should older candidates leave dates of graduation off their resume?

A reader writes:

I’m over 50 and have been laid off due to my company downsizing. Our HR director was kind enough to present a resume- writing session recently. He said that we should leave our year of graduation off our resumes, so as not to date ourselves. I don’t agree because to me it looks like one is hiding something (which you and others have indicated). Also, won’t HR and hiring managers be able to figure things out if we include dates/years of our jobs?

Yeah, the standard advice on this is to leave your graduation year off of your resume if you’re past a certain age. What that age is is open to debate, but generally I see candidates start to leave it off around 40.

It’s so common to do this that it doesn’t at all come across as if you’re hiding something. (In fact, I notice it more when a candidate in that age range leaves it on, simply because it’s much less common.)

Age discrimination concerns aside, it’s also irrelevant information — no one cares what your exact year of graduation was unless it was recent. If you’re freshly out of school, it’s relevant; if you’re not, it’s irrelevant.

You should, however, include the years that you held your jobs. Those are relevant — and not including those would look like you were hiding something. (Why are those relevant when the date of graduation isn’t? Because while I don’t really care when you wrote that paper on The Odyssey, I do want to know if your experience managing that team that achieved X was recent or if it was 30 years ago, and also whether you did it for seven months or four years. And in addition, education tends to be most relevant in the hiring process when you don’t have much else to sell your candidacy. It doesn’t really matter once you have solid work experience.)

One more point related to that:  I’d recommend not including jobs that are older than 15-20 years back. It’s really unlikely that they’re going to be relevant to your candidacy if they’re that far in the past, and it’s always odd to see a resume of a senior-level candidate with a really impressive last 15 years, who also uses space on her resume to talk about lower-level jobs she had two decades or more ago. A resume doesn’t need to be a comprehensive accounting of everything you’ve ever done; it’s a marketing document, and it’s fine to leave off much older jobs that don’t add anything to your candidacy.

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