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Preparing Your Résumé and Cover Letter

Regardless of your occupation, work history, or objective, you need a résumé in order to get a job.

The handwritten application, in which you had to squeeze the required information into very small boxes, is largely out of use. Applying for a job today means submitting an electronic résumé via the Internet or completing an application form via a company’s Web site or at a kiosk in the employer’s offices.

A résumé is mandatory if part of your job-search plan is to place your application on file at an employer’s career site or a job-posting board. Think of your résumé as a personal advertisement and request for an interview.

General Portrayal of Age

Write your résumé to reflect a strongly positive and proud portrayal of your depth of capabilities and talents. Make no attempt to mislead or misinform the reader about your age. Most résumés require no more than 10 to 20 years of recent and relevant work history. Include earlier positions if they show qualifications for the position of interest. Generally avoid or minimize use of the word, "experience." Instead, emphasize  capabilities, qualifications, and achievements—not previous titles, duties, and length of service.

General Format and Appearance

Résumés should not exceed two pages for most occupations, though educators and some professionals may require longer curricula vitae. Prepare your résumé in a standard word-processing application, such as Microsoft Word, using a traditional, easily read font, such as Arial or Times New Roman. Keep the text in a uniform font size of 10 or 11. Your name, section headings, and employers’ names can be in a bold and in a somewhat larger font, perhaps 12 or 13. Avoid multiple fonts and excessive bolding, italics, and underlining.

The preferred résumé style for age-50+ workers combines a functional, qualification-based format and a traditional, chronological work history.


It is common for employers to scan résumés electronically to locate "keywords" that are specific to the job in question. While a single, standard résumé is better than none, you should be prepared to revise yours to the specific job of interest. Insert keywords taken from the employer’s job ad or position description, including job titles, qualifications, knowledge, and skills.


Choose language and words that convey activity, energy, and achievement. This is critical for age-50+ job seekers. Active verbs and a clear depiction of contributions and achievements will bring vitality and strength to your résumé. Use contemporary expressions and technical wording, particularly language related to computer skills and knowledge.

OK, let’s construct a résumé…

Heading and Contact Information

Place your full name at the top center of the first page in a somewhat larger, bold font. Contact information should include your residential address (city and state at a minimum); preferred phone number (a mobile phone is strongly advised, so that you can respond immediately to inquiries); and an e-mail address (select an e-mail address that sounds businesslike—your full name or a variation on it would be best). If your résumé has multiple pages, put your name and the page number at the top of each page.

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