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What is the cutoff for old information on resumes?

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When should I leave a job off my resume?One of the AmeriCorps members asked a common question:

What’s the cut off (time of years passed) when a job is no longer applicable on a resume? And what about training classes or memberships?

This is a common question because my clients ask it all the time. Here are some of the points to remember when putting things on your resume or taking them off and some ways to use old information.

  • One rule of thumb for professional resume writers is a 10 -15 year look back. This means that you only include the last 10-15 years of employment on your resume. Older jobs can be omitted.

But I worked for 20 years for the same company?

  • If you have been with the same company for any length of time you need to include the full time you worked there. If someone checks with the employer, they need to get the same answer as you put on the resume.

What if the old job was with a great company or I did great things there?

  • When your some of your best accomplishments come from an old position, it is hard to leave it off the resume. This is when I use a prior background or prior engagements on the resume. You create a new section toward the bottom of your resume and list the position, the company, and the years.
  • It might look like this: Sales Manager | American Express | 11 years
  • Now on the top of your resume in your “Selected Accomplishments & Milestones” section, you can reference American Express like this ~ American Express and list that great accomplishment with the tag of the company name behind it.
  • Example: In the Prior Background section - Store Manager, Bath and Body Works, Wausau, WI | 3 Years
  • Bullet in Selected Accomplishments: While with Bath and Body Works, traveled and opened new stores and selected as first to open the White Barn Candle Company through them.  ~ Bath and Body Works

What about training classes or seminars and memberships?

How much impact would those classes have on your job target? If you are certified in an area and the new employer values that certification, I would put the information in your resume. But if you are just listing everything you ever did, you need to be more selective. When in doubt, think about your job targets and make sure everything on your resume is geared to the target. Old memberships can be deleted when they no longer matter or are just too old.

I can remember writing a resume for a person who was aspiring to be promoted to Captain at a local fire department. It was in my very early days of resume writing at least 20 years ago. He insisted that we include every training he ever did. He went to the interview with the Police and Fire Commission and they said too much information and turned him down. We trimmed down the resume and put in only the critical training. We also created an addendum with a full list of every training, just in case.

What happened? The next time a Captain position opened, he got the job and he retired as Assistant Chief years later. See the difference the right information can make on your resume. Too much information can be just that!

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5 Responses to What is the cutoff for old information on resumes?

  1. The resume should include all relevant job experience. If you are new to the job market, list classes and volunteer efforts. If you have been working for a long time, list relevant job experience only. Normally, you need not go back more than 10 years in a long job history, unless a job you worked before that time gave you skills that can be beneficial to your new employer.

    • Sounds like you have been reading resume books, Anell. Relevant is the key word. Listing classes has value only if you are sharing something the employer needs to know. However, an academic showcase describing your challenge, action, and results in the classroom project can help the employer realize you understand those classes and can apply that knowledge in the workplace.

      Volunteer activities can be relevant throughout your career if you are in a field like banking, accounting, or non-profit where your skills in fundraising, relationship building and event management may come into play.

      If you remember that resumes and job search are strategy not rules, you will be more successful in the end.

    • When you include all the job experiences on your resume, you actually decrease standing out. Rather you can use an Early Career Profile or Prior Background section that lists the company, title, and number of years of the jobs you want them to note. Then if you have an accomplishment in that older section, you can highlight it in a Selected Accomplishments section near the front of the resume. Your resume needs to shine with the best stuff not all the stuff. Thanks for stopping by!

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