How to Decide How Far Back a Resume Should Go (Work History and Education)

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Don’t write about every job you’ve had since the beginning of your career. 

Your work history itself isn’t what interests recruiters. It’s what you’ve actually done throughout the years that’s more important. In other words, is your experience relevant and meaningful for the job you’re now applying for? 

There’s often confusion in deciding how to go about choosing what work experience to include. Is there a limit? If so, how far back should a resume go?

In this article, we’ll go through all that you need to know using examples for different job positions. 

We’ll also be covering: 

  • Tips to make any work experience relevant
  • How to still mention all of your years of experience
  • What you should be aware of when describing employment history

How Far Back Should a Resume Go? 

You’ll mostly find advice online suggesting not to go further back than 10-15 years of your what to write in a resume for work experience

It’s understandable for upper management positions such as directors and executives. That’s because they’ll have a lot of relevant experience to talk about. 

Still, it’s preferable to list fewer yet more targeted jobs no matter what your experience level is. 

That being said, the ideal amount of work experience to list is from up to 5-8 years or less. If you have employment gaps beyond these years, this is a good way to cover them.

4 Reasons Why Your Work History Shouldn’t Go Further Than 10 Years

We’ve mentioned the ideal years of experience to list is up to 5-8 years or less. For some resumes, they’ll go up to 10 years or more. There are exceptions though, which we’ll get into later. 

Anyhow, here are the 4 reasons why it should go no further than 10 years. 

Tailor Your Resume

How to tailor your resume to a job is more impactful than a general resume that has a load of irrelevant details. 

Writing about everything you possibly can even if it’s not relevant won’t effectively show your interest. Nor your understanding of what the job entails. The information you include should prove you’re a good fit for the role. 

Age Discrimination

This is one of the biggest reasons why your resume shouldn’t exceed the 10-year mark. 

Age discrimination could lead to biased and unfair hiring decisions. Despite having a professional summary, it’s still a risk in the workforce. While there are legal practices to minimize the issue, the problem remains. 

Make Your Resume Concise

If your resume is truly concise, then it should only be one page long. That’s because you’re more selective with what you choose to write about. 

The only time a two-page resume becomes an option is if you’re applying for a senior or executive-level position. If not yet your resume is two pages long, then there may be room for improvement. 

Fluff Means Nothing

Having fewer years of experience doesn’t mean you’re less skilled or qualified for the role. 

Your resume could be more impressive compared to one with decades of experience.  This is assuming your resume includes:

  • Data-driven results 
  • A relevant career timeline 
  • Qualifications and certifications 

The average recruiter only spends less than 10 seconds reading your resume. Adding fluff only makes your application less compelling.

5 Exceptions on How Far Back Your Resume Should Go

Although you generally shouldn’t cross the 10-year work experience mark, there are some exceptions. 

These are the only times where it’s most acceptable. But see this as a last resort. 

Career Change 

If you’re making a career change, it’s worth looking into older jobs that are relevant. However, this is the same reason why you should only be describing what’s happened in the most recent years. 

Be strategic about your career timeline. List your jobs in a way that showcases how you’ve developed as a professional. 

You may also include achievements and certifications that help position you as an ideal candidate

Upper Management Roles

What better way to prove your technical knowledge than to mention the results of your work throughout your years as a leader in the workforce?

This is also when a can a resume be 2 pages becomes an option. 

Upper management includes job titles such as: 

The Job Description 

Some job descriptions might state it’s necessary to mention all of your work experience. Or the recruiter might make a direct request as it’s part of the company’s hiring criteria. In these instances, follow the instructions. 

Alternatively, you could include an older job to ensure you’re not missing a resume keywords. This should be done naturally and flow nicely into your writing. 

Big Name Companies

There’s power in the names of large well-known companies. If you worked for a leading corporation in the industry like Apple, it may be worth considering. However, it still needs to demonstrate how your skills align with the job you’re applying for. 

Put your work history in reverse chronological resume to emphasize your career progression.  

Employment Gaps 

It makes sense to refer to older work experience when you’ve had employment gaps in recent years. 

