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How far should you go back? How many years of experience do you put on a resume?

How far should you go back? How many years of experience do you put on a resume?

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • Why shouldn’t you list every job you ever had? 
  • Keep it under the last 10 years 
  • Don’t include unrelated jobs
  • Consider an “Additional careers” section
  • Avoid including short-term careers
  • Key takeaways

Not sure how many years of experience you should put on your resume? We look at how far back you should go with your resume document’s experience section.

If you’re at the start of your career, you should include all the relevant details you can in your professional resume. If you’ve got years or decades of experience under your belt, however, filling your resume with every past job of yours can actively harm your chances of getting hired. To learn how many years of experience should go on a resume and how to present your work history in the best light, follow the article’s tips, which talk about:

  • Why listing too many jobs can harm your resume

  • Which jobs your resume shouldn’t describe in detail

  • What experiences shouldn’t be mentioned

Why shouldn’t you list every job you ever had? 

Whatever the career or industry, modern job seekers almost always need well-written, detailed professional resumes if they want hiring managers to take them seriously. Many job seekers, when writing their first resume document, assume that more work experience is always better.

In practice, though, professional resumes with too many past jobs listed might alienate hiring managers who read through them for reasons such as

  • Having trouble reading through the dense text

  • Feeling like they’re being swamped with unimportant details

  • Assuming that the job seeker is too old for the job opening

Statistical Insight

According to a recent Finances Online article, the most successful resume documents average out at 2 pages and tend to be between 475-600 words in length.

To avoid giving hiring managers such negative impressions, it’s important you create resume documents with the right ratio of work experience for the job you’re seeking. To do this, keep the following guidelines in mind.

Keep it under the last 10 years 

Though not as pronounced as it was, ageism is still an issue among many businesses, which prioritize job-seekers who seem young over job-seekers who seem middle-aged or senior. This phenomenon can lead to hiring managers paradoxically rejecting professional resumes with lots of work experience, even if the careers described are successful and relevant. 

Additionally, most hiring managers these days want job applicants who are up-to-date on modern work practices, i.e., using the latest computer software, upholding contemporary codes of workplace ethics, awareness of the latest business trends, etc. If most of the past jobs listed on your resume are older than a couple of years, hiring managers might assume that your workplace skills are ”out of date.”

This raises the question: how far back should your resume go? As a general rule, your resume’s career history section should only list jobs from the past 10 years of your professional life. Suppose your resume’s job descriptions are quite detailed. In that case, you might want to trim the career history section even further to keep your resume within 2 pages and make sure hiring managers can scan your document easily.

Expert Tip

There are a few exceptions to the rule of “don’t add jobs to your resume from more than 10 years ago” (especially if you’re an older professional with 25+ years of experience).

For instance, if you worked at a company for more than 10 years, describe every relevant position you held there and highlight accomplishments such as promotions or commendations. Also, ignore the “10-year” rule if there’s an old past career of yours that near-perfectly qualifies you for the job you seek.

Don’t include unrelated jobs

If you’re seeking work in a specific industry, your professional resume should be tailored to the job you want to get. Your resume’s skill list should match the job opening’s minimum requirements. Your professional summary should tell hiring managers why you’d be a good fit for their company. Your career history section should be full of jobs that prepared you to excel at the position you now seek.

If a past career of yours has no plausible link to your target job, remove it from your resume’s career history section. Furthermore, if you’ve recently started on a new career path, only list jobs you held after your career switch.

Consider an “Additional careers” section

If a job is old or not linked to your current career path, your resume will be more likely to make a good impression if you remove that job’s description. At the same time, trimming irrelevant jobs from your resume could make the document look too small or fill it with jarring blank spaces.

If you need to fill out your resume, but don’t want to describe certain past jobs in detail, you can add a new section below the career history section with a title such as “additional experience.” In this section, you can list a career’s job title, company name, and work location.

Much like putting hobbies on a resume to stand out, additional experience sections like these can fill in blank white spaces and show hiring managers that you’re a seasoned professional.

Avoid including short-term careers

When hiring managers read your professional resume, they often try to evaluate both your qualifications and your reliability – not just your ability to perform the job opening’s responsibilities, but your ability to show up on time, get along with your co-workers, and self-improve as well.

For this reason, try to avoid adding job entries to your resume for positions you worked at for less than a year. Even if you thrived at these jobs and parted ways with your former workplaces amicably, hiring managers might look at the start/end dates of these job descriptions and assume that you were fired or laid off for being unreliable.

Need help making your next resume? Check out our service page with our resume builder and resume examples!

Key takeaways

  1. Add a career to your professional resume if it’s recent or shows that you’ll excel at the job you’re seeking.

  2. Career descriptions in your resume shouldn’t go more than 10 years back or highlight positions that aren’t relevant to your current job pursuits.

  3. Additional career sections are a good way to expand your professional resume without dwelling too much on old or unimportant careers.

  4. When describing your years of experience in your professional resume, avoid details that might make hiring managers think you’re too old or unreliable.

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