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how far back should a resume go

How Far Back Should a Resume Go?

How far back should a resume go? Although the general rule of thumb is to not go beyond ten years, there is no hard and fast rule regarding how far back a resume should go. This article will help you determine precisely how far back you can go with your resume, depending on your individual situation.

How to determine how far back you should go

Several factors influence how far back you can go when stating qualifications in a resume. Here are a couple of those factors that may dictate exactly how much you can share in terms of history.

Relevancy

The most obvious factor that can affect the amount of history you can include in your resume is the relevance of your qualifications. What hiring managers want to see are not just the most recent accomplishments and experiences but also the most relevant ones. Make sure to check the job description for the types of skills and knowledge that are relevant to the job you are applying for.

If you have relevant experience that is not in your most recent work experience, you should make a point to include it. For instance, if you apply for a position in a charity organization and have a history of volunteer work in high school, you should definitely include that. You can, later on, explain that the experience allowed you to establish values and foundations that are in line with charity work.

The job description

Not all of your skills may be applicable to the job description, just as the tip above describes. On top of that, some employers may require a specific number of years of experience for some positions. As you write your work history, make sure to study the job description to properly fit your experience with what they need from you.

Level of the role

Most entry-level positions do not require extensive work history. A year or two of apprenticeship, on-the-job training, or special projects may be all that is necessary to suffice what the hiring managers are looking for. On the other hand, high-level managerial positions often require a more extensive work history. Senior roles may require up to 15 years of work history in order for you to truly impress employers.

Prominent experiences

Not all experience may be limited to work history; you may have other experiences, special projects, notable roles or titles, and other vocations that are especially useful to the job you are applying for. These prominent experiences may include volunteer work, military service, special training, or personal projects wherein you’ve acquired special skills that make you the perfect candidate for the job. 

A specific timeframe may not bind these prominent experiences, and several of them may have happened a long time ago. Still, that does not discount the value that they added to your career life, especially in terms of skills and personal growth.

Resume length

Just as many of our other resume tips stress, you need to keep your resume brief and concise. Hiring managers can sift through hundreds of resumes for a single position, so it is essential not to waste their time. A single-page resume is ideal for entry-level jobs, while a two-pager may be applicable for those with more extensive experience (provided that these experiences are relevant to the position applied for).

Keeping this in mind, select only the most relevant experiences, most valuable, and most impressive so that you can focus on them and so that the other fillers do not crowd your resume unnecessarily.

How far back should a resume go based on your current situation?

There are specific situations that call for different lengths of work history in a resume. To give you a general idea, look through the following conditions and see if any of them match your current circumstances.

Fresh graduates (0 to 2 Years)

You may include up to two years of experience if you are a fresh graduate. You might think, “but I’m just fresh out of college. What could I possibly include in my work history?”

New graduates may include their academic achievements, extracurricular activities, personal achievements, honors, volunteer work, internships, or any special training outside of school. The key here is to highlight your transferable skills such as leadership, communication, organization skills, and problem-solving.

Young professionals (2 to 5 Years)

Young professionals who have up to five years of work experience do have a bit more leverage in terms of work history. You can confidently leave out your academic achievements and instead focus on your roles and responsibilities at work that are relevant to the job you are applying for.

On top of your work experiences, also think about other projects you have accomplished outside of work, such as any hobbies, clubs, or passion projects you have completed.

Mid-level professionals (5 Years and Beyond)

This is the period in your career where you get to be more selective about which projects, roles, responsibilities, and titles you wish to include in your resume. Unfortunately, these may also mean that you need to omit specific roles you’ve held in the past. If you find it hard to omit some work history (and if it all fits in a two-pager), you may opt to divide your work history into “relevant experiences” and “other work experiences.”

Large work gap

You may have had to stop working for a period of time to care for a family member, go on a lengthy sabbatical, raise small children, and such. In this case, you may have to dig a little deeper into your work history and go as far back as you can (possibly exceeding the 10 to 15-year mark).

However, it is essential to explain this work gap in your cover letter or resume summary. It could also help if you’ve had any recent experiences, training, seminars, volunteer work, or part-time jobs and hobbies that may have added to your skills.

Conclusion

Several factors can affect how far back a resume should go, but here are some of the main points to consider:

5-10 Years

A recent graduate or someone who has had a significant career switch may have limited inclusions in their work history. Someone fresh out of college may only share academic-related achievements, while someone who has had a career switch will have to omit a lot of irrelevant work history.

10-15 Years

For many, this is the standard answer to the question “how far back should a resume go?” In the case of many people, this may include three to five different work experiences, including academic achievements, training, apprenticeships, other activities, licensing, and jobs. For more experienced professionals, these ten to fifteen years may only include their recent most relevant positions.

15 Years and Beyond

Persons who have had a long work gap may need to go beyond the recommended fifteen years of work history to be able to include relevant skills to the job they are applying for. Also, professionals who have held the same position for more than fifteen years may also opt to include their extensive history to show how dedicated they are to their craft.

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