How Far Back Should A Resume Go?

How Far Back Should A Resume Go?

Many job seekers grapple with the question, “How far back should my resume go?” This is especially important for those with extensive experience and successful careers. They wonder how much to include in their work history without overwhelming recruiters.

The standard guideline is to keep a resume or CV within two pages. Within this limited space, candidates must highlight the skills, traits, and experiences that best match the job requirements.

Customizing your resume for each position is also advisable, as this increases the chances of progressing in the hiring process. Using the same resume for all employers is less effective. Many turn to professional CV writing services to help meet modern standards like being ATS-friendly.

At MatchBuilt, we’ve guided thousands of job seekers and supported numerous clients throughout the hiring process. We understand the importance of a strong resume that sets candidates apart.

In this post, we’ll discuss how many years of experience to include, whether older experience is necessary, including education from high school to college, using appropriate bullet points for past roles, and avoiding age discrimination. These tips are valuable for recent graduates and those seeking entry-level, part-time, or full-time positions.

How far back should a resume go?

Your resume should go back at most 10-15 years and 5-6 positions, focus on relevant work experience, and be tailored to the job description of the position you are applying to.

how far back should a cv go

How Far Back Your Resume Goes Depends On Your Level Of Experience

The length of your resume will also depend on your level of experience. For example, suppose you have only recently graduated from school or have little relevant work experience. In that case, it is reasonable to list all the jobs you held in your past and any internships or volunteer positions related to the job you’re applying for.

On the other hand, if you are an experienced professional with many years of work experience, then it’s best to focus on only the most relevant roles and leave out any short-term or irrelevant positions that could distract from what you can bring to the organization.

No matter your level of experience, ensuring that your resume is concise and easy to read is essential. Remember, the average recruiter or hiring manager only takes six seconds to scan a resume before making their initial decision. So, include only the most relevant experience and accomplishments that showcase how you are the best fit for the job.

10 Steps to Writing a Resume With a Long Work History

1. Highlight Only Relevant Skills and Experience

Begin by accentuating the skills, experiences, and achievements that align most with the job’s requirements. This includes both soft skills like communication and problem-solving, as well as industry-specific qualifications. For instance, if you’re applying for a project management role, emphasize your track record of successfully leading cross-functional teams to deliver projects on time and within budget.

2. Organize It Chronologically

When presenting your work history, adopt a chronological order, starting with your most recent roles and working backward. This layout assists recruiters in swiftly comprehending your career progression and the notable accomplishments you’ve attained at each juncture. For instance, if you’re transitioning from being a software engineer to a technical manager, this approach will effectively highlight your journey and increasing responsibilities.

3. Be Concise

Practice conciseness by focusing on quantifiable outcomes that showcase your positive contributions to each position. Instead of merely listing responsibilities, underscore how your actions led to tangible improvements. For instance, if you were a sales manager, you could highlight how your innovative sales strategy led to a 30% increase in quarterly revenue.

4. Showcase Your Education

If you’re a recent college graduate or have pursued further professional development, include these educational experiences to illustrate your commitment to acquiring new skills. For example, if you’re applying for a data analysis role, featuring your completion of a specialized data science certification will highlight your relevant expertise.

5. Customize Your Resume For Each Job

Craft a tailored resume for every role you apply to, evidencing your thorough research and the alignment of your qualifications with the position’s demands. This level of customization is particularly crucial when shifting industries. If you’re moving from marketing to UX design, highlight how your creative problem-solving skills from your marketing background can translate to innovative user experience solutions.

6. Use Action-Oriented Language

Employ impactful and dynamic language to distinguish yourself from other candidates. Refrain from employing generic terms that could hinder recruiters’ quick understanding of your suitability for the role. For instance, rather than saying you “assisted with project management,” emphasize how you “orchestrated cross-functional collaboration, leading to a successful project launch ahead of schedule.”

7. Double-Check the Accuracy

Prior to submitting your application materials, including your LinkedIn profile, meticulously review all information to ensure accuracy. Precise details, correct spellings, and accurate dates project your meticulousness. A slip-up, like listing the wrong start date for a past role, could raise doubts about your attention to detail.

