The modern workforce is more mobile than ever before. While there was a time when most employees remained with an employer for decades, today’s workers may have multiple jobs throughout their career. In many cases, that can lead to the type of diverse work history that can make it difficult for you to know which jobs to include on a resume. For example, what do you do with job roles that don’t have any relevance to the position you’re seeking? In this post, we’ll examine irrelevant experience and whether it needs to be listed on your resume.
Two Schools of Thought on Irrelevant Experience
As with most things in life, there is diversity of thought on this question. As a rule, most resume experts will advise job-seekers to focus on relevant information. However, that approach raises an important question: how do you decide which information is truly relevant?
The first school of thought on this topic says that your resume needs to be as lean as possible. To accomplish that goal, you should only list information that clearly showcases your value to a potential employer or hiring manager.
When it comes to irrelevant experience on a resume, most of these experts would say to omit those details. Their reason is simple: they believe that information about irrelevant or unrelated work experience is wasting precious resume space, which will cloud the issue and detract from your core message.
In short, this theory suggests irrelevant experience includes any previous jobs or skills that don’t directly relate to the job you’re seeking.
The other school of thought believes that there is always value in positive experience and skills. This is true even in cases in which seemingly irrelevant experience has no bearing on your ability to effectively perform a desired job role.
(Remember that you only need to include the last 10-15 years of experience on a resume. We wrote a good post here on how far back a resume should go.)
Which View is Correct? Does Irrelevant Experience on a Resume Matter?
The truth is that both views are correct in their own ways. Yes, it is vital to create a lean and mean resume that emphasizes core qualifications and your value as an experienced professional. So, no – you don’t want to include irrelevant information from a previous job that distracts hiring managers from your message. At the same time, however, it is important to properly define “irrelevant.”
By combining both of those schools of thought, we can reach an entirely different conclusion.
That conclusion, however, requires us to reevaluate our assumptions about how we determine relevance. The fact is that any past experience or skill that demonstrates your abilities and value can be relevant. Why? It’s simple: because today’s employers are not just looking for drones to fulfill highly-targeted tasks. They’re looking for competent, accomplished team members to help achieve the company’s goals.
Defining Irrelevant Experience on a Resume
Once we realize that there is no such thing as inherently irrelevant experience, the solution to this dilemma becomes clear. Chances are that most of your your previous work has involved some type of useful skill or skills. And even if those skills are not directly applicable to the new job you’re seeking, they are still part of your employment repertoire. Isn’t that something that most employers would like to know about?
We wrote a good post here on the skills to include on a resume.
Your job is to examine your previous roles and identify the core skills that you utilized.
Let's say you're targeting an accounting position and have a lot of sales experience. You want to highlight the skills from your sales positions that would be relevant to accounting.
Did you use Excel? Did you handle collections? Did you perform calculations or analyze data? These could all be relevant to accounting.
Yes, some of them may seem to be irrelevant at first glance, but odds are that they help to present you as a more well-rounded and capable employee.
Many of them will likely be soft skills that are rarely mentioned in job posting descriptions. In the end, though, their addition may be the thing that ensures that you beat out other candidates for that all-important job interview.
Once you have identified those skills, you can create a separate section in your resume. Document those skills in that section, and label it Relevant Experience or Relevant Skills. Include both applicable and non-applicable skills within this section, to paint a more complete picture of your overall competency and qualifications.
The thing to remember is that the work environment is constantly evolving. Many of today’s companies and hiring managers are looking for quality people with a broad range of skills. Fortunately, your diverse employment background and seemingly irrelevant experience are more of an asset than you might think. So, be bold and include that information in your resume, to properly showcase your true potential value as a prospective employee.
The ZipJob team is made up of professional writers and career experts located across the USA and Canada with backgrounds in HR, recruiting, career coaching, job placement, and professional writing.