How Far Back Should My Resume Go
Once you are out in the working world for a while, you’re going to notice that it becomes harder and harder to fit all of your past jobs on your resume.
Eventually you realize that you can’t include every detail of every job you’ve ever held. If you do, your resume will end up being six or seven pages long!
That’s too long. Your resume can be one or two pages long and no more. If it’s an academic or scientific CV, then different rules apply. For a standard resume, two pages is the maximum length.
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Right now you might be thinking “How am I supposed to cram thirty years of work experience into two pages?” There are two key principles that will help you shorten your resume and make it more compelling at the same time:
1. Drop off your oldest and least-relevant jobs, and
2. Climb up to a higher altitude.
If you started working many decades ago, very few people if any are dying to know about those back-in-the-day jobs. They are going to be much more interested in the jobs you’ve held lately.
If you want to say anything about those jobs at all, your job title is plenty. We don’t need to know the details about what you did on the job at ten o’clock in the morning and three in the afternoon.
In general, your most recent jobs are more important in your resume than your long-ago jobs are. If you’re wondering “How far back should my resume go?” the answer is “As far back as the two-page resume-length limit will allow you to go.”
Try it and see!
You Should Emphasize Recent Accomplishments And Not Rest On Your Laurels
Your resume tells your audience that you have a track record in sensing the organizations issues and taking action on them.
Recent accomplishments are much more relevant than those of the distant past. For the distant past, only list promotions or highly-significant accomplishments.
Your goal is advancement in your career. Interestingly, my research shows that strategic thinking is rare and valuable. People who demonstrate competent strategic thinking are more likely to get hired or to be promoted. My book, How to Think Strategically, provides practical information for building your personal brand to highlight your ability to be a competent strategic thinker.
Dont present a boring litany of positions held and responsibilities of that position.
Instead, describe the major accomplishments of your career. Did you close a big sale, win a prize, launch a new product, open a new market?
I find that the best resumes are framed in terms of stories, accomplishments, and benefits.
One of the tools described in my book is the strategic thinking micro skill of storytelling. The STAR acronym is helpful: Situation, Task, Action, Result.
- What was the situation you were in?
- What were you tasked to do?
- What action did you take?
- What was the result?
Director of Operations, MyCorporation.com
Work Out What Is Relevant
Before writing your CV, sit down and analyse the role youre applying for. What skills are they looking for? What keywords do they use? Once youve done that, think about your career and work out which of your previous roles are the most relevant. For example: if your recent experience and current target is in sales and your earlier career relates to administration, theres no need to expand on it. Instead, just list the older experience.
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From A Recruiters Perspective Anything Greater Than 10
If youre starting out your resume or LinkedIn profile with seasoned professional with 20+ years of experience, drop that right away and just talk about what is relevant.
If youre really wanting to list a job that happened more than 15 years ago because its relevant or something youre proud of, list it in a Previous Experience section and leave off any dates.
One of the best things an older candidate can do is to appear younger is to know how to edit their experience. Its no longer seen as a bad thing to leave off a job from the resume.
Its ok to just go back 15 years and to concentrate on the skills that they are asking for in order to get past the first gatekeepers.
Highlight Former Achievements In A New Way
Of course, if you’ve got an impressive accomplishment or title sitting outside that two-decade limit, include it.
“If 30 years ago is the role where you discovered a patent still in use today, you ought to mention that,” says Ceniza-Levine.
You have a few different options for how you chose to work that information in. If a title you’ve held or company you’ve worked for is likely to impress a recruiter, consider a section called “earlier work history” or something similar where you can simply list previous jobs, by noting only the title, company and location, says Amanda Augustine, a career coach with TopResume. Or you could try including it in a “career notes” or “career highlights” section at the bottom of your current work experience by writing something like: “additional experience working for ABC company or serving clients like XYZ,” adds Augustine.
If the role you want to include is one where you did discover a patent or win an impressive industry award, you could also draw attention to this by folding such an achievement into the summary statement, which is typically a short paragraph at the top of your resume that acts as an elevator pitch to readers selling your skills and experience. Or you could include it in a section following your work history that lists awards or accomplishments you’ve earned over the course of your career.
