How far back should a resume go

How far back should a resume go

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A common question job seekers have is how many years of experience to list on a resume. Many include decades of experience on a resume and it could be the reason why their resume isn’t getting any callbacks. 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.

How Far Back Should Your Resume Go?

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

 

 How many years to include on resume

 

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 positions, you could include it. Always do the  “who cares” test on your resume. Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager looking at your resume. Look over the information and see whether it’s something the hiring manager will care about or be impressed by.

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

 

  1. 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 of course will be able tell you’re not “young” but it’s up to you to prove yourself.
  2. It’s Irrelevant
    The hiring manager won’t care what you did more than 10 – 15 years ago. At some point it just becomes unnecessary and it’s 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 being rejected.
  3. Cluttered Resume
    Another thing that annoys hiring managers is a cluttered resume and 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.

(We wrote a good post here on 7 resume tips for older workers)

When to Include More Than 10 -15 Years on Your Resume:

 

  1. Highly Relevant
    As we spoke about above, if your experience is really relevant then you should leave it on your resume. Keep in mind however that if you have 30+ years of relevant experience, you may want to include only the last 10 – 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. It Causes 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.

 

Conclusion

Hiring managers really care more about your recent work history and not what you did a decade ago. Keep your resume relevant, concise and avoid cluttering it with irrelevant information.

Good luck with your job search!

3 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?

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