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How Far Back Should A Resume Go (For Work History) 2024 Update

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Often, we find ourselves entangled in the dilemma of determining how far back a resume should go. This quandary may arise due to our absence from the professional world for an extended period or the challenge of showcasing our prior work experiences within the confines of a concise two-page limit.

Understanding how far back your resume should go is a key milestone.

While the inclination often arises to list every past experience on your resume, it’s essential to recognize that incorporating your entire career history from over 15 years ago can adversely affect your job search.

Seasoned experts and professional recruiters recommend a more pragmatic approach, which proves significantly more effective.

Are you aware that the more focused and concise your resume is, the greater its ability to persuade potential recruiters, who generally allocate less than 15 seconds to make hiring decisions?

You should regard your resume as a marketing document and a textual sales pitch.

Hence, it doesn’t need to encompass an exhaustive account of your entire career history.

In this article, we will address the following questions:

  • How far back should your resume go?
  • How much job experience should you include?
  • When is the appropriate time to omit older positions from your resume?

We will also provide valuable tips for crafting an exceptional resume without delving into a 35-year career retrospective, and much more.

Without further delay, let’s dive in.

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How Far Back Should A Resume Go?

When our team of certified resume specialists crafts your resume, we often ask a few questions to gain greater clarity. The factors we take into account include:

Industry-specific criteria:

Including more than 10-15 years of work experience on your resume, particularly for industries such as Academia and Civil Service, is not only acceptable but also meets their specific requirements.

Conversely, for certain industries like technology, listing more than 10 years of work experience may not be the most suitable choice, given the rapid and constant changes in the technological landscape.

Job description guidelines:

Many employers specify the number of years of work experience they prefer in their job listings.

It is your responsibility to meticulously review each job posting to determine the appropriate number of years to include in your resume.

Anas K., a career consultant at CEOMichaelHR, recommends this approach to most of his clients, regardless of their industry:

Typically, the last 10 years represent the most critical and relevant experience to showcase. This ensures that your resume remains concise, unless the job description explicitly requires more than 10 years of experience.

Relevance to the job:

When an employer scans your resume, the first aspect that captures their attention is how closely your skills and experience align with the advertised position.

Therefore, prior to tailoring your resume, carefully assess the job description to emphasize only the pertinent skills and experiences.

Remember, your resume serves as a curated document designed to highlight your skills and experience. If you find past roles to be irrelevant, consider omitting them to make room for describing the roles that will present you in the best light to potential recruiters.

Find out: The Predictive Index Test (All You Need to Know)

Tailoring Your Resume for Recent Grads: How Far Back Should You Go? (Up to 2 Years of Experience)

Are you a recent graduate with up to two years of work experience?

When customizing your resume and deciding how far back to go, it’s crucial to encompass your professional, academic, and personal accomplishments and experiences from both high school and college.

The objective is to showcase your transferable skills, such as leadership, communication, problem-solving, collaboration, and time management, while illustrating how you applied them in relevant class projects, internships, volunteer work, personal endeavors, or part-time positions.

Incorporate these experiences selectively, focusing on those that align with the positions you’re applying for.

For instance, ponder whether participating in a car wash fundraiser would impress potential recruiters screening candidates for a copywriter role.

You might hold the winning ticket, especially if you were responsible for crafting the social media messaging. Hopefully, you now grasp the concept.

Find out: How to Write a Resume with No Work Experience

How Far Back Should A Resume Go For Young Professionals (2-5 Years Experience)

For young professionals with 2-5 years in the workforce, it’s essential to have acquired relevant work experience within your chosen field, in addition to your college courses, projects, awards, and GPA.

At this stage, employers are considerably less interested in your college activities and are more focused on assessing the progress of your post-graduate experience.

Enhancing the strength of your resume entails including details about your volunteer experiences, leadership roles, freelance projects, and even your involvement in professional organizations and affiliations. This not only adds character but also goes beyond mere years of work experience.

How Far Back Should A Resume Go For Mid – Level And Experienced Professionals (5+ Years Of Experience)

For mid-level and experienced professionals who have successfully crossed the five-year milestone, your primary focus should revolve around providing detailed accounts of your most relevant work experiences while downplaying the significance of early professional and part-time positions.

