Executives in their late 30’s and 40’s are leaving dates off their LinkedIn profiles and resumes. Should you?

We have noticed a trend…

We are used to playing a guessing game with executives in their 50s and 60s but now, younger executives are leaving their dates of education and sometimes early work experience off their LinkedIn profiles and resumes. We have been stumped when trying to determine the age of a potential client before we meet them on Skype or in person.

Recently, a client came to us for job search consulting services, and his resume had no dates associated with his education. The client shared with us that at 45 years old, he feels too young to be considered for another Fortune 500 CEO role, even though he has been a Fortune 500 CEO for two years. Before we met him, we had assumed he was in his mid to late 50’s or even 60’s and had taken his early work experience off his resume.

Another client shared with us that at 35 years old, she is the oldest executive within her current company – a technology start-up. She felt that she would face age discrimination while seeking her next emerging company opportunity. She had the dates removed from her undergraduate and graduate degree from an Ivy league school.

Both of their concerns are valid.

In many companies, a mid-forties candidate is seen as most desirable for a CEO role, however, the overwhelming majority of Fortune 500 CEOs are over 50 years old.

Technology companies discourage “gray hairs,” even though they value more seasoned leadership experience in certain situations. Your age can be a significant factor when applying for a technology role, particularly when a young founder is present, or the business model is dependent upon deep knowledge of recent technical innovations. While at 35, most of us don’t have a full head of gray hair, age discrimination is relative depending upon the company culture and industry.

And while their concerns are legitimate, we are not fans of leaving graduation dates off your profile or resume. In addition, we typically advise updating your LinkedIn photo every two to three years.

Why is there limited benefit and more risk associated with hiding your age?

1) If you choose to hide your age, you may start your Skype or in-person interview on the wrong foot, as the interviewer may be surprised and confused by your image, or they may even feel deceived.

2) We have found that when age isn’t a factor in their decision, their ultimate decision, even after meeting you is still impacted by your age. In general, we have found that hiding your age generally affords no benefit, unless your situation is extreme.

3) Don’t lie about your age or go to extremes to look older or younger – you will either look strange or be “caught out,” as I was when I wore non-prescription glasses to make myself look older when interviewing in my early thirties. Three weeks into the job, the Chief Legal Officer asked me, “Don’t you wear glasses?”

4) Anyone can find your age on the internet in less than a minute, if they are truly motivated.

Also, 5) recruiters don’t like playing a guessing game when evaluating potential clients. They are very busy people, so if your resume looks like you are hiding something, you will end up in the wrong pile.  Secondly, nearly all recruiters use LinkedIn to recruit, and as we mentioned, recruiters like clarity regarding your professional story. With graduation dates missing, your professional story will not be understood as easily, and you may have gaps.

6) Another reason to avoid hiding your age is your LinkedIn SEO ranking. LinkedIn prefers as full of a profile as possible. Leaving spaces blank, whatever they are, will drop you in search rankings on LinkedIn.

Since there is a shortage of qualified talent, the current business environment has had an impact on traditional biases like age discrimination; they are a less significant factor due to business necessity. Staying current and ensuring you have recent accomplishments and experiences that you can bring to bear are more meaningful to your job search success than hiding than your age, if you continue to contribute in a rapidly changing world and make the business case that your career needs fit their organizational needs.

So here is our general advice regarding education or certification dates on your resume:

  • Whether you are in your 20s, 30s, 40s, or 50s. No one is fooled when you try and hide your age and it can backfire.
  • If you are in your 60s or 70s, or maybe in your 20’s and hold a C-level role, the tradeoff of leaving your graduation dates off your resume due to your concern regarding discrimination may be worth it, but all the downsides of hiding your age still remain.

Try your best not to keep hiring managers or recruiters guessing, it is annoying, and everyone’s time is valuable. Resumes that are not easy to read or scan end up in the circular file.

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