How far back should a resume go

How far back should a resume go

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A common question job seekers have when it comes to how many years of experience to list on a resume is “how far back should my resume go?” Many people include decades of experience on a resume and it could be the reason why their resumes aren’t getting any callbacks or interview requests.

The truth is, you don’t need to list every position you’ve ever held on your resume. We’ll show you exactly how far back your resume should go and explain why.

How Far Back Should Your Resume Go?

Your resume should go back a maximum of 10 to 15 years in terms of work experience.

How many years to include on resume? You resume should go back a maximum of 10 to 15 years.

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. Your resume’s experience section should always be able to pass the ‘who cares’ 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 it’s relevant to the job opening and if the hiring manager will be impressed with it.

Why Your Resume Should Only Go Back 10 To 15 Years

Here are the reasons for including only 10 to 15 years of work experience on a resume:

1. Avoids Age Discrimination

Yes, age discrimination does happen and it could be costing you the interview. If your resume goes back 20 or 30 years, it’s easy for the hiring manager to guess your age. In the case that they’re looking for a younger candidate, they may dismiss your resume. If they eventually call you in for an interview, they still may be able to guess your age but you also have the chance to prove your worth.

2. Increases Relevancy

The hiring manager won’t care what you did more than 10 to 15 years ago. At some point, it just becomes better left off your resume. Your resume is only looked at for a few seconds so you want to ensure your resume is clear and concise. Irrelevant information will usually result in your resume getting rejected.

3. Removes Clutter

Another thing that annoys hiring managers is a cluttered resume. Including many years of experience usually does that. Your resume should never be longer than two pages. Keep it short, concise and relevant to quickly show the employer that you’re the best match for the position.

For more information, check out our posts on 7 resume tips for older workers and the top 12 reasons overqualified candidates don’t get the interview.

When To Include More Than 10 To 15 Years On Your Resume:

1. High Relevancy

As we mentioned above, if your experience is really relevant then you should leave it on your resume. Keep in mind that if you have 30+ years of relevant experience, you may want to include only the last 10 to 15 years unless the other positions show different aspects of your work and accomplishments. Also, if you have years of relevant experience you’re most likely applying to a higher level position where age may not really matter.

2. Prestigious Title Or Company

If you held a high title or worked at a prestigious company then you should probably leave it on your resume. Again, this would pass the ‘who cares’ test as it would capture the attention of a hiring manager.

3. Explains A Gap

If you list the year of your graduation, certification, license or other projects and leave off a substantial amount of experience, it may make the hiring manager think you have a gap in your resume. In that case you need to either include your work experience or remove other dates.

Whether or not you need to remove the dates depends on what you have listed; however, keep in mind that you don’t need to list your graduation year.

What If You’ve Only Worked At One Company For Many Years?

If you only worked at one company for many years then it could be difficult to leave the years off your resume. There is a way around this depending on the situation.

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If you’ve held different positions at the company, you could split up your work experience depending on the years you’ve held the title. This allows you to list more relevant positions at the top of your resume and even remove some that aren’t really relevant.

For example, say Anna was looking for an accounting position and she worked at XYZ Corp. for the last 22 years.

Of those years she held the following positions:

  1. Customer Service Representative – 10 Years
  2. Bookkeeper – 6 Years
  3. Accountant – 6 Years

Anna could list the relevant bookkeeping and accounting position separately with the years worked and leave off the customer service representative position from 12 years ago.

Conclusion

Hiring managers care more about your recent work history than what you did a decade ago. Keep your resume relevant, concise, and clutter-free by including only your most recent work experience.

Good luck with your job search!

5 Comments

  1. Cat's Meow says:

    Thank you! I was working in one field, took 21 years off to raise my family, and have returned to college for in a different field. This is very helpful, even though some of my previous career could apply to the experience in my new career.

  2. Christina says:

    If firms were only looking at your resume this might work; however, in most online application processes you are asked to put the start and stop dates for the positions you list. If you only add the years you held specific positions at the same place and the employer contacts your employer to verify dates of employment, they will get two different start dates. My experience on search committees has been that any discrepancy on what you list makes hiring managers or recruitment teams wary.

    • Nicole says:

      I also have intermittent lapses in employment while raising my kids and helping my ex-husband with his own business. Can I include those years on my resume as we are divorced now however I recently have gone back to work for him?

  3. Nafisa A says:

    What if you’ve held multiple positions in the span of 10 years?

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