As you progress in your career, the ’10 to 15 years’ rule for determining how far back your resume should go will become more applicable.

This approach will assist you in making informed judgments about which positions to retain and which to remove from your resume.

While tailoring your resume, remember to assess whether your experiences warrant a two-page document and be mindful of the relevance of each position you choose to include.

If you find yourself holding a multitude of job titles, consider splitting your work experiences into two sections:

Relevant Experience: This section should concentrate on the pertinence and transferable skills relevant to your target position. Include comprehensive information about the roles, responsibilities, and achievements associated with your desired job, using detailed bullet points. If you possess relevant experience from more than the past 10 to 15 years that must be included, you can list it here.

Supplementary Experience: To eliminate any conspicuous gaps in your resume, you can list unrelated positions held within the last 10 to 15 years without providing detailed descriptions or bullet points.

Adopting this strategy will ensure that your most pertinent experiences take center stage, sparing hiring managers the need to search for them within a more extensive work history.

Find out: How Long Should You Stay at a Job Before Quitting?

Why You Shouldn’t Include Your Full Work History on Your Resume

We’ve outlined several compelling reasons for limiting your resume to 10 to 15 years of work experience:

Mitigates Age Discrimination

It’s essential to consider how age discrimination might inadvertently hinder your chances of securing an interview.

Regrettably, age bias exists and can significantly impede your prospects.

Imagine how readily potential employers could estimate your age when your resume spans over 20 to 30 years.

This could result in immediate disqualification, particularly if they’re seeking a younger candidate.

However, once you secure an interview, you’ll have the opportunity to demonstrate your value.

Emphasizes Relevance

Since hiring managers often disregard experiences beyond the last 10 to 15 years, it’s advisable to exclude them from your resume.

In reality, your resume has a mere 15 seconds to make a favorable initial impression on hiring professionals.

Therefore, it’s in your best interest to maintain a clear and concise resume.

Highlighting irrelevant experiences or information significantly increases your risk of rejection.

Reduces Clutter

Incorporating extensive years of experience on your resume can easily lead to clutter.

Hiring managers become frustrated when they encounter a cluttered resume.

Ensure that your resume remains within the one to two-page limit, presenting a clear, concise snapshot that immediately communicates your suitability for the position.

Find out: How to Write an ATS Resume

Considerations For Extending Your Resume Beyond 10 Years

While there are exceptions to every rule, we have outlined three conditions under which your resume can deviate from this norm and incorporate experiences spanning over 15 years.

High Relevance

As a general guideline, it is advisable to include only the most recent 10–15 years of your work experience, especially if you possess, for instance, 35+ years of pertinent work history.

However, if your work experience throughout 35+ years remains highly relevant, showcasing various facets of your work and achievements, then it is advisable to retain it on your resume.

Furthermore, keep in mind that when applying for senior-level positions where age carries less weight, highlighting over 10-15 years of your relevant experience can be justified.

Prestigious Titles or Companies

Have you held prestigious titles or worked for highly reputable companies? If the answer is yes, then you should certainly include them on your resume.

Due to the prestige associated with your previous titles and the esteemed organizations you were a part of, your resume will immediately capture the attention of hiring managers and pass the scrutiny test.

Explaining Employment Gaps

In cases where you list the year of your graduation, certification, license, or other projects but omit a significant portion of your work experience, potential recruiters may perceive a gap in your resume.

In such a scenario, you will need to either incorporate your work experience or remove other dates.

Please note that it is a prudent practice to omit dates from your education, certifications, or licenses, as the 10–15-year guideline primarily pertains to your work experiences.

The decision to remove dates depends entirely on what you have listed; nonetheless, remember that you do not need to specify your graduation year.

What If You’ve Only Worked At One Company For Many Years?

If you’ve been employed at a single company for an extended period, the question arises: how do you effectively showcase your career on your resume?

It can indeed be challenging to navigate this situation, but there are strategies we can employ to address it.

One approach is to emphasize the various roles you’ve held within the company by segmenting your work experience according to the years you held each title. This tactic allows you to prioritize the most pertinent positions at the forefront of your resume while omitting less relevant ones.

