Article, Is it ageism or your resume? By Mary Gillespie :

Is it ageism or your resume?
Mary Gillespie


Ageism in career change is a very real problem, but it can also be a convenient excuse for older workers when they are not getting the type of response they are looking for in their job search. Many older workers do not realize that the very things they consider to be their strengths are the things that make their resumes unappealing to some employers.


This makes it hard for people to realize that their career’s worth of experience isn’t as enticing at they think it is. It’s one of those Catch-22s at the beginning of your working life: you need a job to get experience, but can’t a job without experience. How, then, can that experience you worked so hard to get become a detriment?


Employers can get nervous for a number of reasons when they see someone with a long track record. One of the most straightforward concerns is that the job seeker is simply too expensive. If you are applying for a position that is more junior, or has a lower pay scale or average salary than the one you are leaving, employers may think that you will expect more money than they are willing or able to pay. While this may not always be fair, it is very often true.


Another surprise for many experienced job seekers is that their ability to ‘do it all’ is not always an asset. With significant experience under your belt and a nimble mind, it’s often easy to connect the dots between what you did and the past and what you would be expected to do in a future position. You know you can do it, and you’re very often right.


The thing is, employers are looking for specific skills and experience in particular contexts and situations. If you can’t create a profile that presents those skills, you aren’t going to make the cut. Your resume has to be laser sharp in order to draw attention to exactly the things that the employer is looking for.


Resumes aren’t the only hurdle.


For many older job seekers, it has been years, perhaps even decades, since they have had a job interview. At the best of times, interviewing is stressful. When you haven’t done it in ages, and aren’t prepared for the changes that have occurred in interviewing strategies in recent years, it can be overwhelming.


Older workers can make the mistake of bringing outmoded attitudes and interactions into the interview. Calling a woman ‘dear’ for example, doesn’t make a good impression on the Head of HR. In a situation like this, ageism isn’t the issue. Being out of touch with expected norms and behaviours is.


Your experience and versatility are great assets. The trick is in knowing how to present them in a way that answers an employer’s need. And make sure that you don’t use age as an excuse for behaving in ways that are no longer accepted in today’s diverse workplace.


Need help moving forward with LinkedIn? Join HigherBracket live at “LinkedIn and Your Upward Mobility”. Check our events page for the next scheduled event.




Mary Gillespie is's professional writer-in-residence. With a Master’s degree in English, extensive experience teaching at the university level and working internationally, Mary adds valuable insight to our professional services division. She is responsible for editing and content creation and managing our professional resume writers. You can reach Mary at


Premium Members: Have our Career Services team review your resume to ensure you are not missing out on opportunities to land the interviews you need to move your career forward!