Be prepared to explain it though in case they ask. A cover letter could also help. 

Another option is to use an ats resume format like the functional resume. 

How to Determine How Far Back Your Resume Should Go

When exactly is the best time to go back by up to 3 years, 8 years, or even 10+ years? 

You’ll find from a few of the ats resume listed below that there’s no fixed rule on what’s best for your application. The more important question is whether or not it matches the job description and showcases your strengths as a professional. 

Listing up to 3 Years of Work Experience

The number of years you’ve been in the workforce isn’t always a decisive factor. True, you’re probably more familiar with different things. But it doesn’t necessarily conclude you’re the strongest fit for the role. 

Job seekers who have a how to make a resume with no experience usually go back no further than 1-2 years ago. 

However, even the job seekers who do have several years of experience may go back no further than up to 2-3 years. There’s a few good reasons for this including:

  • Career switch: older jobs and experience is irrelevant, so this is left out of the resume.
  • Doubts: to prevent recruiters from forming doubts related to age, motivation, and long-term employment.
  • Concise: to keep the application concise and more targeted to the job description.

Now, let’s look at two examples. 

The entry-level web developer resume below only includes 2 previous roles. It doesn’t go too far back into previous jobs as experience is limited. 

The entry-level web developer resume

In contrast, the IT security architect resume goes back by up to 3 years. Despite having over 25+ years of work experience, they’ve only listed 3 jobs. This is intentional to target the company's job description. 

the IT security architect resume

Listing up to 5-8 Years of Work Experience 

You might list several jobs or only just a few. Either approach works. 

Having work experience listed from up to 5-8 years ago is more than enough for highlighting your skills and professional growth. This is a range that job seekers often aim for in their resumes. 

Ensure the jobs you list are useful to the employer. It should help them understand how and why you’re capable of carrying out the job responsibilities to a good standard. 

The brand manager resume example goes back into their work experience by 5 years. 

The brand manager resume

In contrast, the lawyer resume example below only lists 3 previous roles. Since fewer jobs are listed, they’ve gone more in-depth into each of them. 

the lawyer resume

Listing 10+ Years of Work Experience

Going beyond 10+ years of experience isn’t common because it’s not as much of a priority compared to recent roles. The reason being is that there’s a chance it’s going to be less interesting and relevant to the hiring manager. As mentioned, up to 5-8 years of your employment history is more than enough. 

If you do decide to go past 10+ years, consider omitting the description for positions that are 5 years old or more. For instance, see the director of product experience resume example below. 

the director of product experience resume example

Another example is the high school teacher resume template. Only 3 jobs are listed as they were held for a number of years yet each of them is thorough. 

the high school teacher resume template

How Far Back Should Your Education Go?

Your how to list education on resume can go as far back as 15 years ago. 

If it’s older than 15 years, you can still include them. The only difference is to leave out the date and year of graduation. 

Keep in mind the education section should also be placed after your work history. Stick to reverse chronological order. The most recent information related to your career should be listed first. 

4 Tips to Make Any Work Experience Relevant

Ideally, you’d want to select exact matching job titles you’ve held in the past to prove you’d be a strong fit. 

But if you’re applying for a higher role or a different position, then you probably won’t have had exact matching job titles in the past. What then? How do you choose the right jobs from previous years or make your work experience relevant? 

Here’s a few ways to do it. 

Focus on Transferable Skills

Are there any transferable skills from previous roles at companies you worked at? 

Focus on what you’ve learned and developed that would be useful for the role you’re applying for. 

For example, you might be making an application for a product marketing manager position. 

Although you don’t have direct experience, you could include other roles where you carried out similar responsibilities such as: 

  • Senior regional manager
  • Business development coordinator
  • Building manager

Write Resume Keywords

Check what the resume keywords are by using a resume keyword scanner

Any roles or jobs you’ve had in the past might help you include these keywords naturally. It’s vital to mention these anyway because they’re needed to pass the applicant tracking system (ATS)

Reflect on Work Achievements 

Prioritize your work achievements. It demonstrates the impact of your skills and how you can make a difference. 

