Does your resume include positions prior to 2006? What about prior to 2000? How far back should job history go on your resume? Is there a cutoff date or timeframe that you should keep in mind when deciding which positions to include and which to remove? Generally speaking, recruiters and hiring managers consider positions outside of the past 10-15 years irrelevant. However, there are scenarios where it’s a good idea to include this information. In today’s article, I’m sharing how far back you should go when listing your work history, and also addressing exceptions to the general rule of thumb. Let’s dive in!
How Far Back Should I List My Work History?
Most recruiters and hiring managers will consider any experience beyond the past 10-15 years outdated or irrelevant. This is especially true in industries where there have been rapid advancements (hello, technology and medical fields!). In these industries, anything past the most recent 10-15 years’ experience isn’t just irrelevant, it’s outdated. However, this isn’t true for every industry so take a solid evaluation of your industry, what’s changed, what is the same, and whether that prior experience will be a differentiator for you in today’s job market.
It’s likely that any experience prior to 2000 or even 2005 can safely be removed from your resume without doing any harm.
Why Do You Only Include the Past 10-15 Years of Work Experience on Your Resume?
As I mentioned above, many fields are advancing so rapidly that experience from 10-15 years ago simply isn’t relevant today. There are other reasons to include only the most recent experience on your resume.
Including only the most recent 10-15 years of experience cuts back on the clutter and text density on your resume. You’re not trying to cram 20 or 30 years of experience into two pages. Instead, you’re able to really showcase and highlight your contributions from the last 10 years and give it full attention and space.
Using the past 10 years of work experience also cuts off any opportunities for implicit age bias. As a career expert who works with middle-aged job seekers every day, I’d love to be able to say that I never hear of age discrimination but that simply isn’t so. By removing dates from earlier work history we’re minimizing any opportunities for age bias before a candidate has been offered more serious consideration. In other words, they can see your value and contributions first and foremost.
Is It Ever Okay to Include Experience from More Than 10-15 Years Ago?
Yes, there are absolutely situations where it’s okay to include earlier experience. Let’s say you want to transition back to an industry that you were in 20 years ago. It would help to be able to say you’ve had experience before and are familiar with the industry.
When you list this experience though, don’t include it chronologically in your work history. Include it in a separate section entitled “Earlier Experience.” Then leave off the dates but highlight a few of your major wins and contributions to the industry.
Another scenario I see pop up is when someone has been with their current employer for more than 10 years or has only had two employers and the dates at the position prior would cause the resume to stretch past that 10-15 year mark. This is where it can be a bit tricky to decide whether to include it or not. Generally, though, it’s better to show progression and longevity than to exclude a role that could include accomplishments related to your next career move. Err on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion when in doubt or when you only have one or two roles with great longevity.
If you’re facing a unique situation and you’re not sure whether to include or leave off a role, leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to offer a recommendation for tackling it. But generally speaking, if you stick to the most recent 10-15 years of experience and put any relevant prior experience in a separate undated section, you’ll be all set.
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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