Could your CV be adding on years without your realising?
The humble CV ‒ everything you want to convey to an employer in just a few hundred words. And if you’ve been in the game a decent length of time, there’s likely a lot to get across:
First rung of the ladder in the mid ‘90s, senior position a few years later, leading a team by the turn of the century.
Having a fruitful career is certainly something to be excited about, but unfortunately, longevity does not always work in your favor. Age discrimination is alive and well, and it can often find its way into the job search. Therefore, if you are an older worker, you need to be wary and be sure that your CV is working for you, not against you.
Your experience may well be gold dust, but if you’re having to blow the dust off a CV scarcely updated since the last millennium, you’re putting yourself at the back of the applicant pack. It’s not only about keeping your CV skills and work experience up to date ‒ it’s about keeping up with modern CV practices so you don’t get left behind … or discriminated against. Check out the common pitfalls below to see if your CV is making you look old.
You’ve stated your age directly...
It used to be a staple, right up there with your name. However, putting your age or date of birth on your CV screams just one thing nowadays: old-fashioned! Plus, nothing opens you up to discrimination like unnecessarily putting your age out in the open.
Be mindful that it’s not just spelling out the number in black and white that can give the game away. When listing your education history, don’t feel compelled to include precise schooling or graduation dates, as these can easily hint at age. Equally, if you’re concerned that maturity may be held against you, take a close look at the specifics of your listed qualifications ‒ a reference to ‘O-Levels’ rather than GCSEs leaves little to the imagination when it comes to age. Dodge the issue altogether by simply including the subject and grade achieved.
A CV should never be dishonest, but adopting a ‘constructive ambiguity’ approach, especially when it comes to certain dates, can be very rewarding. Remember, it’s simply a passport to the actual interview where you’ll have time and space to give the more comprehensive and eloquent account you’re worthy of.
You’ve included a photo
It seems self-evident that a CV should figuratively paint a picture of a candidate without showing their physical appearance in any literal way. But up until surprisingly recently, it was the norm to include a passport-style snap with your application.
Times have changed though, and adding a picture ‒ however beaming ‒ will make you seem behind the curve. And if you are an older worker, this is another way you could open yourself up to discrimination.
A professional appearance is an important part of the selection process, but that particular first impression should be made at the interview ‒ after your on-paper qualifications have spoken for themselves.
You’ve showcased your references
You worked hard for that ringing endorsement from your last boss, and you’ve every right to wave it in the face of your would-be next. But does it belong on your CV? Not anymore.
There was a time when full referee names, titles and contact details were to be found at the bottom of the sheet, but those days are behind us. Their addition will age you in the eyes of a discerning employer.
Comprehensive reference information takes up precious space and isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing. It is also ultimately redundant as the referencing process comes after the interview, so it can be provided some way down the line.
The expression ‘References available on request’ is a popular alternative and can have a sophisticated ring to it, but employers expect that you will provide references if asked. There’s no need to spell out the obvious, especially with space at a premium.
You’ve added your home address
If you’re a bit of a CV traditionalist, this one will feel like chopping an arm off: The home address has got to go.
Handy in the days when correspondence could be expected via snail-mail, a home address now does little more than date you (and not in the romantic way).
Replace it with an email address and mobile phone number to show you work through the modern lines of communication.
You’ve forgotten social media
We’re living in the digital age, so if your CV is lacking social media links, it’s going to look a bit weary.
Of course, a boozy, beach-bestrewn Instagram may not send the best signals to a would-be employer, so be selective with your platforms. LinkedIn is the most popular social media platform for professionals, so more likely than not, it’s the one you should be showcasing. But if you’ve got a relevant blog or link to a personal website or body of work, have them positioned with pride at the top as well.
In the name of aesthetics (and a nod to the fact your CV will almost certainly be read on a computer) don’t simply paste the full URLs ‒ the long string of meaningless letters and numbers will take up space and make your CV look crowded and clumsy. Instead, type the name of the platform and, with a swift highlighting and right-click, add a hyperlink.
A word to the wise: Make sure the content of your linked social media accounts correlates precisely with your CV, lest you find yourself explaining away contradictions later on.
You’ve written a novel
The perennial ‘What’s the perfect CV length?’ conundrum isn’t any nearer to being solved, but one thing is clear: Anything over two sides of A4 will age you in the eyes of an employer.
When trying to fit decades’ worth of experience onto two pages, it’s all about being strategic. Of course, brevity is key, so you’ll have to choose your words wisely ‒ cut the fluff and rely on strong action words that will make an impact.
You can also create space by removing details from jobs that you held more than 15 years ago. It may be difficult to let go of this experience, but remember that an HR manager is not interested in your first entry-level job. It’s your most recent work experience that matters most, so focus on the last 15 years of your career. Everything else can go in a Career Note added to the end of your Professional Experience section that lists the names of the companies for which you worked.
In the end, experience is the ultimate weapon in any jobseeker’s arsenal; it speaks volumes to your ability, versatility and powers of sustained attainment. But coupled with a few formatting faux pas, HR managers will soon be thinking ‘long in the tooth’ rather than ‘career longevity’. Don’t let that happen ‒ modernise your CV today!
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