Top tips for writing a CV when you’re over 50

CV writing is the perfect opportunity to sell yourself to prospective employers by highlighting years of professional and life experience. Being slightly older, you will know your professional self pretty well, which should make identifying your strengths much easier. Our guidelines below will help you translate your positive attributes into a CV you’re proud of.

If done successfully, CV writing can give you a huge confidence boost. There’s no time like the present to show future employers why you are the right person for the job.

Before writing

Before writing your CV, you should carefully consider which job role(s) you will be applying for. This will help you decide which skills and experience you should showcase; it’s important to be as selective as possible. Over 50s typically have a wealth of experience, but it’s unnecessary to include lengthy details about work that has no relevance to the role you’re applying for. Your CV should be no longer than two pages long (a real challenge when you have over 30 years experience but no less important); employers are busy and don’t have time to read pages and pages about each candidate.

It’s helpful to read the job specification for roles you are interested in so you can identify which skills and experience match yours and ensure you highlight these in your CV. It’s quite normal to have two, or even three versions of your CV – tailored to the different types of jobs you are applying for. This enables you to highlight the strengths you have, that are most applicable to any specific job. This can be particularly helpful when you’re going for a career change, as you will have many transferable skills that could make you a valuable asset for the right company.

Include a personal statement

Start your CV with a personal statement or summary about you, the professional. This snippet will give employers a brief idea about your professional background, your career aspirations and your skills. It’s important to get this right as it’s often the first thing an employer reads, and can be the only thing! Keep this short and sweet – it should be no more than two or three sentences long. If you’re not currently employed, give a brief outline of your skills, professional background and ambitions.

Prioritise

Future employers are going to want information about your work history, starting with your current or most recent role. Include the job title, company, and a brief outline of the role – then continue listing other relevant work in chronological order. You will need to account for all of the time you have spent working, and also the time that you haven’t so an employer can build up an overall picture – but often you can group up a large number of jobs and roles you did in your 20s and 30s to save space, unless they are particularly relevant to the job you want.

When giving a brief description of each job role, keep it concise by using lots of relevant keywords/buzzwords e.g ‘accountable’, ‘driven’, ‘tactical’. This way, if an employer is searching online for someone with your skill set, they have a better chance of finding your CV. Rather than listing everything you did at a company, often it can help to think about two or three things that defined your time there – focusing on how you helped the company be successful.

Education and qualifications become less important once you’ve gained years of professional experience, and these can be placed in a separate section after your work experience). You should also include a section about your skills, hobbies and interests to showcase you as a human! Be as specific as possible and include things that will make you stand out from the crowd. This stuff really matters. If you’ve played an active role in organising a local community club or charity you might be amazed at how many transferable business skills you can demonstrate from these areas of your life.

Things to Remember

Stand out from the crowd

Employers receive hundreds of CVs and many use the same cliches, such as ‘I work hard’, ‘I work independently’ and ‘I’m proactive’. Generally speaking, most employees will say they have these qualities – it’s your unique qualities, examples and experience that will set you apart. Avoid cliches; instead tell employers what you have done that others may not. Mention specific achievements in past roles and give clear examples.

Keep it clear and professional

Your CV needs to grab future employers’ attention and huge blocks of text will be off-putting, so try using bullet points and sub-headings to make sections clear and concise. Employers will be sifting through hundreds of CVs, so the easier it is to read yours at a glance, the better.

Keep your CV classy and professional by sticking to one colour; black. Colours on screen displays and printers vary, so by using other colours in your CV, you risk making it difficult for prospective employers to read. Also avoid using backgrounds, borders or fancy fonts because this is unprofessional and distracting.

Highlight technology skills

When CV writing over 50, you should aim to reassure employers that you can work with technology, and understand its value. You should name specific software you’ve used, explain what you’ve used it for, and highlight recent or future training to show you’re a keen learner. Technology is constantly evolving and things become outdated quickly, so do your research to ensure that the skills and software you list on your CV are still relevant in modern technology.

If you don’t have LinkedIn, now is the time to set up your profile. It’s likely that an employer will search for your LinkedIn profile once they’ve received your CV, to judge the quality of your online presence in the professional world. You should include a link to your LinkedIn profile on your CV, to show employers that you are up to date with current technology trends. But, make sure that the information on your LinkedIn profile matches that on your CV.