8. Seek Assistance

Enlist a trusted colleague or mentor to provide feedback on your resume. They can offer insights on how to enhance your presentation or pinpoint key accomplishments you might have downplayed. Their perspective can be invaluable in refining your document. For instance, they might remind you to emphasize a particularly challenging project you successfully led.

9. Follow Up

After submitting your application, consider a follow-up with the recruiter or hiring manager. This proactive gesture underscores your genuine enthusiasm for the role and grants you a chance to reinforce your suitability. Express your eagerness to contribute your extensive experience to the team’s success, highlighting specific aspects that resonate with the job description.

10. Be Proud of Your Accomplishments

Lastly, acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments. Your long work history embodies your dedication and diligence. Take a moment to contemplate the milestones you’ve achieved over the years, and remember that your expertise holds substantial value for any organization you join. Confidence in your experience will radiate positively during interviews and interactions with potential employers.

Why You Should Not Include Your Full Work History In Your Resume

When writing a resume, it can be tempting to include and embellish every position you’ve ever held. However, there are several reasons why this may not be the best approach.

It’s More Difficult to Scan

First, including too much information in a single document makes it difficult for recruiters and employers to assess your qualifications quickly. Further, adding more content, such as every single job title, than necessary can make the resume look cluttered and difficult to read.

Additionally, an overly detailed work history might divert attention from your most significant accomplishments, as they can get buried among less relevant roles. This makes it harder for hiring professionals to grasp your standout abilities at a glance.

Allows Less Room to Showcase Other Skills

Secondly, including your entire work history may take up more space than necessary, leaving less room to showcase other essential qualifications, such as certifications or awards. Thus, it is wise only to include jobs relevant to the position you are applying for and omit those that are not.

By reserving space for pertinent skills, you present a more focused and coherent narrative that aligns with the job’s requirements. This strategic omission ensures that you can highlight your strengths in a targeted manner, increasing the chances of capturing the reader’s attention.

It’s More Difficult to Provide Relevant Information to the Job

Finally, listing out all of your previous jobs can make it harder to focus on where you want to go with your career. If a hiring manager sees that you’ve held various positions, they may doubt your commitment and ability to stay in one place for an extended period. It is much more effective to tailor your resume to emphasize the kind of job that you’re applying for and leave out those jobs that aren’t related.

By tailoring your resume to specific job roles, you demonstrate a clear professional trajectory and a well-defined direction. This targeted approach reassures employers that you possess the relevant experience and commitment necessary for the position, boosting your chances of being considered for the role.

how much job experience should go on a resume or cv

Which jobs should you include on your resume?

It’s essential to consider several factors when deciding how far back your CV should go and which jobs to include. Your experience level, specific industry, and whether you are applying for a similar position could influence the information contained in the resume.

Regarding workers with long careers, experts recommend limiting the work history to the past 10-15 years and a maximum of 5 or 6 positions within that time frame. Doing so will ensure that recruiters can immediately see the most relevant qualifications of the candidate without having to pick them out from an extensive list of less essential past jobs.

However, as is typically the case, some exceptions might apply. For example, job candidates who wish to start a career in a drastically different field may need more recent work experiences that match the chosen position. Instead, including previous jobs might be a better choice if they match the requirements of the new field.

The same applies when the candidate returns to an industry where they have previously held job positions, even if it exceeds the mentioned 15 years limit. The level of the job position also matters as applicants for a senior or a higher management position may have to provide a longer list of past experiences and successes. Some government or civil service roles may also require entire work history from candidates, including all held positions since they finished their full-time education.

Ways To Include Older Career Experience

If you wish to include the entirety of your professional experience, there are several ways to do so while highlighting the more recent and relevant ones. One potential option is to create two separate sections in the CV.

The first and main one should be for the jobs that match the position you are applying for, while all other previous jobs should be listed in another section. Doing so allows employers to still easily find the experiences containing the skills essential for the position and then have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the candidate’s earlier employment.

You can also use different colors, fonts, text sizes, and other visual elements to distinguish between job experiences that relate to the new role while still listing all of your past jobs in reverse chronological order.

how far back should your work history go

Jobs You May Exclude On Your Resume

In general, the resume is a snapshot of the candidate’s education and work experiences. However, recruiters can rarely spend the time necessary to go through each applicant’s life and work stories. CVs must naturally focus the recruiter’s attention on the most impressive achievements, accomplishments, awards, and gained expertise.

