Deciding how far back to take your resume can be nerve-wracking. You want to cover all your relevant experience, but you don’t want to present a dissertation. Worse yet, going back too far could put you at risk for age discrimination. So how far back should your resume go? The general rule of thumb is 10 to 15 years, but there are some exceptions. Here’s what you need to know.
If you have less than two years of work experience, you won’t need to worry that your resume goes back too many years. But you still need to be judicious in what you include in it. Listing your achievements from both high school and college is fine, as long as they’re relevant to the position. Focus on transferable skills rather than a laundry list of accomplishments and be ready to explain in an interview what you learned from each experience.
If you have more than two but less than five years of work experience, it’s time to leave school behind. Focus on not only your paid jobs but any volunteer work or side hustles you’ve completed since graduation. Choose experiences relevant to the job you want, and use bullet points to demonstrate your accomplishments.
Mid-Level and Above
By the time you’ve amassed five years of experience, you’ll need to start culling your resume to focus on the progressive responsibilities that have prepared you for the next step in your career. You’ll want to omit jobs that are outside your chosen field, as well as early roles that provided only a basic foundation.
To keep your resume to no more than two pages while covering the full relevant time frame (10 to 15 years, or your entire post-graduate life, whichever is shorter), consider dividing your work experience in two. Include a related experience section that details your accomplishments in the positions that are most relevant, and a other experience section that briefly lists all unrelated jobs you had within the time frame.
Large Employment Gap
If you took an extended break to raise a family or pursue other matters, some or all of your experience might fall outside the 10-to-15-year window. In this case, it’s okay to list older positions, but it’s vital to use your cover letter to explain the employment gap. Also include anything you have done more recently, such as a side gig, volunteer work, or even classes you took. This will help reassure employers that you are up to date on the modern world of work.
Ready for a new position?
If you’re in the market for a new job, contact Total Staffing Solutions. With over 20 years of experience, we know how to match you with your next position.