Use the right tone of voice

Your CV should radiate confidence and energy. Use of action verbs e.g. ‘achieved’, ‘participated’, ‘accomplished’, emphasize productivity and bring your CV to life. When talking about yourself, also use first person pronoun ‘I’ to connect with future employers on a personal level.
You don’t need to include your date of birth, or dates relating to professional experience

Age is nothing but a number and when it comes to your CV, this couldn’t be more true. There is no reason to include any information that gives away your age. Give employers the chance to judge you on your skills, knowledge and experience – not on the year you were born.

Photos are unnecessary

Unless you’re applying for a modelling or acting job, what you look like is irrelevant. Photos take up valuable space and give employers additional information about you e.g. age and ethnicity, that should not be taken into account when judging the suitability of individuals.

Use a professional email address

Employers will take you more seriously if you have a suitably worded email address to put on your CV e.g. [email protected]. You should also avoid using an email address that gives away your age if you want to be judged on your skills and experience alone.

Proofread (and again, and again)

A well written CV is one that is grammatically sound. Bad grammar and spelling mistakes suggest a lack of caring or poor attention to detail, which will discourage employers from inviting you to an interview. Read your CV at least 3 times to check for errors. If you’re still unsure, you can give it to a friend or family member to proofread with a fresh pair of eyes.

Consider using a free CV building website

If you’re short on time and looking for a fast-track route to creating a CV, there a number of websites that build CVs for you based on the information you give them. Your information will be inputted into a design template of your choosing. You could try out services like My Perfect CV, Live Career and CV Genius.

Writing a CV is a great opportunity for personal reflection and a chance to celebrate your successes. It could be years since the last time you updated yours, and you might surprise yourself with how much you’ve accomplished since then. If you’re over 50, you’ll have experience on your side, so it’s important to show employers just how much they can benefit from your skills. A new job is an exciting new chapter in your life and by following these top tips, you can increase your chances of getting hired.

And remember…

Writing a CV is a great opportunity for personal reflection and a chance to celebrate your successes. It could be years since the last time you updated yours, and you might surprise yourself with how much you’ve accomplished since then. If you’re over 50, you’ll have experience on your side, so it’s important to show employers just how much they can benefit from your skills. A new job is an exciting new chapter in your life and by following these top tips, you can increase your chances of getting hired.

Did you find this page helpful? Email us at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you!

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8 thoughts on “Top tips for writing a CV when you’re over 50

  1. Avatar
    Paula on Reply

    Although there is a lot of very useful information here regarding CV writing for seniors, I think actually showing people HOW to do this, (ie excellent examples of your suggestions), rather than just telling them, would really improve the quality of your advice.
    What would be really helpful would be to see several example CVs of your suggestions(in practice!), which readers could then model/adapt to meet their needs.

  2. Avatar
    Julie on Reply

    I agree with Paula, the information provided is useful and informative but readily available.
    Practical examples would be very useful, also providing “action” words
    to use is great but putting them into context would be a prompt candidates need t on how to summarise their own skillset.
    Having to think about producing several CV alternatives also could be daunting so as much as you can see is always both practical and helpful… and something you can refer back to as a reminder .

  3. Avatar
    yvonne Slocombe on Reply

    I agree with the previous comments. After 18 years of working in Africa, I feel like an Alien apply for jobs in the U. K. A ‘how to’ advice video and general examples of good quality applications would really help.

    1. Avatar
      Helen on Reply

      Yvonne, Julie and Paula – thank you all for your feedback on how we might improve this article by adding examples or videos. We have been discussing how best to do that, so your comments are very helpful.

  4. Avatar
    Sally on Reply

    All very accurate and useful. I made the mistake of overselling myself in my cv and interviews when moving from London to rural Scotland. The language from my cv and general confidence seemed to put prospective employers off, and they didn’t want to employ someone that might have aspirations for their manager role. I did not, and wish I had made that clearer, as you suggest.

  5. Avatar
    Frances B on Reply

    Interesting information provided by all the above. These have all been in my thoughts. I am in the same position as Yvonne As I’ve also worked in Africa and feel like an Alien. I am glad that I am not alone. Having worked at management/executive level, I feel that I have been there, done that. I’m trying to get back into the workplace but At middle management. I would be interested in some ideas on how to achieve this. I know we are in unprecedented times so it may take sometime.

  6. Avatar
    Abi on Reply

    I lack the confidence because English is a second language and for me though my CV looks great with all the relevant experiences , the issue is expressing myself and using the right phrases.

  7. Avatar
    Delsey on Reply

    Totally agree with all of you, employer/web sites often ask what are your aspirations for the role you are applying

    If you show previous experience, they all ask these details, then you say management skills (example) this can totally go against you, as they see this as a threat to some
    Say/show eg: Retail, then it looks: what have you been doing

    If you have worked all your life, all would like is a job

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