If you are well-established in your career, are returning to the workforce or just beginning your job search, it can be tough to decide what to include on your resume. For professionals who have an eclectic work history or are further along in their career path, building your resume can be even more challenging.
When applying to jobs, sometimes your older positions can be more relevant than your recent ones, but excluding these newer roles can give off the impression there are gaps in your work history.
So what do you do?
If you are like most people, you want a straightforward answer or simple solution to this question. But career experts and coaches advise there is no one cookie-cutter rule to indicate how many years to go back on a resume.
Even though there is no “right” way to build your resume, below are some best practices to assist you during resume construction:
Rule of Thumb
The standard rule of thumb when updating a resume is to not include experience that is more than 10 years old. Most employment verifications being conducted will not go past a 7-10-year period.
If you’re itching to include positions that are older than 10 years, consider how relevant the experience is for the job to which you are applying.
Your resume is the first impression you have with a potential employee, so you need to catch their attention, and fast.
Avoiding Generation Bias
If the experience is relevant, try not to exceed 15 years to avoid any (unintentional) generation bias.
Additionally, leaving off dates of graduations can be helpful in this effort, too. List your degrees and the institutions attended, but leave off the dates!
When you graduated isn’t nearly as important as obtaining your degree.
Tell a Story
When listing your experience on your resume, it is important to demonstrate why you are qualified for the role. If you are having writer's block, it can help to reframe your resume as the story of your career path.
If you achieved something in high school or college that has relevance to what you are doing now, go ahead and list the accolade in your qualifications. If, after listing all your relevant experience, there is a large employment gap in your timeline, then fill it in with your past work history.
If an employment gap was due to taking a gap year, caring for a family member or going back to school, provide this information on your resume so the reader has a full understanding of the story you are trying to tell via your past work history. Be sure to stay on topic, however; even though you weren’t collecting a paycheck, many of these experiences can help you sell an employer on your professional value.
Going Beyond the Resume
In the age of technology, dropping off resumes in person is a thing of the past. The preferred method of applying to a job is to fill out an online application. Every platform is different, so there is no hard and fast rule on how to fill out these forms either, so it is best to focus more on the story, rather than trying to account for every detail of employment.
Additionally, using social media to build connections and professionally network is an excellent way to increase your chances of obtaining new employment. Job boards, social networking sites, and staffing agencies will often host online networking events or job fairs, which can help you connect to job opportunities you would have otherwise missed.
Your Resume, Your Story. Make It Worth the Read!
Your resume is the first impression you have with a potential employee, so you need to catch their attention, and fast. Do your best to make your professional story one that is worth reading.
Unless you are in a specialized field where more information is required, the length should be no more than two pages maximum. Your resume should also be catered to the job description. Be sure to account for any large gaps in employment, and don’t be afraid to have friends, colleagues or a recruiter proofread it to ensure it properly tells your professional journey.
Your resume is your time to shine. With these tips, you can be sure that your resume and professional experience shine the brightest to new employers.