they’re definitely not going to make you appear younger or more in touch. On the contrary, they’re hard to read and demonstrate a lack of professionalism. Stick to a simple, standard resume format, like our ATS-ready resume templates.

Your resume needs to include every job you’ve ever held

Your resume should be a brief summary of your most relevant skills and experience, not an exhaustive list of your entire professional history. Leave off any experience that’s much older or no longer relevant.

You should include a resume objective

Resume objectives are outdated. They’re also particularly unnecessary if you have any kind of professional experience. If you’re changing careers or want to highlight key skills and experience upfront, a resume summary is a much better option.

You should list familiarity with older technology

Including outdated skills on your resume won’t do anything but frame you as out of touch with current workplace norms. Unless you’re applying for a job as a fax machine technician or COBOL developer, leave proficiency with older technologies and programming languages off your resume.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many pages should a resume be?

For older workers with more experience, a two-page resume is completely fine. There’s no need to try to condense 30+ years of experience onto a single page, especially if it’s all still relevant.

If you spent a long time away from the workforce — for example, because you were raising children or are changing careers — you may only need a one-page resume. Leaving off older experience altogether might be better if it avoids raising questions about long career gaps.

If you have extensive experience and are applying for a high-level executive experience, you may be able to get away with three pages, but only if it’s absolutely necessary. If you only have a few lines spilling over onto a third page, condensing it all onto two pages is better.

Can I say I’m younger than I actually am on my resume?

No. Never lie on your resume, even as something as seemingly inconsequential as your age. Omission is different from lying — it’s fine to leave dates of graduation off your resume, for example — but even a small lie can be grounds for immediate rejection.

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