How Far Back in Time Should Your Resume Go?

Ah, the good ol’ job hunt. If you’re making a career change soon and plan to dive into the world of applications and interviews, you’ll need to write or update your resume to include your latest and greatest accomplishments. This might get you wondering how far back in time this information should go. There are multiple factors to consider here, two primary ones being the amount of professional experience you have and the relevancy of that experience to your next desired role. Which of your current and past experiences and skills transfer to your next job? 

Use your resume as a strategic tool to help you reach the next step in your professional journey. It does not need to be a detailed summary of everything you’ve ever done. In fact, a resume that is too lengthy may even cause for some of your most competitive and compelling elements to get lost in the crowd. Highlight the aspects that make you a perfect fit for the position you want!

If you are a recent college graduate, you can highlight professional college experiences such as internships, job shadowing, or other jobs you had where you learned transferable skills. You can also include academic experiences such as research or capstone projects that are relevant to your desired job. You may also want to include on-campus experiences such as involvement in student organizations. For example, if you held a leadership role in your student organization, you likely have many transferable skills such as communication, planning meetings, hosting events, or being in charge of finances, membership, enrollment, etc.

Once you have 3-5 years of professional experience, you can begin to drop off those earlier college items and focus more on your professional highlights, especially those elements that are relatable to the position you want next. If you received a promotion or title change while working at one company, be sure to update your resume to reflect that growth as well.

If you have a more extensive career already under your belt, be sure to highlight your most recent, most relevant professional experience first. In general, recruiters are most interested in your previous 10-15 years of experience. Once you have a considerable career built, your resume becomes a tool to provide a high-level summary of your past positions, championing your experiences that are most relevant to the position you are applying for.

As a rule of thumb, it’s generally safe to say you can leave experiences 15+ years in the past off your resume. Experiences from that long ago are not as relevant or reflective of the candidate you are today. 

Now, fix yourself a fresh mug of coffee or tea and get to updating that resume!

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