Saturday, 28 September 2019

Writing a CV that Avoids Age Discrimination!

Being dismissed as "overqualified" is effectively age discrimination in any job market. But do we invite this with outdated presentation of our CVs?

I read an article recently by a blogger who found that aged 45 she was deemed "too qualified" by hiring managers. Her field of expertise was, ironically, human resources and she wanted to return to her career after a few years away.

She talked about how that discrimination distressed not only her but her family too; resolving the situation by starting a new business that promotes relaxation through painting therapy.

My own C.V. as a car crash

What she said got me thinking. My own work history is a bit of a car crash in terms of several fancy job titles - journalist, legal adviser, photographer, publicity coordinator, multimedia producer, et al - not holding together in any traditional form of CV narrative.

Of those careers I just listed, most have disappeared with the advent of digital. At least one other no longer exists thanks to changes in societal values.

But despite these great jobs of yesteryear now being considered archaic, I'd probably be judged "too qualified" for some of the opportunities open to me today.

For example, if I simply wanted to work in a shop then I'd highlight my experience as a legal adviser when filling out an application or devising a CV. I'd emphasise transferable skills such as dealing with the public, putting people at ease and finding solutions to their needs.

Mentioning how I'd moved away from city life in order to review my life's ambitions and seek simplicity living as part of a coastal community would also help dispel worries about being "too qualified".

But what I wouldn't mention is how my old job included me being in charge of supervising legal advisers, carrying out highly complex casework and training newly qualified lawyers. (I hope it's obvious why I'd keep schtum about that.)

How to avoid presenting an old-fashioned CV

If you haven't applied for a job in a while be aware that CV formatting has changed. Indeed, being out of touch will likely mean your application gets ignored or binned by potential employers who consider you a relic of the past.

What do I mean by this? Those of us who grew up in an analogue, pre-digital world sometimes give ourselves away without even realising.

I therefore present six further ways to avoid age discrimination when writing your CV:

  • Legally, there should be no need to supply your date of birth on a CV or in most job applications - so don't do it! Also, avoid terms like talking about "polytechnic" (few if any exist these days) or "O Levels" (school qualifications long ago superseded). Just mention the institutions' names, subject titles and grades you achieved.
  • Don't include a photograph. That will merely open you up to age discrimination in the recruiter's imagination.
  • Don't give out names and addresses for referees unless specifically asked. These are usually sought after interview stage. Putting "references available on request" makes more sense.
  • If you are particularly popular on social media - LinkedIn being the obvious example - then hyperlinking your page in the text of your CV might be worth considering if helpful to your application. Just make sure you have posted nothing that might in any way compromise you.
  • Leave out your home address. No one cares where you live and it'll be assumed that you're prepared to commute or even relocate for the job. Give your city or town, mobile number and email address instead. (Leaving off full home address applies as much to freelancers' business cards as it does to CVs.)
  • Ditch job history going back more than 15 years. Such experience is probably out of date anyway in today's job market. (I brought this up in a previous article on this blog.)


Once your CV takes you to the next stage, an interview either on Skype or in person becomes unavoidable. You will be seen and judged, at least to some degree, on your physical appearance.

But before reaching for the ginger toupée and invisible wrinkle cream, read over your CV one more time:

Believe in your heart that the vitality you poured into your CV - that document which propelled you through to the next stage - can stay with you as a force for success.

And if the company doesn't like the way you look, then they would have been a nightmare to work for anyway.

Attitude and ability are ultimately more valuable than physical age and appearance. (Anything else is probably a variation on outright prostitution.)


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