How Far Back Should Your Resume Go?

How Far Back Should Your Resume Go?

Whether you're crafting a resume for an entry-level position or for a high level career opportunity, you need to make some big decisions. For one, you need to decide what jobs to include under your experience heading. Sure, you could go back to 30 years ago. But that might not be what's best for you. Learn more about how far back you should go on your resume to increase your chance of getting an interview.

There's No Easy Answer

First, you should realize that there is no one, straightforward answer to this question. Every situation is different, so it's impossible to say how far back your experience should go. If you stayed at home and didn't work for eight years, you might need to dig back further into your work history. But if you have had ten jobs in the last ten years, you won't want to go back that far.

As a standard rule of thumb, you should keep jobs and experiences that occurred more than ten years ago. But your situation might be an exception to this rule, so keep an open mind. When you're creating your resume, think about what jobs you need to include to convey your qualifications. At times, this could mean going back 13 years.

Why Staying Recent Matters

There are two main drawbacks to using jobs from decades past on your resume. First, there's the fact that your lack of recent history could be a cause for concern. An employer might wonder why you don't have any recent positions that show your skill set. If you don't have current jobs on your resume, you will need to be prepared to explain the gap.

Second, a job ten years ago may be very different from the current job today. Over the years, technology has changed things. Although a position may have the same job title and similar duties, the way in which you accomplish those duties could be significantly altered. A hiring manager might prefer to see that you've had a recent job with a different title.

Will using jobs from years ago prevent you from getting an interview or job offer? No. But a hiring manager could hold it against you. You should think twice before using a job from over a decade ago on your resume.

Why There are Exceptions

Taking a trip down memory lane could help you get a position. If you had a job 15 years ago that is directly related to a job listing, you may want to include it on your resume. This is particularly true for rare or unusual jobs. Despite the fact that the position isn't recent, an employer could see the value in your experience.

Including an old position on your resume gives you an opportunity to share your qualifications with a hiring manager. If you don't include the job on your resume, you may not have a chance to discuss it. Incorporating the position in your resume opens the door for conversation.

How to Decide What to Include and Exclude

As you're writing or editing your resume, carefully consider which jobs you include. In addition to looking at the date of employment, consider the following:


If a job is from eight or more years ago, consider how relevant it is to the job listing. What value is there in including the job on your resume? Don't use the job if it's not directly related to the listing.

In some cases, you may go back to your college days. If a position is relevant enough or an accomplishment is major enough, you can overlook the date of employment. It's important for the hiring manager to know the full extent of your experience.

Length of Employment

The length of the employment period also matters. If you have a job you left 12 years ago, it could be worth including on your resume because you remained in that position for six years. Hiring managers look favorably upon candidates that's stay in one place for an extended period.

On the other hand, you should avoid including a position that you only had for a few months. The position won't add any value to your resume and could hurt your chances of success.

Can You Explain the Gap

In some cases, using a job from years ago reveals a significant gap in your resume. Unfortunately, a large gap in employment could hurt your chances. You need to be ready to explain why you had such a large gap in employment. If possible, use personal accomplishments to showcase how you used your time wisely.

As long as you're prepared and you have a good explanation for a gap, you don't need to worry. But if you don't have a good explanation, you may want to think twice before listing a job that will highlight your gap.

Communication is Key

The truth is that it does not matter what jobs you include on your resume. Instead, all that matters is how you communicate your experience. It all starts with your cover letter. You can lay the groundwork in your cover letter and explain why you went back so far in your employment history for your resume. While your resume itself can't go into much detail, your cover letter can.

There is a certain stigma that comes from unemployment. Whether you were at home to take care of your kids or you were caring for a sick family member, you need to explain yourself. Use your cover letter to tell the hiring manager what you were doing and to explain why you went back so far on your job history.

In the end, only you can say what jobs to include on your resume. Whatever you choose to do, know that it's all in the way you communicate. Your cover letter and phone presence can all help you get an in-person interview. If you have a face-to-face meeting, you can explain your situation even better.

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