Trimming down the included job positions could be easy if you have had several short-term jobs in the past. After all, recruiters may only need to see some of the part-time jobs you held while going through college and those that simply helped you pay the bills.

On the other hand, even positions that you had for less than three months could be added to the resume if they helped you gain valuable experience that could be applied in the new job role you wish to attain.

Leaving long-term jobs off the resume is a bit more complicated. Of course, suppose they did not provide relevant experience and did not require skills applicable to the position you are vying for. They can omit them to make space for more pertinent information, such as essential references that attest to your professionalism and expertise.

Keep in mind that it may be wise to leave out positions that you feel you could have been more successful at instead of leaving them in and potentially getting questioned about them. However, skipping long-term employment could create gaps in your work history that recruiters may notice and inquire about. If you do not wish to be asked such questions, it is best to include the job in your resume.

Explaining Job Gaps On Your CV

Even if you leave a previous job, the recruiter or potential employer might still find out about it. In these cases, prepare an answer about why you decided to skip over it while compiling your work history on the CV.

Naturally, a perfect answer is that the specific job is not relevant to your current career path and the position you are applying for. You may also explain that the position was just a means to generate cash flow while you were looking for a more appropriate job opening that suited your professional aspirations.

To make short gaps less noticeable, you can scale back the provided details, such as simply stating the years of each employment rather than the exact months.

At the same time, be bold in giving the real reasons for taking some time off, such as raising a family, looking after a relative, or going back to university, everyone’s life is different, and each reason is valid. However, do mention how you’ve managed to be proactive within the time off work by taking up any volunteer work, finishing courses, or taking up new hobbies.

CVs are supposed to give a complete picture of the candidate’s professional skills and why they would be the perfect choice for the role. While it may be tempting, overstuffing the CV with information could be counterproductive. Carefully consider how far back you wish to go with the included details and ensure that the most relevant ones stand out enough to attract the recruiter’s attention immediately.

work experience on resume

FAQs: How Far Back Should A Resume Go?

Why is it important to limit the length of a resume?

Keeping a resume concise is essential because recruiters often have limited time to review applications. A shorter resume allows them to grasp your qualifications and achievements quickly, increasing the likelihood of your application standing out.

Can I include every job I've ever had in my work history?

It's generally recommended to include only relevant positions. Including every job might overwhelm recruiters and bury your most significant accomplishments. Focus on roles that directly showcase skills and experiences relevant to the job you're applying for.

How do I decide which skills and experiences to highlight?

Emphasize the skills and experiences that align with the specific job requirements. Tailor your resume for each application by selecting those achievements that best demonstrate your suitability for the role.

Is there a specific format to follow when listing work experience?

Organize your work experience chronologically, starting with the most recent position. This format helps recruiters understand your career progression and achievements over time.

Should I include older job experiences on my resume?

While older experiences can show your career journey, focus on those that are still relevant and highlight skills applicable to the current job. Positions from long ago may not be as crucial, especially if they don't contribute to your current qualifications.

Can I include my educational history beyond college on my resume?

Include educational experiences like professional development courses, workshops, and advanced degrees if they are directly relevant to the position. For instance, certifications in areas related to the job can demonstrate your ongoing commitment to learning.

How do I avoid age discrimination when crafting my resume?

To avoid potential age bias, emphasize recent experiences and skills that align with the current industry trends. Focus on the last 10-15 years of work history and highlight accomplishments that demonstrate your continued relevance.

What's the benefit of customizing my resume for each job application?

Customizing your resume for each job demonstrates your genuine interest and tailored fit for the role. This approach highlights your understanding of the job's requirements and increases your chances of catching the recruiter's attention.

how far should you go back on a resume

Resume Length Final Thoughts

While your resume (curriculum vitae or CV) length depends partly on your past experience, it’s essential to focus on the last 10-15 years of recent work experience, utilize at most a two-page resume format, and only include relevant information.

If you struggle to condense your work history into this limited space, consider focusing on recent experience and leaving off less relevant older jobs. With a well-crafted resume featuring the most important information, you can confidently take the next step in your job search and maximize your job applications.

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