One of the most common questions our team of professional resume writers get from job seekers is "how far back should a resume go?"
When you have spent many years building your career, you have a lot of experience you want to include on your resume. 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.
Your resume can--and should--be a selective document tailored for a specific job. That means you only need to include your skills, experience, and qualifications that will help you in that position. You don't need to include a comprehensive list of your professional life: that would be a CV instead of a resume.
In this article, 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. 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 it’s relevant to the job opening and if the hiring manager will be impressed with it.
Why shouldn't you add all your years of experience on your resume?
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.
for more information, check out our post on 7 resume tips for older workers.
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 on a resume will usually result in a rejection.
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.
When should your resume go back more than 10 years?
There are exceptions to every rule. Here are three situations when you can include information from more than 15 years ago 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. That is, unless the other positions show different aspects of your work and accomplishments on your resume. 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.
By the way, your education doesn't fall under the 10 to 15 year rule--degrees are usually safe to include on your resume no matter when you earned them. Our 10 to 15 year range is only for work experience.
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.
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:
Accountant: 6 Years (2015 to 2022)
Bookkeeper: 6 Years (2009 to 2015)
Customer Service Representative: 10 Years (1999 to 2009)
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.
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!
The ZipJob team is made up of professional writers located across the USA and Canada with backgrounds in HR, recruiting, career coaching, job placement, and professional writing.