how far back should you list experience on your resume?

The longer you’re a part of the workforce, the harder it is to fit all your jobs on your resume without going over that crucial 2-page limit. Frankly, it’s impossible to include every last detail about your work history on a resume without transforming it into a novel about your work life. And let’s face it: no hiring manager wants to read that. They want to read about your greatest hits and what makes you a stand out employee now, at this moment in time. Even if you only have a few years of experience, you need to decide what’s worth including on your resume and what isn’t.

how far back should you list experience on your resume

so, how far back should you list your experience on your resume?

Though some people will hand out neat and tidy answers like 10 years or 3 jobs ago, there’s really no true, definitive answer. It truly depends on your personal work history and what’s most relevant to the job you’re looking for next. Below are some guidelines you can follow to determine if the experience is worth keeping on your resume or if it should be cut.

consider age

If you’ve been a part of the workforce for 30 years, there’s no way you can include absolutely everything in your work history in a 2-page resume. It just won’t be possible. A good rule of thumb: look at any experience older than 10 years with a critical eye. That’s not to say you can’t include experience that’s older than 10 years. However, if you do, it should showcase skills or experiences that your recent experience doesn’t. Also, the older the job, the less detail you should include about it. For your 3 most recent jobs include a few bullet points about your responsibilities and achievements in the role. For older jobs, keep it to the bare minimum of your job title, the company and your start and end dates. If the hiring manager wants to know more, they’ll ask during your interview, but chances are they’ll place more emphasis on your more recent experience.

get rid of experience that is not relevant

If you’re currently looking for an accounting job, use your vital resume space to focus on jobs that are most likely to make you stand out as a potential hire. Your most recent jobs working in the accounting field are going to carry the most weight with hiring managers. However, you probably don’t need to waste space listing all the babysitting and dog walking jobs you held in high school to make some pocket change. Those jobs, while they might have been great at the time, are probably not going to tip the scales when it comes to landing a great accounting job.

use subheads to your advantage

If you’ve been a part of the full-time workforce for more than a few years, you might have bounced between a few different jobs, perhaps even different careers in different industries. It’s important to organize your resume so hiring managers can zero in on your most relevant experience. For instance, if you’ve jumped between jobs in human resources and sales, but are looking for a human resources job next, include all your HR experience at the top of your resume, and save the rest of your experience (if it merits keeping at all!) for another section. A great way to do this is to include two sections for your experience: ‘related experience’ and ‘other work experience.’ This allows you to point the recruiter directly to the highlights in your work history that make you a great candidate.

delete anything from high school

Unless you’re currently in university or college, or under the age of 20, do not include your high school education or achievements on your resume. Focusing on your high school achievements, especially if they’re more than a few years old can seem desperate and make it seem like you have nothing more recent to share. Even if you were an outstanding high school student who racked up all kinds of awards and achievements, it's almost always underwhelming to discuss your high school achievements in the context of employment. There’s one exception: if high school is your highest level of education, you can include the name of your high school and your graduation date under your education section. However, avoid including a list of extra-curricular activities or other achievements.

 

At the end of the day, your resume is a marketing document. It’s intended to showcase why you are the best possible candidate for the job you’ve applied to. It’s not a legally binding document that has to list the minutia of your work history down to your high school record and part-time jobs. Sometimes, making cuts is essential to create the best possible narrative!

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