For instance, consider Mariah, who is seeking an accounting position after dedicating 32 years to XYZ Corp. Over that span, she occupied several roles:

  • Accountant: 6 Years (2016 to 2022)
  • Financial Analyst: 6 Years (2010 to 2016)
  • Customer Service Representative: 10 Years (2000 to 2010)

In this case, it would be advantageous for Mariah to highlight the Financial Analyst and Accounting positions separately, along with the corresponding years of service.

Simultaneously, it would be prudent to exclude the Customer Service Representative role, which dates back 22 years.

Putting Career Gigs On A Resume

Did you know that over one third of workers in the united states are part of the gig economy?

If you find yourself among the 57 million people in this category, you might be concerned that your work history consists mainly of these gig-based roles. But fear not! We’ll guide you on how to make the most of it.

Our recommendation? Utilize a combination resume format that spotlights your skills rather than presenting a mundane list of job titles, company names, and dates in the typical chronological order.

Focus on 2 to 3 jobs that are most relevant to the position you’re targeting and provide detailed information about them.

The recommended combination resume format, also known as a hybrid resume, blends the strengths of the reverse-chronological resume and the functional resume. This style is highly advisable for:

Career transition professionals: It allows them to elaborate on skills pertinent to the target position.

Seasoned professionals with extensive work experience: It enables them to showcase their best and most significant career achievements with ease.

Professionals with employment gaps: It provides ample space to demonstrate their skills, regardless of their work history or experience.

How To Make Your Resume Experience Section Relevant

At CEOMichaelHR, our experts firmly believe that “relevant means valuable.” The majority of hiring managers concur that the relevance of an experience far outweighs its length.

According to Brianna Rooney, the founder and CEO of

A resume serves as the vessel to secure an interview, not the job itself. It should encapsulate your experience succinctly, avoiding excessive length or vagueness. Many individuals dwell on their past, but companies are eager to know, ‘What have you achieved recently, and what can you offer us now?‘”

Below, we highlight ways to guide the recruiter toward your career highlights that truly matter:

  • Ensure your resume is keyword-focused and fully aligned with the job description
  • Address the employer’s specific needs directly
  • Quantify your accomplishments to demonstrate your perfect match for the position
  • Use bullet points to effectively convey your job experiences comprehensively

The number of jobs you should feature on your resume is less important than selecting the appropriate ones.

Confused by this statement? Let’s break it down:

If you aspire to become a Sales Associate, concentrate on showcasing roles related to sales on your resume. You need not emphasize positions such as bartending or running a fitness class at a local studio.

Instead, prioritize retail, sales representative, and customer service experiences. Describe each position in a way that emphasizes keywords and aligns with the job description.

Here’s an effective approach:

  1. Carefully review the job description
  2. Highlight the skills they’re seeking and identify the company’s core requirements
  3. List your accomplishments from previous positions
  4. Include only the experiences that are relevant to the targeted vacancy

Key takeaway: If you aim to tailor your resume to a job description but lack direct experience in the role, focus on positions closely related to the one you’re applying for and highlight your transferable skills

Find out: How to Get More Results with a C.A.R. Resume

How Long Should A Resume Be?

how long should a resume be

The appropriate length of your resume depends on your specific circumstances. However, there are two crucial factors to take into account: the duration of your career and how well that experience aligns with your current career objectives.

It’s important to note that resumes and CVs are distinct documents. A CV is an exhaustive, step-by-step account of an individual’s achievements, positions held, appearances, publications, and more.

In essence, a CV provides a comprehensive overview of the significant tasks accomplished in your prior work experiences.

Resumes, on the other hand, are more concise than CVs. They focus on presenting the most vital and pertinent details from your work history.

When considering the optimal length for your resume, it should generally not exceed two pages, unless certain exceptional circumstances or specific requirements dictate otherwise.

It’s important to recognize that employers typically don’t read every word on your resume; they quickly scan for important details, including your work experience and skills.

Therefore, it’s critical to keep your resume brief, precise, and directly relevant. Strive to stay within the two-page limit.

Find out: Curriculum Vitae vs Resume

How Many Jobs Should I List On My Resume?

There is no limit to the number of jobs you can include on your resume.

