How Far Back Should A Resume Go?

Many job applicants struggle with the question, “How far back should a resume go?” The answer is especially important for candidates with years of relevant experience and long, successful careers. They may start wondering how many details to include as part of their work history without making the resume too unwieldy for recruiters.

After all, the established standard is that a resume or CV should be two pages at most. Within a one or two-page resume, candidates must present the skills and proficiencies, personal and professional traits, and obtained experiences that best match the requirements of the chosen position.

Not to mention that it is strongly recommended to craft a different resume for each chosen position, as doing so provides better chances of being accepted for the next stage of the hiring process when compared to sending an identical resume to all employers. Indeed, when it comes to creating the perfect resume and ensuring that it meets all modern requirements, such as being ATS-friendly, turning to a professional CV writing service could be one of the best options.

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.

At MatchBuilt, we’ve counseled thousands of job seekers and have supported hundreds of clients as they progress through the hiring process. We know the importance of getting all the details right when submitting a solid resume that will set candidates apart from the competition.

How do you write a resume with a long work history?

  1. Highlight only relevant skills and experience
  2. Organize it chronologically
  3. Be concise
  4. Showcase education
  5. Tailor it to each job
  6. Use action-oriented words
  7. Double-check for accuracy
  8. Seek assistance
  9. Follow-up
  10. Be proud of accomplishments

In this post, we’ll explore how many years of experience you should add, why older experience may be unnecessary, if you should include your college and high school in the education section, what bullet points for previous roles are the most appropriate, and how to avoid age discrimination. Even if you are a recent graduate with a short work history or seeking an entry-level position or part or full-time job, you may find many of these tips helpful.

how far back should a cv go

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.

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.

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.

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

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

Start by emphasizing the skills, experience, and accomplishments most relevant to the job. Ensure to include soft skills, such as communication or problem-solving abilities, and technical/industry-specific qualifications.

2. Organize It Chronologically

As you list your experience, start from the most recent jobs and then go back in time. Starting there will help recruiters quickly see your career progression and the accomplishments you achieved in each position.

3. Be Concise

Be concise and focus on quantifiable results demonstrating how you contributed positively to each job. Avoid simply stating your duties and responsibilities, and instead, focus on emphasizing how you positively impacted the organization.

4. Showcase Your Education

If you’re a recent college graduate, have attended professional development classes, or completed advanced degrees, include this information, as it demonstrates your commitment to learning new skills.

5. Customize Your Resume For Each Job

Tailoring your resume for each position you apply to will demonstrate that you have done your research and can clearly articulate why you would be an excellent fit for the role. A customized resume is essential when showcasing transferable skills to a prospective employer amidst a career change.

6. Use Action-Oriented Language

Use powerful and active words throughout your resume to stand out from other candidates. Avoid using generic language, as this could make it harder for recruiters to quickly see why you are the right person for the job.

7. Double-Check the Accuracy

Before submitting your resume and cover letter, and after updating your LinkedIn profile, take the time to review your information carefully and make sure everything is accurate. Spelling mistakes or errors in dates could lead a recruiter to question your attention to detail.

8. Seek Assistance

Consider asking a trusted colleague or mentor to review your resume before you submit it. They can provide feedback on how you can make improvements or highlight significant accomplishments you overlooked.

9. Follow Up

After sending your resume, follow up with the recruiter or hiring manager. Following up will show that you are genuinely interested in the position and provide an opportunity to explain further why you would be an excellent fit for the role.

10. Be Proud of Your Accomplishments

Lastly, don’t forget to be proud of your experience! A long work history is a testament to your hard work and dedication. Take the time to reflect on your achievements throughout your career, and remember that you have a lot to offer any organization.

Following these steps and keeping your resume concise, you can effectively showcase your experience in the most favorable light. Each role should demonstrate why you are the perfect candidate. Make sure to use correct grammar and highlight accomplishments.

how far should you go back on a resume

How far back should a resume go? Summary

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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