Resume Tips for Retirees

A retiree in a job interview

For those looking to reenter the workforce after some time in retirement, putting together a resume can sometimes seem daunting. How much experience do you show? How do you make your resume shine in a 20-something recruiter’s eyes when your work history is longer than their life history? What do you even say to explain why you want to return to work? 

These resume tips for retirees from employment experts will help you attract a recruiter’s attention and put your valuable experience front and center.

Address Your Employment Gap 

One concern seasoned workers have, especially when they haven’t worked for a while, is how to explain the employment gap. Sam Beiler, CEO, and co-founder of the recruiting platform Boostpoint, advises honesty.

“Transparency is key when talking about the unemployment gap,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to share your personal situation and reason for rejoining the workplace.”

You can also draw on experiences and learning that happened while you were away from work. Did you do volunteer work or something which led you to discover a new passion or interest? Perhaps your experiences during the gap made you realize you wanted to pursue a second career. A gap in employment doesn’t mean nothing was happening in your life. Those experiences are often as rich and useful to an employer as workplace experience. Share them.

Articulate Your “Why”

How do you explain why you want a particular job, especially when the position might be of a lower level or entirely different from what you had before? Beiler says to “explain your reasons for wanting to rejoin the workplace and connect them to a bigger purpose. For example, you’ve seen a need in a specific industry and want to make a difference.” 

If you’re looking for a job that is at a lower level, Dawn D. Boyer, Ph.D., CEO of resume writing company D. Boyer Consulting, advises you recognize the difference in responsibilities upfront. Focus instead on highlighting how “this different type of job will provide an interesting challenge.”  

Beiler says that when explaining your interest goes deeper than benefits and compensation. You want to concentrate on how this role connects with your personal purpose or mission.

What to Write in Your Cover Letter 

Cover letters are a place to add in a little personality. Don’t just regurgitate your resume. “As an employer myself,” Beiler says, “things that always stick out to me in cover letters are ones that are written in short story form instead of just a list of things you have experience with.”  

Be a little creative. Tell a story of how you solved problems or resolved issues, Boyer says. Say something that shows your industry knowledge, if that’s appropriate, and talk about your legacy skills. “This should be the middle paragraph in a three-paragraph, one-page cover letter. Keep the content tight [and] don’t be too verbose.” 

What to Emphasize in Your Resume 

This part should be easy. “One thing your resume will have over most,” says Beiler, “is deep experience. Lean into your strengths. Use this to your advantage as you tell your story.” 

Technical skills are important, too. Even a cashier needs to know how to use a digital register. “Older workers are stereotyped as afraid of or against any technical training,” Boyer says. “It is vital to keep on learning software, hardware, apps, and web-based programs — particularly those especially used in the trade industry.” Show what you know or what you’re training on in a skills section in your resume. 

Tips for Writing an Effective Resume 

To write an effective resume, you need to understand that submission will first be reviewed by an applicant tracking system. Even some of the smallest companies use applicant tracking systems that scan resumes for keywords and phrases. Be cognizant of that when writing your resume.  

Where do you find those special words and phrases? Right in the job posting. “The key to standing out among the competition,” says Matthew Warzel, president of the resume-writing firm MJW Careers LLC, is to have optimized keywords, quantifiable content, and a format or layout that adheres to ATS mandates.” And make sure the layout is logical. It should look like: 

  • Contact information with no physical address. Just name, email, phone, city, state. 
  • Summary section that emphasizes key skills, buzzwords, key contributions. Three to five sentences in one paragraph that captures the best of what you have to offer. (Your elevator pitch). 
  • Accomplishments section where you briefly mention specific accomplishments, e.g., increased sales by 20% in 10 months using XYZ method. 
  • Key skills section that lists your technical aptitude. 
  • Experience section where you can emphasize transferrable skills.  
  • Previous work history section where you can list jobs prior to 2010. Just list the job title, company, and location. No dates.  
  • Education with no graduation date, only degrees or certifications earned, city, and state. 
  • Professional certifications section, again, no dates. Just certifying body and certificate earned. 
  • Professional affiliations. 
  • Volunteerism section. This not only shows your community spirit, which is important in today’s recruiting world but also gives you a place to show other transferrable skills learned. 

Overall, your cover letter and resume should be in a professional but conversational tone. “And don’t underestimate the value you can provide to a company,” Beiler says. “Be confident, yet humble.” Your life experience and work experience offer much to a company, no matter how long the gap in your resume.  

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