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People Coming Back To Work After A Large Gap
If youve taken a break from your career that makes most or all of your experience fall outside of this 10- to 15-year windowto raise kids, for exampleyou likely have to go back a little further on your resume. This is OK, but you should explain up front why your most recent work experience is so far back. You can do this in a cover letter or in a resume summary at the top of the page.
But you should still keep in mind how relevant your past experience is as you decide what to include and leave off. And if youve done anything in the meantime, whether thats a part-time job or a side hustle or something else to keep you up-to-date in your field, be sure to include that as well.
So whats the takeaway here? Well, at the end of the day, your resume should tell the story of how your related experiences and accomplishments make you a great candidate for your next position not the number of work anniversaries youve celebrated. Because when its all said and done, thats whats going to get you hired.
Realistically The Resume Only Needs To Go Back 10
Most industry experts have subject matter expertise at 10,000 hours or five years and change. So if you have these many years of experience in any specific type of generalized work, then that should be sufficient.
If you are trying to showcase your diversity of background, experience, education, and skill sets, then 10-15 years should be able to showcase and demonstrate what you have achieved and your capabilities for a variety of types of work.
What you do not want to do is showcase or provide dates for any work experience that shows you have been in the field or employed more than 20 years. This could backfire in some recruiters seeing old folks or age bias.
I always advise my resume clients if you want to emphasize more than 20 years of work, then just note 20+ years versus 25, 30, or more.
Matthew Warzel, CPRW
Certified Professional Resume Writer | Certified Internet Recruiter | President, MJW Careers, LLC
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Determine The Relevance For Each Job
Relevance is one of the most important factors when deciding how far back to go on a resume. Your recent experience and achievements are the most valuable details hiring managers look for. Before writing your resume, study the job description to identify the key skills and experiences the employer wants. Include as much of your work history if the information increases your chances of getting the position.
How Far Back Should Your Resume Go
Your resume should go back a maximum of 10 to 15 years in terms of work experience. This keeps your resume highly relevant for employers and recruiters.
What if you really need those years of
experience on your resume? If you really need to show the experience, which is sometimes the case for higher-level management positions, you could include it. We’ll talk about other exceptions to the rule further down in this post.
Your resume’s experience section should always be able to pass the “6-second resume test” when it comes to relevance. Essentially, put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter or hiring manager looking at your resume. Look over the information and determine whether itâs relevant to the job opening and if the hiring manager will be impressed with it.
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How Far Back Should A Resume Go For Work History
Are you someone with or without loads of work experience and you are wondering how far back a resume should go for work history?
The question of how job or work history should be on a resume is dependent on your work experience.
As a college graduate with no work experience, would you rather tell your employer that you have got no work experience? Of course NO!
Brainstorm on some of the projects you completed while in college some of the leadership positions you held your internship, and use that in writing your work experience.
What if you have had decades of work experience, how far back would you want to go on your resume? Well, I have provided a few tips below on how far back to go on your resume:
Filter out irrelevant work experience:
If you have been in the working environment for over a decade, it is quite difficult to put all the details of your 30 years of work experience in a 2-page resume.
The best thing to do is filter out irrelevant work experience, leaving out skills and work experience that are relevant and up to date.
If you are into the field of technology, you would agree with me that the work experience you had thirty years ago if compared to recent years is a little bit irrelevant these days.
This is because time has changed and there are new advancements in the technological world on a daily basis and the best you can do if you are in this field is to move with time.
Give brief descriptions of your relevant work experience:
Generally It All Depends On How Much Work Experience You Have Under Your Belt
If youre looking for a senior position, you need to show you have lots of professional experience thats relevant to the job. Hence, when filling out the experience section on your senior resume, you can go as far back as 15 years.
That said, if you have your eyes set on a mid-level vacancy, a 10-year career history is ideal.
Lastly, if youre an entry-level candidate with little to no professional experience, you may want to list both paid and volunteer work that youve done in the past. If youve done an internship, part-time jobs, or freelancing, that should go on your resume as well.
Senior Recruitment Specialist, Adria Solutions, Ltd.
