Choosing to launch a job search is a big decision. Not only does it signal that you’re ready for something new, but it also means you’ll need to commit time and energy to the process.
Often, getting your resume in order is a crucial step. If you can’t showcase your capabilities effectively, your job search may linger on longer than you’d like.
But figuring out how far back your resume should go isn’t always easy. While those early in their careers would typically list everything relevant, if you’re well into your career, that isn’t universally the ideal move. You may wonder, do your earlier experiences need to be listed, and are they are worth including?
If you want to make sure your resume goes back the right amount of time, here’s what you need to know.
How Far Back Your Resume Should Go
How far back your resume should go does depend on where you are in your career. Younger professionals and recent graduates won’t have as much relevant experience, limiting their options. However, they can broaden what they showcase by emphasizing their time pursuing their education, highlighting relevant accomplishments or projects.
Once a professional is no longer new to their field of expertise, most shouldn’t go back more than 10 to 15 years, depending on the number of positions you’ve held during that time and overall relevancy. That way, you can cover critical points while keeping your resume concise.
For example, if you shifted positions fairly regularly, you may want to stick with 10 years. You’ll be able to discuss your experience without creating a resume that’s more than two pages long.
On the other side of the equation, if you had only a couple of employers up to this point, then you may want to list 15 years of work history onto your resume. This ensures your work history area doesn’t look too short at a glance.
However, relevancy needs to be a vital factor. Even if you’ve had very few employers, don’t go back 15 years if it means listing positions that aren’t relevant to the role you want to land. Similarly, if your relevant work history is limited to 8 years, you may want to stop there. It would be better to discuss additional achievements to bring your resume to the right length than add jobs that don’t matter in the hiring manager’s eyes.
Exceptions to the Rule
It is important to note that there are some situations where including more than 10 to 15 years of work history may be necessary or appropriate. For example, if you’re asked to provide a Curriculum Vitae (CV) instead of a resume, you can definitely dig deeper into your career. A CV commonly exceeds two pages and is meant to be incredibly in-depth.
Additionally, if the application instructions specifically require more than 10 or 15 years of work history, provide it, even if some of the positions aren’t relevant. Failing to do so means you didn’t follow the instructions. If that’s discovered, it’s a misstep that can easily cost you the role.
Ultimately, how far you should go back on your resume does vary depending on where you are in your career. However, unless specifically told to do otherwise, consider 10 to 15 years to be the maximum you need to cover in the majority of cases.