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You find the perfect job opportunity and start writing your resume... and then you realize that if you were to highlight all your past positions and experiences, your resume would be 5 pages long. Yikes. So you end up stuck with a severe case of writer's block.
But here's our miracle cure. You’re just one scroll away from finding out how far back your resume should go. Really.
In this article:
- How far back should a resume go, depending on your experience level.
- Tips on how many jobs / years to list.
- How to make your work experience section relevant.
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How Far Back Should a Resume Go?
Experts recommend a resume should go about 10–15 years back, depending on your experience level. Employers tend to prioritize your most recent work history. Your newer achievements are a better indicator of your current skills and qualifications.
There is no doubt that the work history section is the most important part of every good resume, however, it’s not always a great idea to go back to 1983 on your experience history…
Relevance is key here.
So, let’s take a better look at different experience levels first:
How Far Back Should a Resume Go—Resume With No Professional Experience
If you’re writing a resume with no professional experience, it may seem like you have little to nothing up your sleeve.
Fortunately, there’s nothing to worry about, because you can use whatever experience you do have to your advantage.
Make sure to:
- Put your resume’s education section below your resume objective and list as many details as possible: relevant coursework, extracurricular activities, honors, extra credit projects, GPA if it was 3.7+.
- List volunteer experience on your resume, to prove your involvement in the community.
- Detail all credentials and skills that match the job advertisement using resume keywords.
How Far Back Should a Resume Go—Entry-Level Resume
Writing a resume for an entry-level job can be overwhelming, especially if you’re applying for your first full-time paid job.
If you have very little information to include on your resume, leverage your academic experience and other part-time or summer job to the max.
- Specify all temporary and part-time roles, internships, and freelance jobs.
- List your volunteering work and professional work achievements in the form of strong resume bullet points alongside any paid work on your resume.
How Far Back Should a Resume Go—Mid-Level Candidates
When applying for a mid-level position, listing up to 10 years of experience is the best option.
- List in detail positions that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
- Without going in depth, mention other jobs, like freelance work or internships, that you’ve done.
Expert Hint: In order to make your resume targeted and more relevant to the position, use keywords and phrases from the job posting. This means you'll be submitting a so-called ATS resume, which increases your chances of passing the initial screening.
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How Far Back Should a Resume Go—Senior-Level Jobs
Candidates applying for senior or executive positions can go back as far back as 15 years when listing entries in their resume’s work experience section.
However, remember that recruiters are only interested in relevant work experience, so if you’re no spring chicken, ditch listing jobs from decades ago.
When writing a resume for an executive job:
- List the past 15 years of your work history, but make sure your resume is no more than 2 pages long.
- Go into detail about the relevant positions you have held by listing quantifiable achievements.
Expert Hint: If you’re worried about being overqualified for a job, don’t be. Many recruiters, nowadays, look upon overqualified candidates as an asset, as they believe that a candidate who has the right combination of hard and soft skills can elevate the team and the company to better performance.
How Far Back Should a Resume Go—Academic Positions
Academic CVs are governed by their own laws.
The curriculum vitae is a comprehensive statement of educational background, teaching, and research experience, and it can even go back as far as 15 to 20 years.
Include these sections:
- Education: List academic degrees, institution names, city and state, degree type and major, year degree was (or will be) awarded, thesis title and advisor, if applicable
- Relevant Experience: List positions that show off your skills and expertise. Include your job title, organization name, city and state, and dates of employment. Summarize your activities/duties and accomplishments using strong resume action words.
How Far Back Should You Go On a Resume—Tips & Tricks
You know your resume needs to be both concise and to the point, but you still might not know exactly how many things to put on your resume.
And to be honest—there is no definitive answer to the question of how many jobs to include.
There are, however, several guidelines you can follow that will help you make sure that your job history section provides enough information without going into too much insignificant detail.
1. Group your experiences
So you have been in the job market for quite some time now, but have worked in several different industries.
To make your experience pop, plan two sections for your work history, and name them 'related experience' and 'other work experience'.
This way, you’ll be able to get the recruiter to focus on the most important facts of your professional history, but still giving them all the other significant info that makes you an excellent candidate.
2. Remove everything that goes back to high school
Unless you’re currently a college student, or under the age of 20, listing your high school accomplishments and extracurricular activities doesn’t make any sense.
There is, however, one exception: if you have not studied beyond high school, you can include the name of your school and the date of your graduation in your resume’s education section.
3. Get rid of any irrelevant information
If you are looking for a graphic design job, focus on the jobs that are most likely to make you stand out as a prospective employee.
Your most recent creative gigs will mean the most to recruiters. Don't waste space describing all of your dog walking or bartending jobs you've had while in high school. Remember, unless you have more than 15 years of experience, it’s best if your resume fits on one page.
Why Shouldn’t You List Your Entire Job History on a Resume?
The work experience section plays a crucial role in your resume. Anyone applying for a job should carefully formulate their previous job experiences and present it professionally in the reverse chronological resume order.
If you can create a concise, informative, and relevant work history list, the hiring manager reading your resume can gain valuable insight into your capabilities.
Plus, they’ll also be impressed with your level of organization and professionalism.
The two most important things to consider when writing your resume are relevance and clarity. Recruiters and employers should be able to quickly scan your resume and see an easy-to-read, well-organized list of your work history and skills.
If you can properly format your resume in a way that lists your most essential qualifications towards the top, you are more likely to land the interview.
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As a jobseeker, you want to present yourself as the most qualified candidate for the position for which you are applying. Nevertheless, including irrelevant information on your professional resume will do more harm than good. Because when it comes to resumes, the “less is more” rule applies on every level. Make sure your resume includes only information related to your career goals.
Thanks for reading! Still not sure how far back your resume should go? Maybe you have some tips of your own to share? Let us know in the comments!
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