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How to Write a CV For Today’s Workplace When You're Over 50 

Over 50 and need to update — or write — your CV? From what a CV is, to what not to include on a CV, here's the ultimate guide on how to write a CV.

James Marsh
James Marsh
A published author, as well as a corporate and lifestyle media professional, James works across content, marketing and consultancy.

Creating a new CV can seem like a daunting task if you're over 50, especially if you haven’t written one for a while. There are some specific challenges older workers face when it comes to CVs, including ageism. Understanding how to make your CV the best it can be is crucial to securing your next role.

What is a CV For?

A CV has one main purpose – to get you an interview for a job you are applying for. An interview, that’s it. It is not trying to tell your life story. If your CV gets you to the interview stage, it has succeeded.

So, you should create a different CV for each job application. That doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch every time but it should be edited and tweaked to reflect the role you are aiming for. Fortunately, that is relatively easy to do by using everyday word-processing programs such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs. The first version may take a day or so, but it will get much easier and quicker thereafter.

What is Different About CVs Today?

In some ways, CVs are just the same as when we all applied for our first jobs. A CV is still a resume of someone’s professional life, that lists their employment history, achievements and educational qualifications.

In other ways, the world of CVs has changed. For example, your CV may not even be read by a person to begin with. Many companies use artificial intelligence (AI) programs to scan CVs to complete a first sieve of the applications. Only those which are deemed to have the right key words will get through to the next round, at which point a human will finally take a look. Additionally, if the file format you use is unusual or the design of your CV is complicated, the AI program might reject your CV.

Read on to discover some tips of what to do – and what not to do – when you are over-50 and creating a CV.

How Long Should a CV be for Older Workers?

A CV should be two A4 pages in length and no more. It’s hard to condense three or four decades of a working life into two pages but that’s what you have to do. Start by focusing on your more recent roles (the last 10 to 15 years), as well as the skills and experience that are relevant for the job you are applying for. Note: Do not shrink the font to try to fit everything in! The type size should be between 10 to 12 point.

What is The Best CV Format For Over-50s?

There two basic formats: a chronological CV (the traditional CV) and a skills-based CV (which is much more functional). The chronological CV is more common though which is more suitable for you will depend on the role you are applying for. We have a useful article that looks at these formats, as well as many other aspects of creating a CV, called How to Write a CV.

Keep your CV design simple

Unless you are applying to for a creative role, such as a graphic designer, do not have multiple columns or boxes of information. Similarly, do not use borders or background images. These can all confuse AI reading programmes and they might reorder your information into what “it” thinks is right – turning your CV into an unreadable mess. Instead focus on a clear, professional look that reads from top to bottom – there are many examples online.

Recommended Read: Guide: How to Write a Cover Letter That Stands Out

What Should Be on My CV?

Working out what to include on a CV and coming up with a framework is a great way to keep you on point, here are the things you should consider including when writing your CV.

1. Your Name and Contact Information

Just an email and phone number will do. You don’t need your address. If you feel your location may be important for the role, you can include your town’s name and the first part of your postcode.

2. A Professional Summary or Personal Statement

This is a summary of your professional life, painting a short pen picture of your professional background, your career and your ambitions. This will probably the first thing a recruiter reads. Sometimes, it’s the only thing a recruiter reads! Before you start writing your professional summary, re-read the job description and pick out the key words to do with this role. Make sure you include those key words on your CV. This mirroring of the recruiter’s language helps show you understand what’s needed and will also improve your score if read by an AI program first.

3. Your Work History

This section should only detail relevant roles from the last 10 to 15 years, with start/finish dates of months and years. A short round-up of older roles could be included within an Early Career section to demonstrate your suitability as employee but this needs to be very short and should not include dates.

4. Your Relevant Skills, Qualifications and Achievements

Include your highest educational qualification and any additional vocational qualifications and relevant courses you may have taken. You can also include transferrable skills that are applicable to the new role. Not sure what achievements to include? Read this Life/Redefined article on 8 Achievements to Include in your CV.

Should Older Workers Include Age on Their CV?

According to the Equality Act of 2010, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of age. However, we also know older workers are the victims of ageism. It is the unfortunate reality over-50s face but it’s better not to fight that battle on your CV. (Don’t worry about tackling ageism in the workplace, 55/Redefined — the group company behind Life/Redefined — and its supporters are doing that for you!)

  • Don’t include unnecessary dates: Remember, this is about trying to get you an interview. So, to avoid possible prejudice, do not include your date of birth nor the date you graduated.
  • Avoid giving hints about your age: For example, instead of saying, “I have 26 years of professional experience in…”, use another phrase such as, “I have over ten years’ professional experience in….” The latter wording allows you to refer to your excellent experience and knowledge, while reducing the risk of prejudice. Also, don’t include qualifications that date you, such as O levels – these were stopped in 1986, so give an indication of your age.
  • Check your email address: Some people like to use the year they were born within their email address. For example, suggests this person was born in 1968. If necessary, create a new email account that removes any reference to birthdate.
  • Age-friendly employers: There is a growing number of organisations who have worked with 55/Redefined to ensure they are treating older workers fairly. It certainly makes it easier if you know you won’t receive negative bias due to your age and the employer wants to have a multi-generational team! Search Jobs/Redefined to uncover vacancies with age-inclusive employers.

Things Not to Include on Your CV

While it can be quite the minefield deciding what to include on your CV, there are some definite things you should not include on your CV. They include:

  • References:There is no need to list references nor to put “References on request”. Recruiters will come back to you if they need them.
  • Photographs: Unless you are looking for work as a model or an actor, do not include a photo.
  • Multiple or elaborate fonts: Choose a clear, easily readable font such as Calibri, Cambria or Verdana. These fonts seem more modern than Times New Roman.
  • Marital status: This has no bearing on your professional suitability.
  • Nationality: Do not include nationality unless it has been specified as a requirement for the role.
  • Links to personal social media and websites: Keep it professional, so only include work social medial, such LinkedIn. Also, if you do have a personal website, check there isn’t anything that might adversely influence potential employers. If in doubt, don’t include it. All personal social media handles should also be ignored unless they are specific to the role. Note, recruiters may check your social media profiles; to avoid anything in your personal life affecting your chances, change your social media settings to private.
  • Bright colours: Stick to black and white, it looks professional.
  • Graphic icons: Use bullet points instead.

You have years of work experience and numerous skills – until you start writing your CV, you may have forgotten all the different things that you have done that would be relevant to a new role. You will probably be surprised to realise just how much you have accomplished. You've got this, happy CV writing.

Recommendation: Get a FREE CV review from our partner TopCV.