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Over 50 and need to update — or write — your CV? From what a CV is, to what not to inlcude on a CV, here's the ultiamte guide on how to write a CV.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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:
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.