Fairygodboss

Welcome to Office Hours. We're so glad you dropped by. This new column is an initiative of The Fine Line and Fairygodboss created to address the career questions of women 40 and older. The Fine Line is a lifestyle publication that provides cutting-edge guidance and practical resources for women who are redefining what it means to grow older.

Each month, a Fairygodboss expert will answer a question from one of our readers. If you have a question about finding a job, starting a new career, or an issue in the workplace, please write us at [email protected].

Q: When the only way to apply for a job is to send my resume through a website, how can I stand out from the hundreds of other applicants — especially since I am over 40?

A: You find a job for which you’re a perfect fit: Your experience is applicable, your attitude is positive, and you’re certain no one else has as many years under their belt as you do. So you upload your resume and click submit. It’s off to the abyss of the internet, and you’re not even sure anyone is going to see it, let alone consider it given your age.

Applying for jobs by sending your resume through a website (as opposed to emailing or mailing it directly to a human) can be disconcerting. Websites get hundreds of applications, and it’s impossible to know if anyone will lay eyeballs on them or if they’ll just end up in a cyberspace pileup. Your concern is valid, because the truth is that the resumes that are most read are the ones that are handed directly to a hiring manager — the recommended resumes. But even if you don’t have a connection at the company where you’re applying, you can still make your resume stand out, regardless of how old you are.

It’s important that you make sure your resume is tailored to the job for which you’re applying. Because you’ve been in the working world for 20 or more years, you likely have worked a few jobs and may have even spanned industries. This means that you may have multiple resumes per field, so make sure that you use the appropriate one.

Then make sure that your resume is only one page and that it’s neat and readable (read: bullets, numbers, consistency). If you need more space, make your periods smaller and extend your margins. You can ditch the cliché objective and even drop the obvious soft skills (though be sure to keep any specific skills, volunteer experience, projects, and skills you can’t afford to leave off). Then, if you still need more space, you’re probably including too much. Focus only on the last 10 years — your most relevant and recent work, organized by month and year.

Use wording that mirrors the language used in the job description, but tell your own narrative. And be sure to use action verbs and keep a consistently confident tone. You want your resume to read professionally but easily.

Once you have a polished and relevant resume, ask people you know to pass it on. Chances are that you know someone who knows someone in your industry, so apply online and then let anyone and everyone know that you have, so hiring managers can be sure to look out for your name once they know you’ve submitted an application. LinkedIn is great for networking — always keep yours up to date. 

If you need more help with your resume, check out 50 Resume Tips to Make Yours Pop. If you missed The Fine Line's profile on Fairygodboss co-founder Romy Newman, read it here.