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How to Sell Your Best Skills on a Long Resume

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I'm almost 60 and don't want my current position to be my last. My resume, though, has gotten too long. How do I best leverage and condense my skills obtained in my early years?

A: This is an interesting dilemma that happens more and more as Americans are working longer. You certainly want to showcase your background, skills, and experiences to your best ability on your resume, but you don't want to overwhelm the reader with multiple pages. Resumes, even if you've been working for 30 or more years, should not be longer than two pages typed in at least 11-point font.

One tip is to only go into detail on the past 15 to 20 years of work experience. But don't leave out what you did more than 20 years ago—especially if you worked for a highly visible organization that might catch a prospective employer's eye.

Start by listing your most recent experience and work back from there, listing details for 15 to 20 years. Then, add a paragraph that says something like, "Additional experience gained from working for [names of previous organizations]." Don't include dates or job duties. You've let them know you have more experience than what you've detailed on the resume, but you're also not overwhelming them with information that may not be relevant to your marketability today.

Don't make the hiring manager or recruiter work hard to determine whether you have the skills they're looking for.

In the detail portion of your resume, use bullet points that show accomplishments, not just job duties. Start the bullets with action verbs, avoid phrases like "responsible for" or "duties included," and whenever possible, quantify an accomplishment. Recruiters and hiring managers love to see measurable achievements like "increased membership by 5 percent in a difficult economy" or "saved the association $2 million over three years by using technology resources more efficiently."

Recruiters say that the top third of your resume is the most important, so include keywords from the job posting in your skills summary to highlight your proficiencies and make your resume stand out. Don't make the hiring manager or recruiter work hard to determine whether you have the skills they're looking for. The average recruiter spends only seven seconds on a resume!

Don't forget your LinkedIn profile when you're redoing your resume. Both your online and print resumes should contain much of the same information, and your online profile picture should be professional.

With your many years of experience, you have a lot to offer. Take time to revamp your resume so that your outstanding skills and experiences are appealing to a hiring manager. I wish you continued success!

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]

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