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How Far Back Should a Resume Go

How to decide the work experience that you must add? Let's dive deep and look at different aspects that contribute to how far back, one’s resume should go.

How Far Back Should a Resume Go
Photo of Brenna Goyette
Brenna Goyette
9 min read

A resume is an integral part of an individual’s professional career. It defines what you are through a single sheet of paper. The challenges most professionals face when writing a new resume or editing an existing one is What to Add in the resume? The question lingers on their mind because the attractive the resume is the higher the chances of acceptance are. Of those many questions, one of them is how far back must a resume go?

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The resume is updated every time you feel like there is a need to add or subtract things. It is best suited to tailor the resume as per the job you are applying for. But what must you include in the work experience if your career has spanned more than 10-20 years or how far you must go back to link to the current job you will be applying to.

Let us dive deep into this area and look at different aspects that contribute to how far must one’s resume go.

How to decide the work experience that you must add?

The work experience that you must add depends upon the job you are applying for: company, position and qualification. Brainstorming on these factors makes you understand which job listing in your resume is important to be there and which isn’t. Sometimes you can remove the last job you did just because it was irrelevant to the current position you are applying for.

Ideally, when deciding what work experience, you must add, you must ensure that the experience added adds weight to the resume and effectively communicates the desired skills and qualifications for the applied position.

Job Relevancy

Why must the employer hire you if he doesn’t find anything in your resume related to the requirements listed in the job opening? Relevancy is of utmost importance here when deciding how far back should you list on your resume. Even though they tend to look at the recent experience and achievements but adding relevant experience and achievements will add more strength to the resume. Therefore, study the job requirement and job description and then tailor your resume as per the need.

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Add work history that even dates back many years before if you believe will increase chances of recruitment. For Example, if you achieved something in high school that is more relevant to your job then you must include it in your resume since it adds strength to it.

Job Description

Always read Job Descriptions before you apply for a position in a certain company. The job description has several requirements of which one is years of working experience. If stated in the Job Description, then do as they say and add the required number of years of work experience in it. It varies upon the company. Some will state 5 years or more, others will state 15 years of experience and so on. So you have to tailor, that is, add or subtract the work experience listings according to the requirement.

Length of a Resume

How long your resume is or how lengthy you intend on making it decides the number of years you should go back in the work experience section of your resume. If you are a professional, a two paged or more resume is suitable for you and hence you can add more work experience that is relevant as per the position you are applying for.

If you are a fresh graduate or entry-level candidate then your resume must not go beyond one page; hence, you have to include work experience in that single page only. So you have to filter out the work experience that strengthens your resume. For more information on Resume, Length check
out our blog post about How Long Should a Resume Be.

Quality matters over Quantity

It is a stigma among the recruitment circle that the more the work experience is, the higher will there be chances of employment. However, the quality of a resume always surpasses the quantity.

If you worked hard in your previous organization where you earned awards and added achievements to your collection, then writing them about it in detail in the work experience can highly impress the employers. It will set you apart from other candidates.

Why Do Employers Suggest to Include Only 10-15 Years of Work Experience?

When your career surpasses the 10-15 years’ mark then it urges candidates to include everything in their work experience section. They don’t want to hide all that they have worked for in the career up till now. However, the following are a few things that you must take into account when deciding what is best for your resume.

To Keep Things Brief

Recruiters only skim through your resume to get a gist about you. Hence, a long list of work experience doesn’t give a good impression of the recruiter regarding you.

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A work experience limiting to the last 10-15 years is easier for recruiters to review and get an idea about your career. In the time frame, your resume would normally stretch over a single page. Still, you can’t gamble on extending the work experience to more than 10-15 years. You might feel like you are erasing a huge chunk from your resume but believe us, it will be more helpful to you in the recruitment process.

