Changing careers, older worker asks

Should I leave the dates off my resume?

Dear Elcee:

      I went back to school in my mid-forties,am now graduated,and pursuing a new career.I have been getting lots of help with my job search but I am getting so confused. Needless to say, before I went back to school I had a spotty work background. I worked a lot of temp jobs and had some gaps here and there. On top of that, I am of a “certain” age. I have been having people tell me to either leave out the dates on my resume or to “lie” to fill in the gaps. I am not totally comfortable with this but I really want to work. What should I do?

                                                                            - Lisa


Hi Lisa:

      Congrats on going back to school! That takes a whole lot of work and determination. You just need a little bit more now to get through the job search. 

      The predicament you find yourself in is a common one. I see many resumes where a well meaning counsellor has said “Oh, here’s how we can trick the HR people. Just leave the dates off your resume and they won’t know how old you are!”

       Well, as someone who used to work on the “other side” as a recruiter, I can tell you that those tricks don’t work. When a resume came across my desk sans dates I would assume that the person either a) didn’t proofread his/her resume (which means they don’t have an eye for detail} or, b) are trying to hide something. Not a quality I want in someone on my team! Unless there was something compelling, I rarely contacted that person.

       There is another effect of spinning the truth on your resume. Should you get the interview, you then have to own up! If you are trying to hide your age, chances are, unless you have a great beauty regimen (and if you do I want to know about it), they may know your real age sooner or later. If a person doesn’t want to hire an older person, they won’t. Bottom line? Better to put the correct dates on your resume. 

        Consider this. Fifty percent of the population of Canada is over 40. Our concept of age is changing. Odds are, the person interviewing you may be older than you.

        Your next area of concern is about gaps on your resume. Here is another opportunity to tell the truth. Gaps are not the same concern they were 20 years or more ago. Many people these days work on a horizontal job line (back and forth) rather than vertically (working your way up the job ladder).

        More people are working temp now than ever before. Your cabbie can be picking you up at an airport one day and writing software the next. The person pouring your coffee at Tims could be working evenings doing accounting. Those gaps on your resume could have been used for travel, taking care of your children or your in-laws, or for medical reasons.  

        Good luck, Lisa. I will leave you with this final thought: When in doubt, remember that honesty in job searching, as in life, is always the best policy.

Toronto, Canada