Alpha Bits

Information, insights and advice regarding today’s IT and pharmaceutical recruitment landscape. 

How Far Back Should You Go on Your Resume?

In the early stages of your career, you usually feature all of your past jobs on your resume. However, once you cross the 10-year mark, you may start to wonder whether all of those positions are giving you an edge. This is especially true if fitting everything onto a two-page resume is becoming difficult, or not all of the jobs were in your current field.  

Luckily, it is possible to figure out how far back you should go on your resume. If you aren’t sure what to include on yours, here are some insights that can help.  

The General Rule of Thumb  

First, it’s essential to understand that there’s no hard and fast rule for how far back your resume should go. You want to make sure that you can showcase your expertise and create a compelling application, and what it takes to do that can vary.  

However, the general rule of thumb is about ten to 15 years when you’re applying for mid- or upper-level opportunities. But this is dependent on all of the experience you feature being relevant.  

Beyond ten to 15 years, depending on the length of your career, the jobs are usually lower level and aren’t a great reflection of your current capabilities. As a result, including them doesn’t work in your favor. Plus, they incidentally show your age and, while age discrimination isn’t legal, it does happen, so that’s something to consider.  

Other Factors for How Far Back to Go  

While ten to 15 years is a general guideline, it isn’t a rigid rule. Instead, it would be best if you explored what’s necessary based on the job you want to land. For example, if a position requires 20+ years of experience, you need to have at least 20 years of job history. That way, you can show that you meet that requirement.  

Otherwise, make relevancy the priority. If listing an older position provides the hiring manager with value, then you can leave it on, allowing you to spotlight critical skills or a particularly meaningful accomplishment.  

If the older positions don’t provide the hiring manager, then cutting them is usually wise. That way, they aren’t taking up space unnecessarily. Plus, in some cases, by including fewer jobs, you have more space to highlight accomplishments that showcase your capabilities. Since keeping your resume to approximately two pages is the norm, this approach can allow you to do that without bypassing a recent achievement you want to share.  

However, there is an exception to limiting your history. If you’ve mainly worked for one or two companies, your resume might feel a bit sparse incidentally. In this case, adding in older positions could ensure you don’t have too much whitespace, making it an approach worth considering.  

Ultimately, you do have a choice when it comes to how far back your resume goes. Consider the experience requirements listed in the job description, review your past experience to determine what may be valuable to the hiring manager, and decide from there. 

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