How many years should you go back on a resume?
Your resume should typically go back 10 to 15 years maximum. Any longer and you might be including experience that’s no longer relevant to the kinds of jobs you’re applying for.
One of the main rules of writing a great resume is keeping it short and to-the-point. But as your career progresses, you’ll notice that it becomes more difficult to squeeze all of your work experience onto your resume.
Instead of shrinking the font of your resume to an unreadable size, include only your most recent roles.
How far back should your resume go?
Your resume should go back no further than 10 to 15 years, unless you have a particular experience or accomplishment that is sought after in the job posting.
Why your resume should only go back 15 years
There are two main reasons your resume should only go back 15 years:
1. Recent experience is more relevant
Hiring managers are only interested in your most recent jobs. Your most up-to-date work experience indicates your current levels of responsibility, skill, and experience, whereas older positions are likely entry-level positions, or even jobs in another industry.
2. You want to avoid age discrimination
Many hiring managers — subconsciously or not — discriminate against older candidates. Providing 20 years or more of work experience on your resume is a giveaway of your age.
Use older experience only if it’s relevant
Job ads list most skills hiring managers are seeking in candidates. Refer to the job posting to see which particular skills are called for. If you notice a skill listed on the ad that you haven’t used since the 1990s, you can and should still fit that skill (and the job where you used it) onto your resume.
For example, if the job ad calls for experience writing in the COBOL programming language, it’s fine to include a role from two decades ago:
PROGRAMMER, SFJ Software Inc., 1999–2003
- Created 47 COBOL transaction-processing programs tailored for individual financial institutions.
As you can see from this example, such mentions can include just one bullet point that showcases the skill from the job ad. There’s no need to list other responsibilities linked to the old position unless they also directly relate to the job posting.
How many jobs should you list on a resume?
The number of jobs you list on your resume depends on the kind of job you’re applying for.
How far back to go on a resume for senior positions
If you’re applying for a role as a departmental manager or even a C-suite officer, you don’t need to list your entry-level jobs. Because your management skills are what count, list and flesh out the managerial roles you’ve held in the past 10–15 years.
Other roles shouldn’t be fully omitted though. Instead, keep those jobs on one line. Just indicate the dates and company location so that you don’t have any questionable gaps on your resume.
How many previous jobs to list for mid-level positions
If you have several years of work experience, you should include entry-level jobs on your resume.
If you’ve only ever worked at one company, list your different job titles and responsibilities there to showcase your career progression.
On the other hand, if you’ve had 7 jobs in the past 15 years, only include bullet points under the jobs relevant to the role you’re applying for. You can just provide the title, company, and dates for the less relevant positions. Including the less relevant jobs:
- helps illustrate your career growth to employers
- reassures them you still have room to progress as a professional
Work history on an entry-level resume
Finding enough work experience to list on an entry-level resume is a headache.
Fill your entry-level resume with valuable information for employers. For example, adding volunteer work to your resume as well as internships you’ve completed can make it more compelling. You can also include relevant coursework on your resume — just make sure your bullet points are related to the job opening.
Additionally, listing extracurricular activities on your resume — like being a boy scout — is fine if any of your extracurricular activities helped you improve key work-related skills (like leadership skills and communication skills), you should include those activities.
In summary, go back 10–15 years maximum on your resume. Any more than that, and you:
- end up with a resume that’s too long
- give the hiring manager information about your age, which might lead to discrimination
Rarely, you might have worked a job over 15 years ago where you learned specific skills listed in a company’s job description. It’s OK in this case to add older work experience to your resume, especially if you don’t have more recent (and relevant) experience.
If you’re pressed for time, there’s always our free-to-use resume builder, which will help you knock out a resume in five minutes flat.