How Far Back Should You Go On Your Resume?

One common question about resume writing is how many years you should put down in your work experience section. If you haven’t been in the job market for long, this isn’t a challenge. But what if you’ve been working for more than a decade? What if you have 30 years of job experience? Putting down everything you’ve ever done might sound great at first, but then you have to consider the advice that you keep your resume down to one or two pages. In some cases it’s not possible to do that and still put down all your experience, especially if you’ve worked many different jobs.

The general advice for most people is to stop after you’ve put down a decade’s worth of jobs, though there are no hard set rules on this matter. There are various situations where you might want to do otherwise. For example, perhaps you worked at one company for more than ten years. If so, you wouldn’t want to cut out any time. It’s not like putting down a larger span of dates will eat up space on your resume, and it’s relevant that you committed so much time to one company, and also that a company wanted you around that long.

Sometimes it’s part of the job requirements that you have more than a decade of experience in some field or other, especially a technical or executive field. If that’s the case, cutting out job experience would be detrimental to your application, and would result in you being passed over even though you might be qualified for the job. Pay close attention to the job requirements and try to reflect them in your resume. This is one reason that it’s important to try to send out individualized resumes for every position you are applying for.

Another reason you might not want to cut out experience from a long time ago is that it may be more relevant to the job you’re applying for than other experience you have which took place more recently. This is less likely to be the case if you’re applying for technology-related work, since the technology will have become outmoded from that time. But for something evergreen like customer service, it could make sense to leave in earlier jobs.

One more reason you might consider going all the way back on your resume is if you are concerned that employers might think you are hiding something by leaving out experience. Or they might assume that you really didn’t work during that time span, perhaps because you were unemployed.

Either way, this can make your resume appear strangely incomplete. So when you’re deciding how far back to go in your work experience section on your resume, try to use some discernment and personal judgment. The ten year timeframe is fine as a general rule, but there are many reasons you might want to break that rule, so it’s up to you and what you think is appropriate for your situation.

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