It’s Not How Old You Are, It’s How Good You’ve Become

By Barry Maher

Dear Barry,

A simple question: How do I give my work history in my resume without revealing my age?


A Former CFO


The simple answer? You don’t. And  you probably don’t want to. Even if you manage to successfully disguise your age on the resume and get an interview, the slowest, least observant interviewer on the planet will be able to figure out your age long before the interview is over.

My advice?

If there’s even a chance your age might be a problem, ALWAYS assume it is. Address the issue in your cover letter or cover email. No need to refer to your age directly, just stress the positives: your energy; how you keep current; the value of your experience; etc.

Then in the interview, confront the issue head on, bringing it up yourself and disposing of it. If you’ve picked up on age-related euphemisms, couch your response in terms of those euphemisms.

For example, “We really need someone who’s vigorous and energetic.”

“You know, I pride myself on my vigor and energy. If you talk to anyone where I work now, they’ll tell you that I out hustle anyone there. The younger guys in particular can’t keep up with me because, not only don’t they have my energy, they haven’t yet learned to work smart.”

Or,  “We need someone who understands the latest trends.”

“I pride myself on always being on the cutting edge of all the latest trends. And the wide-ranging experience I have in the industry allows me to apply the very latest practices in the most effective ways, to put them in the appropriate perspective.”

You need to deal with the negative perceptions of age and to stress the positives you’ve picked up because of experience. Ideally, you should show that age and experiences make you stronger, even in those very qualities the employer associates with youth. You never do it defensively; you always do it positively, if at all possible raising the issue yourself rather than letting it lie there as an unspoken problem.

Don’t hide your age, brag about it. Remember how Ronald Reagan’s handlers had him deal with his advancing age in the 1984 election. In the first president debate, many observers had judged him as looking tired, even confused. Predictably, inevitably, during the second debate he was asked about his age. In a carefully thought out, scripted response, Reagan simply said,  “I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

And the issue virtually disappeared.

Will this kind of strategy always work? Absolutely not. But, in my experience, it’s far more likely to work than trying to hide your age and hoping no one notices you aren’t 35 anymore.

© Copyright 2014, Barry Maher, Barry Maher & Associates, Las Vegas, Nevada

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