Resume Writing Tips: How Far Back Do I Go on My Resume?

There is a lot of information floating around about how far back a candidate should go on his or her resume. Frankly, much of it is conflicting. In recent years, the trend has been to include about 10-12 years of work history on a resume. For different reasons, many professional resume writers will not include any information for jobs prior to that range. They will cite issues like potential age discrimination, lack of employer interest, and space considerations. All are valid reasons, with the age discrimination argument as the possible exception, but that is a story for another time.

Generally, recruiters will ask you to go back further and add much more detail. This will expand the number of opportunities they have to place you, which may be good for their commission, but may not be so good for you, the job seeker.

You may have friends or colleagues that tell you to include anything and everything since you received your working papers. They will tell you that full disclosure is a necessity.

So What Do I Do?

Look, there is no hard-and-fast rule when preparing a resume. It really is more art than science. It primarily does depend on the type of position you are pursuing, the depth and breadth of experience you have, the quality of accomplishments, and many other facets. I like to include job details going back about 10 or so years and then provide a footnote that lists position titles and company names, nothing else. This strategy provides the reader some context for how you started out and how you got to where you are today. Most importantly, it does so without demanding more time of the hiring manager (who likely does not have it to begin with) and without taking up critical space on the page. And for those HR reps and hiring managers who like to practice age discrimination, which I feel is few and far between, you are not providing them dates by which they can estimate your age.

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