Recruiters and hiring managers are already aware of what the job entails. If you’re unsure of what to talk about or what to include, see what previous experience you have that showcases the results you’re capable of potentially bringing. 

Look at How Other Candidates Did It

Check other resume examples for your exact job position to see how others did it.

Aside from looking at what works, it helps you get inspiration for your own application. It may also give you a fresh perspective on how to write and approach your resume. 

How to Still Mention All of Your Years of Experience

There’s two places where you can mention all of your years of experience:

  • LinkedIn experience section
  • Resume summary section

LinkedIn Experience Section

The first solution is to use your LinkedIn profile

List your full employment history in the LinkedIn experience section. Unlike a resume, you’re not limited by space. So, everything could be fitted in without having to worry about keeping it condensed to a single page. 

Once that’s done, include a website link to your LinkedIn account in the header section of your resume. 

It’s common for recruiters to use this platform for background checks on applicants. A few more key facts you should probably know are: 

  • 6 people are hired every minute on LinkedIn
  • Over 58 million organizations are listed
  • 40% of companies use the skills filter feature to find potential candidates

Use Your Summary Section

Another place to let hiring managers know how experienced you are is the summary section. It’s one of the first few things they’ll notice on your resume. 

There are different ways to phrase and state this. Here’s a few examples:

  • Detail-oriented MFA graduate with 2+ years of experience in…
  • Sales and customer success professional with 13 years of experience in…
  • Front end developer with 6 years of solid experience in…

What You Should Know About Describing Your Work Experience

Lastly, there’s a few more things to keep in mind as you describe your experience at previous companies. 

1. Use More Bullet Points for Relevant Jobs

All jobs you list should be relevant. 

Some of them might include how many bullet points per job on resume, some might not. But use more of them for positions that are directly related to the job description or where it showcases your strengths. 

Like some of the examples from earlier, you could list as few as 3 jobs yet go in-depth into each position. Or, you could be more detailed on the most recent positions and less detailed on the older positions. 

2. Bullet Points Are Optional for Jobs Exceeding 5 Years 

If you’ve worked at a job from more than 5 years ago, then the description underneath these roles could be omitted. It’s tolerable to leave out the bullet points from these occupations. That’s because they likely aren’t as targeted to the job description.

The chief marketing officer (CMO) resume template is a good example of this. 

The chief marketing officer (CMO) resume template

3. Mention Job Promotions the Right Way

Promotions happen, especially if you’ve worked at one company for a good amount of time. 

But if this is the case, don’t list the same company twice under different jobs. Instead, state your current role then talk about your career progression below. This saves you from using more space than necessary. 

4. Try a Different Resume Format

The reverse chronological resume isn’t the only option. 

There are other structures like the combination and skills-based resume. One of these might be the better option depending on your situation. 

Or try using a different resume template here such as:

  • Compact template: optimized for maximum space. 
  • Bold template: optimized for a modern resume. 
  • Alternative template: optimized for a printed resume. 

Try Using an AI Writer to Simplify the Writing Process 

An AI writer that follows the best practices can make it easier to complete your resume. 

In other words, you’ll never have to stress on:

  • Matching the job description
  • Cutting your resume down to a single page
  • Writing about relevant work experience impressively

The main thing you need is the job title. Then, the bullet points could be generated or improved from there. 

Watch the short clip below to see how it works! 

Best of all, it’s free to use – no card details required. Get started now by signing up here

Explore Rezi 🔥 Comes with 6,000 AI Credits, and is free forever, no credit card required.

Let’s Recap

The work experience and education section are the vital organs of a resume. 

Avoid going any further back on your work history than necessary. Mention previous roles that’s related to the job you’re applying for and make the most recent work experience a priority. Other positions could still be included as long as it indicates how and why you’re qualified for the role. 

As for your education, there’s no limit on how far back you should go. If you graduated more than 15 years ago, you can leave out the date of graduation and even put this section last on your resume.

Use the tips we’ve discussed, keep your application concise, and you’ll be on your way to landing more interviews. 

Rezi is an ai resume builder to help you to create a resume that os sure to check the boxes when it comes to applicant tracking systems : Rezi Review by Ashley
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