Can you have too much experience on your resume?

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You've been in your field a long, long time. You're still on top of your game, but trends show a shift to a younger crowd. You've been applying to jobs. You know you can keep up with, if not surpass your younger counterparts in both time worked and skill, but getting that first foot in the door seems to have become an issue, and you can't figure out why. Well, you may not realize it, but the amount of experience you have on your résumé may actually be hurting instead of helping your employment chances. Instead of showing your entire work history, you need to get crafty and adjust that résumé to a perfect blend of truth and obfuscation.

Remove your older jobs

First things first, never put your age or date of birth on your résumé. In fact, do not put any personal information on that document beyond your contact information. If you put too much detail about yourself on that piece of paper, and it falls into the wrong hands, you could find yourself in a world of problems (can you say “identity theft?”).

Now that we have that crucial warning out of the way, let's dive into age and experience. Even without your age or date of birth on your résumé, let's just say you've listed this experience:

CompanyX -- Database designer/engineer 1972-1981

Let's make a couple of assumptions. First, you likely held this position right out of school, so you were probably around the age of nineteen. Seeing as how 1972 was (at the time of this writing) 42 years ago, that would put you at 61 years old. You're applying for a job in a stressful, fast-paced environment. Most hiring managers are going to immediately drop that résumé into the stack labeled “No way!” That's a shame, because you have the skills, and you're ready and eager to work.

If you have plenty of experience, you'll need to trim some of that fat anyway. Even if your first three gigs were your most impressive, you'll want to drop them from the list if they can even remotely date you beyond your 50s. I know that sounds harsh, but it's a reality. The ugly truths in the world of tech are:

  • With experience comes higher salary
  • Young employees are far cheaper to hire
  • Higher salaries are not attractive
  • The tech industry can be incredibly stressful, especially in IT

The list can go on and on.

Emphasize projects

Another issue many tech firms will look at is risk. Not the type of risk you're thinking, but whether or not a prospective employee is willing to take risks. In general, the more seasoned tech pro is going to be risk averse. Over the years, the elder statesmen have realized with great risk might come great reward, but it also offers the possibility of great disaster. The fresh-out-of-school prospect isn't afraid of risk and will happily charge head first into a project. That risk could pay off in ways no one expected. This cavalier attitude is often appealing to companies needing an edge over their competition.

Where does that leave the tech pro who is reaching 50 years old? It means you need to be able to appeal to that need for risk on your résumé. What projects have you led, in a non-standard method, that brought success to a department? Those should be on your résumé.

Show your best attributes

Ultimately, what's most important is to represent yourself in the most positive way, without pointing out that you may be a bit gray in the hair or long in the tooth. Once you get into the interview, you can then show them, face to face, that although you may be a bit more senior in age to the other candidates, you are far from your twilight years.

In the end, you want to offer up a resume that could lead a hiring manager to believe they are about to interview someone in their 30s (because 20s would probably be pushing it) who is seasoned enough to know the subtleties and crucial needs of the hiring tech firm.

Even with outstanding credentials, getting hired can be a nightmare. You need every advantage you can get. Does this mean you should lie on your resume? Not at all. It means, in the face of a tech world trending more and more toward new graduates, you need to present yourself in such a way that your résumé won't immediately get dropped into the recycling bin.

This doesn't, of course, mean that anyone over the age of 50 should toss in their hat. I know plenty of people working in tech who are over 50 years old. You do, however, need to exercise a bit of creativity on that résumé to make yourself appear like the great “universal” employee -- ageless, timeless and tireless.

Ready to test your skills in Resume Writing? See how they stack up with this assessment from Smarterer. Start this Resume Writing test now.

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Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award winning writer of technical content and fiction. He has been covering Linux and open source since the late '90s and just about every conceivable topic since. His fiction breaks ground in the post apocalyptic genre as well as horror, thriller, and science fiction. For more information on Jack, check out his site, Get Jack'd at