So many 40+ job seekers complain about age bias. But many 40+ job seekers don’t realize that the way their resume brands them may actually cause or amplify ageism.

I talked about this in last week’s column “Is Your Personal Brand Making Ageism Worse?

This week, let’s discuss solutions to self-inflicted ageism, by examining ways to change your resume to lessen the effects of ageism.

Just like your resume’s personal brand can unknowingly increase ageism, you can also brand yourself to reduce the negative perceptions of age. Your personal brand can give the perception that you’re a superior candidate, technologically current, up to date in your industry, flexible, willing to take direction, and reasonably priced.

Many 40+ candidates wonder why employers make snap decisions about how effective you’ll be at your job because of your age. Employers make snap decisions about many parts of your resume, since they decide whether you’ll get an interview or the discard file in 15 seconds and decide if you’re qualified or not in 4 – 6 seconds.

Think of these recommendations as botox for your resume.

9 ways to change your personal brand to avoid ageism:

  1. Be Great For THAT EXACT JOB: You can’t be great for all jobs, so why write a resume that brands you as awesome for 10 different things? Your audience reads hundreds of resumes each day and they all start to look alike. Your readers search for something that makes you look different than other candidates … if they can’t find anything substantial, they focus on things like age, employment gaps and prior job titles. If you’re the only candidate who has already solved similar problems, they’ll want you. Differentiate yourself in a way your reader can’t ignore and they’ll stop focusing on your age.
  2. Demonstrate Subject Matter Expertise: If you’re over 40, you were taught that being a generalist was desirable by employers, because you could remember how to handle many different problems, Then came our collective memory bank, Google, so knowing a little about many things wasn’t so helpful to employers … because they had Google to remember a little about many things. Today, employers look for deep domain knowledge, so you can provide more value than a Google search. If you demonstrate generalist skills in your resume, you remain buried in the ATS. Today’s hiring managers screen for subject matter expertise first, even for generalist jobs, determining your ability to handle other tasks during the interview.
  3. Dump Years Of Experience: We’re used to years of experience demonstrating wisdom and a deep understanding of the job and industry. In some jobs that’s still important, but less than it used to be – thanks to the giant collective memory of Google. Since Google reduces employer’s dependence on experience, why trumpet years of experience at the top of your resume? While years of experience carry less benefit, it now just screams “I’m old”.
  4. Drop Details Of Early Jobs: I don’t recommend excluding early jobs – they show you weren’t in jail (yes, I’m serious). However, you don’t have to include every last detail of what you did in your first job out of school … because, who really cares? Worse, when you include a lot of details about jobs 10 – 15 years ago (or more), you look like you’re waxing nostalgic about the good old days. This gives the impression that your best days are behind you and you’re all washed up.
  5. Drop references to old technology: Unless you’re looking for a job to support old technology, drop the COBOL and Visicalc references – they don’t tell your audience that you’re technically adept in today’s technology. No one cares that COBOL programming and Visicalc spreadsheets were took more talent, back in the old days. These technologies were probably obsolete before the person reviewing your resume WAS EVEN BORN.
  6. Use Social Media:Want to show that you’re technologically adept with current technology? Then use it. Start a blog, start a Linkedin group and tweet (about something other than what you ate for lunch or that you’ve entered a store or restaurant).
  7. Use current resume formats: Dump objectives and summary statements, demonstrate the value you’ve created for employers, stop describing your day to day activities or job function.
  8. List education last, not first: If you want to show that you understand how today’s hiring manager (your hopeful boss) thinks, demonstrate that you understand it’s more important what you’ve done than where you went to school.
  9. Use Bullets Instead Of Paragraphs: Your readers can’t pick up details in paragraphs during the 15 seconds they take to decide if you get the interview or not. When you use bulletpoints, you show you understand how employers think today … not how they thought 10 or 20 years ago.

You can affect how employers perceive your effectiveness and how they view your age.

If you make it a weakness, then your age will be treated as a weakness. If you make it part of your strength, it will be perceived as a strength.