To Circumvent Age Discrimination

A long list of work experience will lead to a hiring manager guessing your age. Yes, that’s correct. If your career spans more than 15 to 20 years and you have listed all the work experience in the resume, then it will be easier for the hiring manager to guess your age. This may lead to age discrimination where the company looking for younger candidates might ignore or not consider your resume. When hiring managers do manage to figure out the age then they’ll probably assume the following question: More salary, not challenged enough or too aged to work under the required job positions.

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So, trick the hiring manager by limiting down the work experience and surprise him at the interview! Don’t worry if he sees you at the interview because then you’ll have the chance to prove yourself.

To Increase Resume Relevancy

Resume relevancy is really important. You don’t want your resume to be thrown in the trash or get deleted from the hiring manager’s computer. He doesn’t care what you did 10-15 years ago. He doesn’t want to know what you did in your high school or what internships you underwent in the university. What matters to him are the last 10-15 years of your professional life. They only want to figure out if you are the right person for the job. He’ll skim through your resume for a few seconds and decide whether to call you for an interview or not. So it is highly emphasized to get rid of irrelevant information. Add new achievements or skills in those places instead, They’ll strengthen your resume.

How Far Back Should I Go on My Resume?

The answer to this question can be split up into the following different categories: Professionals, Establishing Career, Early Experience, Career Break.

Professionals

Professionals include those people who already have an established career or have been involved in the corporate world for 10-20 years or more. For such people, the resume shouldn’t go beyond 10-15 years. That is, they have to compromise on their early work like internships, apprenticeship and part-time jobs. Now you have omitted most of the early information and it might be the case that you have been working in the same position or shifted to some other in this time frame. Since you can increase the length of your resume, you can emphasize the jobs within the timeframe and list down relevant expertise, achievements, roles and responsibilities regarding each job. Focus on relevant information rather than irrelevant information. This will not disappoint the recruiter since he will skim through relevant stuff and will easily able to decide whether you are the right person for the job or not.

Establishing Career

It has been years since you have passed out and now you are pursuing your career goals. It might be possible you have shifted jobs for a better opportunity. At this point, you can relax your resume with High School and university achievements and add more corporate achievements. Courses, projects, awards must only be added if they seem relevant to your job. Recruiters will only be interested in your post-graduation career. So you have to emphasize what you did after graduating; it can be anything from regular 9-5 job to part-time jobs and volunteer work. You probably don’t have the work experience that of a professional but you can enhance your resume by showing the recruiter what you have besides an establishing career.

Early Experience

You are a fresh graduate who has just stepped out of the university and is looking for his first job. You don’t have any work experience to impress the recruiter through your resume. What’s the catch here? Your achievements, skills, internships and volunteer work. You have to express in your resume that you weren’t just a bookworm in high school or university but invested time in extracurricular to prepare for the future. Even though your work experience will only include internships or some small part-time jobs but you still have a lot to add to. Make your resume filled with words that describe your leadership, teamwork, project management, communication, time-management and problem-solving skills. Just don’t go overboard. You know the limits.

Career Break

This category is especially for women who go on maternity leave and resume career after 5-10 years when the child starts going to school. It can also be for a male who had to take a break for some other reasons.

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It is unappealing to you to write work experience within a 10-15 years’ timeframe since you won’t have anything to write because of a career break. Even here, you can add the most recent work experience you had. You can even include any part-time or some other work you did in the break. Achievements nd skills are great information to be bragged about. If you are selected for the interview you can take the chance to explain the break because it is likely the recruiter will ask for it.

When can a candidate go beyond 15 years of experience?

It is a rare occurrence overall. As stated in the article above that experience past 15 years is of utmost irrelevance and neither do the recruiters ask for it. Still, there can be certain scenarios where it can be of more importance:

  • When it is highly relevant to the next job you are applying.
  • If you worked in a higher or prestigious position for more than 15 years in a company.
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Final Words

The key takeaway here is that resume should not go far back beyond 15 years and must stick be relevant enough to make the recruiter send you to the next stage of the recruitment step.