3 Reasons to Exclude Ancient Employment History from Your Resume

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Just because you have years, perhaps even decades, of work experience doesn't mean your resume should include every single position you've ever held. In fact, if your employment history is quite expansive, it's best not to do that. 

A good rule of thumb is to list the jobs you've had within the past 15 years and stick to those that are relevant to the position you're pursuing. Of course, everyone’s situation is different, and there are no hard and fast rules. We’ll give you some of the top reasons why you should stick to that timeframe, and we’ll also go over cases when you can make exceptions. If you need help crafting your resume, take a look at our professional services.

So, why should you remove ancient work history from your resume? 

1. Get the recruiter's attention

A concise and focused resume is more likely to get the attention of a hiring manager. It only takes seven seconds to make a first impression, according to Psychology Today, so make those first few seconds count by listing only your most recent and relevant work. If you start with irrelevant or old work history, the hiring manager may not give your resume a second look.

With so many applications to sift through, recruiters don’t have much time to spend on each resume. Keeping it succinct will also help you meet the standard length for resumes, which is just one page for most positions. Exceptions to this rule include positions in education and government or senior roles that require more experience, but for most jobs, too long a resume will prompt a recruiter to assume that you’re either conceited or unable to communicate effectively. The most likely outcome of that assumption is your application getting discarded.

2. Focus on why you're an exceptional candidate

Your resume should summarize your qualifications and achievements. Think of it as a concise document that condenses your professional history. “Concise” is the key word here—you don’t have much space, so you must communicate extremely effectively. Your resume is also an opportunity to showcase the unique skills you bring to the table and the ways in which you can help a company grow. Your value is what can distinguish you from other candidates. 

Your most recent work says much more about your relevant skills than a position you held years ago that has nothing to do with the job you're currently after. Don’t waste the busy hiring manager’s time with unnecessary information.

3. More isn't always better

You may have many years of work under your belt, perhaps in several industries. While you may consider that impressive, going too far back in your employment history can work against you and lead to age discrimination, so it’s best to limit it to the jobs that provide value. If you’re worried about age discrimination, you should also omit your graduation year in your education section. 

Eliminate any jobs you held more than 15 years ago and focus on the value you can currently offer a company. If there's a job from way back that you truly believe you should highlight, include it in the resume summary or in a note at the end of the experience section, but don't mention the dates of your employment. In case you’ve had a lot of previous jobs, you may also want to omit more recent but irrelevant positions—just be careful about creating gaps in your employment history.

When to include jobs you had more than 15 years ago

There are a few exceptions to the standard of including only the jobs you've had within the past 15 years. One such case is when the position requires more than 15 years of experience. You should always follow the instructions in the job post to avoid being eliminated right off the bat. A two-page resume should be perfectly acceptable for any job that requires this much experience since the hiring manager understands that applicants will need more space to list their long work history.

You can also make an exception if you held different positions within the same organization. Including that information can show a hiring manager your loyalty and willingness to consider different roles within a company. Employers love loyalty—a loyal worker can be of greater value than a more highly qualified candidate.

For the most part, however, your resume should stick to the 15-year rule. If you need help deciding what to include and what to leave out, consider our resume-writing services.

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