Resumes and Interviews
As noted in the previous chapter, it can be daunting to conduct a job search when the process and technology have changed so much. Here’s a look at how to create and submit the best resume for job searches that include computer screening, and prepare for an interview that might be conducted via video.
How to Craft Your New Resume
Creating a resume when you have decades of job experience can be challenging because there are so many skills and accomplishments you could list. But if you’re too thorough, your resume will be so long and dense that hiring managers may be disinclined to review it. A better strategy is to “think of your resume as your highlight reel,” writes Kerry Hannon in “Getting the Job You Want after 50 for Dummies.” You may not want to include your entire 30 or 40 years of job history if it isn’t all relevant to the direction you’re heading in now; focusing on the last 10 to 15 years may be more appropriate, she notes. (See The Complete Guide to Job Searching: The Resume and The Complete Guide to Job Searching: Cover Letters.)
Hannon says all resumes should demonstrate, without actually using these clichéd terms, that you have the traits all employers look for: self-starter, tech-savvy, problem solver, communicator, innovator and lifelong learner. Rather than stating that you’re tech-savvy, for instance, include in your resume the URLs of your professional website and LinkedIn profile, and list software skills relevant to the job you’re applying for, such as WordPress, Asana and GoToMeeting.
One aspect of applying for a job today that could be very different from applying for the job you held previously is the resume-submission process. Now, instead of creating a resume on paper and mailing it to prospective employers, we create resumes in word-processing programs and email them to prospective employers, upload them to automated systems and enter data into online forms. Applying online for a job comes with its own set of challenges, such as how to get past automated screening systems. If the system asks you to upload your resume, make sure it’s in the preferred file format, such as .txt, .doc or .pdf. Also, make sure all the essential keywords from the job description appear in your resume. (Learn more in How to Craft a Resume That Keyword Technology Will Find.)
Your online presence can be an important factor in the hiring process, but you might not have a solid LinkedIn profile or professional website because you’ve never needed one until now. We discussed LinkedIn earlier in this section. As for creating a professional website, a service like SquareSpace can help you create a great-looking site with minimal effort even if you have zero coding skills and know nothing about graphic design. This service costs as little as $12 a month billed annually or $16 per month billed monthly.
Combatting ageism – the possibility that some employers might consciously or subconsciously discriminate against you if they know how old you are – is important when putting your resume together. Don’t list high school or college graduation dates. Don’t list jobs from early in your career that aren’t key to getting the new job you want. If you’ve been in the same field since you were 20 and you’re now 70, you don’t have to describe yourself as having 50 years of experience in the petroleum industry. Also, avoid listing skills that could date you or that are now so common that we take them for granted, like “proficient in Microsoft Word.” (See 7 Ways Your Resume Dates You.)
Developing Your Interview Skills
Next, there’s the interview process. We’ll leave the generic interview advice – such as preparing your elevator pitch, researching the company and the person who will be hiring you, and being impeccably groomed – for you to brush up on elsewhere. (Start with The Complete Guide to Job Searching: The Interview and 7 Things You Should Say in an Interview.) Here, we’ll focus on interview tips specific to landing a job in your 50s, 60s or beyond.
The last time you did a job interview, you might have been a 20-year-old being interviewed by a 40-year-old, or a 40-year-old being interviewed by a 60-year-old. Now, you might be a 60-year-old being interviewed by a 30-year-old, and it can feel unsettling to have to prove yourself to someone half your age when you have twice as much work and life experience.
While it is illegal to discriminate against an employee or potential employee based on age, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen in subtle and even unintentional ways. Plus, even if you can prove that you’ve been discriminated against, will you really want to deal with the time and expense of filing a lawsuit? You can help combat ageism in the interview process by projecting energy and enthusiasm and purchasing a new, modern interview outfit if you don’t have anything current.
Hannon writes that you can be prepared to address concerns about whether you’re overqualified for the position, whether you’re willing to accept a lower salary and how you feel about being supervised by someone younger than you. She suggests that you avoid asking the interviewer questions such as whether they’re concerned about your age or whether you’ll be working for someone younger than you in favor of asking if the potential employer has any concerns about your skills and experience or asking if you can meet your potential boss during the interview. Avoid sharing personal details that may give away your age, such as mentioning your grandchildren – though you might make an exception if your interviewer is close to your age and mentions his or her own grandkids first; establishing common ground is a good interview technique.
Another possible challenge for you is that job interviews aren’t always conducted in person these days; a prospective employer might want to do a video chat with you on Skype, GoToMeeting or Google Hangouts, and you might have no idea how to best present yourself in that setting. You might not even know how to use the company’s software of choice for the interview.
If you’ll be participating in a video interview, practice using the technology ahead of time. Test your video camera and microphone well in advance to make sure they work and to make sure you have a reliable Internet connection. Find a quiet, distraction-free place to hold the call and make sure the video will be well-lit and show a neutral background. Dress as you would for an in-person interview, but wear solid colors and avoid white (it makes you look washed out, especially on a video screen). Conduct online practice sessions with friends or family to make sure you will come off as well over the Internet as you do in person and that the sound is clear and the image quality is high. Don’t forget to look into the camera – that’s the online equivalent of making eye contact with your interviewer. (See 4 Essential Questions to Ask at the End of a Job Interview and 7 Interview Tips for Seniors Seeking Employment.)
Tax Breaks for Job-Hunting Expenses
Keep receipts from any expenses you incur while job hunting. Resume-preparation fees and outlays for travel and transportation expenses while looking for a job are tax-deductible if you itemize your deductions on Schedule A of your federal tax return. The big caveat is that you can only deduct expenses incurred to hunt for a job in the same field as your old one, and there can’t have been a large gap between when you were laid off and when you started looking for work.
Another tax break that might help you in your job search is the lifetime learning credit. You can use this tax credit of up to $2,000 per year to offset qualified higher-education expenses, such as tuition at an eligible educational institution. If taking a class or two might help you land your next job, this tax credit might make those classes affordable despite your lack of income. However, if you were laid off late in the year, have a working spouse or received a large severance package, you may not be eligible to use this tax credit; you can’t claim it if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $65,000 or more ($130,000 or more if married filing jointly).Moving On