You just had a short or terrible experience with an employer that you’d rather keep a secret. A common question we hear is “can i leave a job off my resume”? The answer is quite simple, yes. We’re going to show you how to leave a job off your resume (and look good doing it).
Your resume is your personal marketing device. Everything on it should be there because it’s helping you look good and land an interview. You should leave a job off your resume if it doesn’t help you progress that goal.
Actually, you can leave a job off your resume for any reason you’d like. It’s your resume, do what you want (but no lying!!!).
Of course, you want to be careful. It’s incredibly important to make sure you include all relevant information on your resume. Often times, the information that you think is irrelevant is the stuff that lands you the interview. So, be very, very careful when deciding what to omit.
That being said if there are experiences that you absolutely want no prospective employers to learn about, leave it off! Your resume does not need to be your entire autobiography.
Again, it’s a tool for selling yourself and it is up to you to maximize its effectiveness in doing so. If that means leaving a past job experience by the wayside, no problem.
There a few specific reasons why it would be a good idea to leave a job off your resume. Let’s go over these reasons now:
It can happen to anyone. You start a new job and it becomes immediately clear that you are not a good fit. Your personality just does not mesh well with the culture of the company and it makes your time there very difficult.
This does not mean you are a bad employee. But it can make you look bad if a potential employer hears about it. It’s nearly always advisable to leave a situation like this as soon as possible.
To that point…
Keep in mind that if you leave a job off your resume, you will need to explain what you were doing during that time period. So, it is very important to spend as little time in an unlistable experience as possible. The quicker you move on, the less downtime you have to explain for.
When it becomes clear that it’s not a good fit and you’re sure you’ll never last, get out of there immediately.
The less time you have unaccounted for, the less difficult explaining the absence will be.
Keep in mind that, just because you don’t tell anyone, doesn’t mean they won’t find out. It’s important to prepare for every situation. If an interviewer asks why you left a job off your resume, be prepared to answer. If the interviewer does not ask you about it specifically, be prepared to explain what else you were doing at the time.
This is a common reason where people will want to leave a position off their resume. Including a job you were fired from on your resume can be difficult if you were employed there for years. In this case you would need to include it on your resume.
You don’t need to bring attention to the fact that you were fired. If it comes up in an interview, be prepared to give a strong answer. A position where you held for less than 12 months can be left off your resume. (More on this below)
There is a big difference between being fired for poor performance or being laid off. If you were laid off due to economic reasons outside of your control, you should absolutely include it on your resume. We wrote a good post on resume tips if you’ve been fired or laid off here.
This is definitely the least common of the situations we are going to discuss. But, it’s important to mention nonetheless.
If you held a position in a company that recently received bad publicity and your position was related to the part of the company involved, it can be best to leave it off.
To best judge whether or not to include this experience, think about how you were involved in the disgrace of the company.
If it was a massive corporation and your involvement was immeasurable, it doesn’t really matter and you should include the experience anyways.
However, if you were an involved executive or if you were instrumental in a branch closely related to the scandal, leave it off your resume.
For whatever reason, your time with the company ended after a very short stint. If it’s for reasons other than those mentioned above, you may still include it.
But be weary, staying with companies for very short periods of time can look bad on your resume. Especially if you have more than one very short experience on your resume.
A professional resume writer with theLadders.com named Steve Burden has some great input on this.
According to Steve, here are a few general rules of thumb to apply when deciding whether to include an experience:
For more on dealing with short term job stints, check out the full blog post here.
First, let’s cover a simple technique you can use to avoid making gaps in your resume too obvious. It is going to be so much simpler than you think.
The trick? Only use years when listing your experience history.
By listing only the years of your employment in each position, you avoid displaying your months of unemployment or, in this case, the months spent with the company you don’t want to talk about.
Constructing your resume in this way also gives you more freedom. For example, if you held 2 positions in 2016, each for 6 months. You now have the option to include just one or both experiences. Simply put the year you worked there and nothing more.
Of course, the employer may dig deeper and ask about the specific periods of your employment. In that case, be prepared with an explanation.
For some great tips on dealing with employment gaps on your resume, check out our blog post here.
Similarly, if you have a few relevant long term experiences and a few short term, it may be best to leave out the shorter ones. This will help make you look like an employee who sticks with their employer.
More experience is almost always better. We now know, however, that it’s sometimes best to leave jobs off your resume. Remember, you’re under no requirement to include your entire history. Include only what makes you sound good.
And, if you’re going to leave something off, make sure you have a good explanation ready to go.
Keeping all this in mind will help you gracefully leave a job off your resume and look good doing it.