CVs / résumés for over 40s: an age old problem?

Job searching for the over 40s continues to be a challenge – what to include, how much history and what education should be on the CV?  The answers are not always clear-cut. Here, careers expert Lynn Tulip, Chartered MCIPD MICG PgDip Guidance & Assessment, shares her advice on how best to present yourself if you’re looking for a new job and you’re the “wrong” side of 40…

CV writing is very personal, and professionals’ opinions do differ – so at the end of the day, you must make your own decision about what you want to include and what you can effectively leave off. However, the key thing to remember with any CV you present in response to an application, is that it matches the skills, experience and knowledge requirements.

First of all…

Make the first third of the CV attention grabbing. By this I do not mean you should include photographs, write in a fancy font or in colour! What the reader wants to see is who you are, what skills you have and what you can offer.

Use a readable contemporary font [e.g. Verdana, Tahoma] and use bold and different sizes to create appropriate emphasis as well as visual variety. Position the headline centrally – Your Name followed by Your Contact Details and finally Your e-mail address.

The power positioning statement

The next paragraph below your details should be a powerful positioning statement that relates directly to the role you are applying for. Don’t be afraid to mirror language used in the advertisement, job description/person specification or indeed company information.  All this shows the reader is that there is synergy between you and their company and that you have read and researched about the role, company culture and your application is serious.

The final bit in this third of the page needs to have the first summary of the skills, strengths and competence that you bring.

What’s next?

Now you have another one and two-thirds of blank white paper to fill.  Hmm, that’s perhaps 20 years of work experience. There’s plenty of time to play with hobbies and interests and loads of training, education and CPD courses that could be included. So what’s essential?

Of course you need to show that you have worked consistently over the last number of years – whether it is with one company and there’s evidence of career progression, changing positions as you go up the career ladder – or even just moving from job to job as happens.  A strong work ethic is good.  What’s not necessary is documenting every responsibility from every post.

Good ideas

Use bullet points to highlight your achievements relevant to the core competencies required before you list your career history. Also include relevant qualifications or accreditations at this point.

Career history: list your dates on the right hand side of the page and job title, company on the left.  Include accomplishment statements relevant to the job only. Do not list responsibilities or anything that is extraneous, to pad out the list. Consider what title sections you want to include. Profiles, Key Strengths, Achievements, Career History are ideal.

With good use of language and powerful vocabulary you might not need to include education, training, hobbies etc as part of your CV.

Professional Development might be a good section to include where you could list the most appropriate qualifications and accreditations only. If your last formal training was school or college – omit it completely.  If you have mentioned something earlier in the CV do not repeat yourself and list it again.

Personal information can be relevant and important; for example if you are required to drive or own a car or if you have the right to work in the UK.  It is not necessary to add other personal details, nor is it essential to add hobbies unless they are relevant to the role or indicate a status and competence not included in the work history statements.


List your competencies and strengths that are essential to the job requirements as a summary at the end of the CV.  For example:

Competence summary:

  • Effective creative problem solving with robust influencing and negotiating skills
  • Excellent presentation skills / first class customer facing skills
  • First-rate inter-personal and communication skills, ability to liase with people at all levels
  • Articulate and methodical with ability to work well as part of a team and individually
  • Highly motivated, enthusiastic, confident
  • Resilient, flexible and willing to travel; adaptable to a changing environment
  • Confident with the drive to succeed and create ‘solutions’
  • Strong ICT skills including MS Office suite

So, my top tips are:

  1. Attention grabbing headlines and consistent format
  2. Only include relevant information
  3. Avoid repetition
  4. Reinforce significant and matching experience and skills

Lynn Tulip is a career management and HR professional running her own HR consultancy. For her sins, she was also this year’s Festival Director in her home town of Lindfield, West Sussex, in southern England. Find her online or follow her @LynnTulip and @A4P_HR And for a complimentary CV Review e-mail her direct –

Essential tips for your CV, whatever your age:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English




  1. The ‘wrong side of 40’, did you say? Great article except for a possible disagreement about this!

  2. Thanks Lisa, on Lynn’s behalf!

  3. Apologies about the …. ‘Wrong side’….


  1. […] of course more on that in our series “The Write Way To Get A Job” – especially this article by our very own Lynn […]