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How Far Back You Should Go on Your Resume?

When you have a ton of experience, it can be tough to pick out exactly how far back you should go on your resume. Here are five tips to follow.

Ho Lin Profile
By Ho Lin 3 minute read

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How Far Back Should Your Resume Go?

Many experienced professionals with an extensive employment history can find it tough to narrow down their experiences when writing a resume for a new job. To answer the question “How far back should a resume go?” let’s take a closer look at how to format your work history on your resume.

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Top 5 Tips on How To Add Work Experience to Your Resume

Hiring managers want to know if you are qualified for a given job listing, which can be extremely important when you are applying for a managerial or senior position. This is why you need to pay close attention to what you include in the work experience section.

Many professional resume writers advise that your resume shouldn’t go back further than 10 years at most. This is especially true for positions that involve high tech, where certain software you’ve used in the past may no longer be used or is simply outdated.

Recruiters will pay more attention to resumes that use the following five tips:

1. Only include relevant experience.

A good rule of thumb is to only include the most relevant work history on your resume. Focus on duties and achievements that show you’re capable of the work required in the job description.

2. List your work experience in reverse-chronological order.

When you list your work history, present it in reverse-chronological order. A hiring manager is more likely to look at your recent experience to assess if you are familiar with the work environment as a whole. It is easier to integrate an employee who knows how to handle the most up-to-date equipment, software, and tools. This is not to say that adding earlier experiences isn’t valuable. Tracking your rise from entry-level assistant to a full-fledged manager or department head can show recruiters that you are a dedicated individual who would fit in well with their team. Focus on experiences and achievements that show you’ve gained (and can use) the skills you need for the particular job you’re applying to.

3. Stress your length of experience.

For instance, if you are applying for an office manager position, you might list how long you’ve worked as an office assistant or in another office manager position to show off your experience. Some job seekers, such as recent graduates from high school or college, might not have enough experience to list on their resumes. In that case, list relevant volunteer experience or volunteer work instead. Internships and relevant part-time jobs will work as well.

4. Use succinct bullet points.

When discussing your career history, you will also want to be as succinct as possible. Unless you have plenty of relevant work experience to add, your resume length should not be longer than one page at the most. This is where using bullet points can come in handy. A brief bullet point list underneath each job title explaining what your most important duties were can tell a recruiter everything they need to know about your experience and skills.

5. Use keywords from the job description.

Oftentimes, hiring managers won’t have the time to parse through every single application that comes their way. They will instead run these resumes through an applicant tracking system (ATS), which will scan your entire application for keywords from the job description itself (usually specific skills or job requirements for the job). The more keywords you use, the more likely your application will get in front of a hiring manager.

FAQs: How Far Back to Go on Your Resume

Have questions? We’re here to help.

Specific positions might require you to submit a more thorough resume or CV, such as jobs in academia or management positions. Having plenty of professional experience that goes over more than 10 years can prove that you are qualified for a high-level position without the recruiter going over your resume in detail.

Drawbacks to a resume that includes older jobs include possible age discrimination issues. Younger candidates who might not have the same experience as you might land the job instead simply due to their youth. Age discrimination is prevalent in many industries and affects those 64 to 66 years old more so than other age groups, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A lengthy work history section also runs the risk of creating a resume that’s more than two pages long; employers generally lose patience with resumes of that length.

If you are making a career change, then it is perfectly fine to list some work history that does not line up perfectly with the new industry you want to break into. This is where you will need to emphasize your transferable skills and how you can apply them in your new workplace. Your job search does not have to be limited to the careers you have previously held.

Writing a professional resume is only the first step to creating a great job application. You also need to craft the perfect cover letter as well. If you’re truly pressed for time for an application, then you can always use a cover letter builder tool. These tools have plenty of templates, examples, and other tips for you to use to craft the perfect cover letter in minutes.

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Ho Lin Profile

Ho Lin is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and editor with two decades of experience in content strategy, creation, and development. He holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University and his background includes experience aiding military veterans as they transition to civilian careers.

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