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Avoid drastic steps to prevent ‘aging’ candidacy

Dear Sam: I have more than 30 years of HR experience with a Fortune 500 company. I retired and moved on to a position with a nonprofit. I was very successful; however, due to a difference of opinion with my employer, I resigned from that position. Since then, over the course of the past two years, I have been trying to get back into nonprofit management without much luck. Since I’m applying for association management positions, should I forget about mentioning my 30 years of HR experience? — Tom

Dear Tom: I’m so sorry to hear of the lack of response you have seen during your search. While this economy is tough, great resumes are still getting great results, so it is encouraging that you are open to feedback to find out how your resume might be contributing to the lack of results you are seeing.

There are a number of strategies you can employ as a seasoned professional to avoid unnecessarily “aging” your candidacy on a resume. One of the main reasons your resume is not generating results is because you have removed all dates of employment. This is a huge “no-no” in resume writing because it is sure to tell a story far worse than reality. Instead, why not build a substantial qualifications summary, then highlight key achievements, allowing you to push most of your employment dates to Page 2 of your resume? The following tips might also help improve the effectiveness of your resume:

• Present only the relevant amount of experience: When reviewing your career, remember that hiring managers are more interested in what you have done recently, so including information from 20 or 30 years ago may do more harm than good. Focus on the last 15 or so years of your career, particularly if you are applying for a position that does not necessitate more experience. As you are seeking a senior-level role, you certainly can bring in earlier experiences, but be careful how far back you date your candidacy. Early experiences can be bylined. In this strategy, you could date experiences from titles you held during the past two decades, while making only a brief mention of earlier positions without dates.

• Consider the combination resume format: As you are a senior executive, it is likely that the hiring manager will be looking for a seasoned candidate with 20-plus years of experience, but because I don’t know when you worked where, or when you held each title (as you have omitted that key data from your resume), you may have to use the combination resume format. If your earlier experience is difficult to break into pieces, as you held one title for a considerable amount of time, then the combination format could help you present highlights of your career before the professional experience section is presented. Therefore, this format allows you the opportunity to focus the reader’s attention on your qualifiers (type of experience) vs. potential disqualifiers (dates of experience).

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email resume or job-search questions to To find out more about Nolan, visit

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