You may list as many as you desire, provided that they are all relevant and that you do not exceed the 10-15 year timeframe, except in special cases as previously discussed.

If the skills you acquired 10 years ago remain pertinent and effective, you should include them in your resume’s work experience section.

To include previous positions on your resume, please refer to the template below.

1. Work experience above 10 years

IT Help Desk Analyst | 2010 – 2022
XYZ Company – Hometown, TX

Note: Use bullet points to highlight and summarize your accomplishments

2. Work experience with a different employer and similar experience

Let’s say you worked same position and carried out the same responsibilities under different employers, here is how you can list your experience:

IT Support Officer | 2012 – 2022
XYZ Company | 2017 – 2022
ABC Company | 2012 – 2017

Note: Use bullet points to highlight and summarize your accomplishments

3. Same employer different job positions

ABC Company | 2014 – 2022
Help Desk Analyst | 2017 – 2022
Help Desk Technician | 2014 – 2017

Note: Use bullet points to highlight and summarize your accomplishments

Want to start landing interviews 3x faster? Download our free eBook to learn an easy-to-follow 3-step bullet formula called VCR (bet you never thought a VCR would be useful again, huh?)
Plus, a whooping 100+ action verbs and metrics you can use to quantify your accomplishments (so you’ll never say “I don’t have numbers to use” again!).
Did we mention it’s all 100% free?!

How Far Back Should A Resume Go For Work History? (Wrap Up)

Are you someone with or without extensive work experience wondering how far back your resume should go into your work history?

The answer to the question of how far back your job or work history go on a resume depends on your work experience.

If you’re a recent college graduate with limited work experience, would you want to convey to your potential employer that you lack work experience? Certainly not!

Instead, consider highlighting some of the projects you completed during your college years, the leadership roles you undertook, and your internship experiences. Utilize these to construct your work history section.

But what if you have accumulated decades of work experience? How far back should you go on your resume?

Here are a few concluding tips below on determining the appropriate scope for your work history on your resume:

Find out: How to Include a Minor on Your Resume

1. Eliminate Irrelevant Work Experience

When you’ve accumulated over a decade of experience in the workforce, condensing 30 years of work history into a mere two-page resume becomes quite the challenge.

The best course of action is to filter out work experiences that are no longer pertinent, retaining only those skills and work accomplishments that remain relevant and up-to-date.

If you work in the field of technology, you’ll concur that the work experience from three decades ago, when compared to recent years, has become somewhat obsolete.

This transformation is primarily due to the ever-evolving nature of the technological landscape, which experiences daily advancements. In such a dynamic field, your best approach is to evolve along with the times.

Consider enrolling in online training programs to enhance your skills and ensure they align with the requirements of contemporary IT positions.

2. Provide Concise Descriptions of Relevant Work Experience

After filtering out irrelevant work experiences, the next step is to furnish concise, yet detailed descriptions of your pertinent work background.

Unless specific criteria, as previously discussed in this article, dictate otherwise, it is advisable to exclude any work experiences that extend beyond the past 15 years.

3. Present Information Chronologically

Resumes adhere to a chronological format, meaning events are presented in the order they occurred.

It’s worth noting that this chronological approach is recommended for professionals with a significant amount of work experience, typically ranging from 3 to 5+ years in the workforce.

As a rule of thumb, it’s prudent to concentrate on work performed within the last decade, omitting older experiences. However, if you believe that your earlier work experiences significantly bolster your credibility, consider the next tip.

4. Dedicate a Section to Early Career Achievements

It’s entirely possible that you have achieved numerous milestones in your career, each adding to your credibility and enhancing your prospects of securing the desired position.

I recommend creating a dedicated section below your work history, spotlighting your key achievements and noteworthy accomplishments.

5. Adhere to the One or Two-Page Resume Limit

While your resume can extend beyond a single page, it is crucial to stay within the two-page limit.

Presenting an excessively lengthy resume can be overwhelming for potential employers. Ensure that the information you provide is concise, relevant, and aligned with your prospective employer’s requirements.

Final Thoughts

In summary, ensure you provide skills and job experience relevant to your employers’ requirements.

The most important thing is to add value and remain relevant. For the question on “how far back to go on resume for work history?” the answer is 10 to 15 years. Good luck with your job search!

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