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Its All About Relevancy
When it comes to placing old work experience on your resume, Aikman says to focus on relevancy. If you did something in high school or college that is more relevant to what you are trying to do than other recent experiences, then Aikman says you absolutely should include it because it adds to your qualifications.
For those with a large gap in their employment, filling out a job application or going to an interview might be nerve-wrecking if youre worried an employer will notice how far back your resume goes. But if you accomplished things in your personal life that you are proud of, you can find ways to showcase those accomplishments on your resume as relevant experience.
For example, if there is a gap in your employment because you had to care for a family member or loved one, you can explain what you learned or accomplished through that experience in a way that showcases the relevant work to the job you are now applying to. Maybe that experience taught you how to manage another persons lifeso you can showcase why youd be a great assistant or general manager.
It just comes down to pulling out the relevant words to describe what you did, says Aikman. It may mean you need to be skilled in how you present the information, because you may not be able to use the language you used before. Think about how you can communicate this experience using language that will resonate with the employer.
I Look Into The Relevance Of Work Experience To The Position That They Are Applying For
In this regard, its acceptable for me to read job experiences as far as 10 years as long as these have something to do with the work that they are applying for.
I also look into those who can manage their personal brands well and how effective it translates into their resume as evidenced by their adaptability to critical situations.
Finally, I look into those who have taken recent training to upskill. This is very important to reflect on how eager they are to pursue lifelong learning. Candidates should highlight these traits and experiences throughout the interview process.
Tom De Spiegelaere
Founder, Tom Spicky
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How Much Work History Should You Include On Your Resume
Anything can go on a resume. It’s about relevance. When you create your resume, how far back you go in work history should be determined on what highlyrelevant job titles you held. Or what achievements you accomplished while employed.
Every job is different. A mid-level position will require at least 10 years of experience, for example. When deciding what to include on your resume, the requirements of the job should dictate both the number of years you list and what the bullet points mentioned in the experience section.
When To Remove Old Jobs From A Resume
Ideally, you want to tailor your resume so that the jobs you list on your work history are no older than 15 years and are relevant to the job youre applying for.
That means that if you have a mid-level to experienced role, there is rarely a need to add that summer job you had in high school.
If youre still having a hard time deciding which jobs to remove or add to your resume, remember that the same advice youve applied when learning how to write a resumeapplies here. You want to keep your job listing relevant, clear, and concise.
All in all, there will rarely be a need for you to jot down your entire job history on a resume. Its a marketing document, not a legal one.
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How Many Jobs On Your Resume Is Too Many
There are a few different answers for this depending on the industry you are in. But, rule of thumb is that you should only go back around 10-15 years on your resume. Heres why.
It keeps your resume relevant
Your resume is only looked at for a few secondsso you want to make sure its clear and relevant. Employers dont care what you did more than 15 years ago, and its better left off your resume.
Start with the most recent job and work back from that. Irrelevant information will usually land your resume in the do not interview pile.
It gets rid of clutter
Including every job you have ever had will make your resume looked cluttered and messy.
If you only add your most recent work experience, youll keep your resume to only a few pages long. This is what most HR experts recommend, because employers just dont have time to read a 10 page resume.
Keeping it short and relevant, and including key words, will help an employer make a quick decision about whether youre the best match for the position.
How Far Back Should A Graduate Resume Go
How far back a resume should go is a relevant question even for graduates. Their academic grades at school, college and university should feature prominently, alongside any major projects and societies that they were involved in .
It is important to center your resume around the transferable skills that you have acquired in your work experience and in the earliest years of your career. Your future employer wont expect a long list of achievements, but they will want to sense that your previous journey has been leading to this moment of career choice.
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A Persons Experience Is Dictated By The Relevancy Of That Work In Which They Want To Share
Often times, more senior-level executive put their first 10 years or so under the headline Other Notable Experience or something of that nature. Again, there are no hard and fast rules.
However, all resume should share at least the last 8 years of experience. Before that, can be blanketed around other notable experience or something of that nature.
In short, resumes have a lot of commonalities but also have a lot flexibilities.
Amy Cann, SHRM-SCP, SMS
Managing Partner, HR ROI Consulting