How Far Back Should a Resume Go? Tips to Land That Job

how far back should a resume go

How far back should a resume go? Knowing the answer to this question can keep your resume from becoming cluttered and help you land your dream job.

More information isn't always better when it comes to resumes. However, this issue has an easy fix, and the sooner you streamline your information, the better. Here's what you need to know.

How Far Back Should a Resume Go?

Resumes can sometimes be tricky because you want to be sure that you are giving an employer enough information but not too much. And if you are older, you probably have a good amount of work history that you want to show off to prove your experience.

However, going back too far can be detrimental to your application and resume.

In general, your resume should only go back 10 to 15 years. If you are adding things in from 20 years ago, there is a very good chance that experience is no longer relevant. That is especially true if you are in healthcare, writing, or finance, as these industries are always changing.

Even if you aren't in those fields, hiring managers are going to hold more interest in your recent positions than ones from 20 years ago.

Why Is 15 Years the Limit?

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If you have been working for decades, it's not a bad thing to want to show that you are proud of your hard work and dedication. Unfortunately, hiring managers may use that information against you. So knowing exactly how far back a resume should go may save your application.

One of the critical reasons for not showing experience past 15 years is age discrimination. Yeah, this happens a lot more than you think. Most companies nowadays are looking for younger people to come into the fold and grow their careers there.

Older people may be more dedicated, but odds are they've lost the hunger and drive to grow in that company that a younger person may possess. By adding older work experience, the hiring manager may see that and the corresponding dates and assume your age and may disregard your application.

It stinks, but it happens.

When to Show More

Now, this 15-year standard is more of a guideline than an actual rule. There are some instances where older work experience can be a great idea. One of these instances is if you are a military veteran.

Not only is putting your military service a good idea, but your application may also receive preferential treatment because of that. Vets often are the exception to many rules because while everyone else was working in the industry, they may have been deployed or stationed somewhere.

That experience is as good, if not better than any other.

As mentioned before, including previous roles that are directly related to the one you are applying for is also a great idea. A good way to showcase the relevant but older experience is swapping work experience.

For example, if you are applying to an editor position for a newspaper, it would be a good idea to highlight your previous experience as a beat reporter, over something like freelance work.

What to Highlight in Your Resume?

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How far back should a resume go? A good way to figure it out is to know exactly what to highlight and what not to. While work experience should stick around 15 years back, other information can go back further.

Education is something that you should highlight all of. When you are older, you may be able to eliminate your high school section to save space. Most companies will be more interested in your education in a specific industry.

The awards section can also go back as far as you like. Typically a short section and can help portray your dedication. However, leave out unnecessary awards like the spelling bee or science fair.

Keep your focus on awards and achievements earned for your hard work in the professional field.

If and when you land that interview, bringing along a physical copy of your resume is a great way to show you are serious.

However, make sure that you organize your resume and other documents by using something like the Stylio Padfolio. The last thing you want is to fumble around looking for a supporting document and looking unorganized.

How Much is Too Much

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A common mistake is overstuffing your resume with as much as possible in the hopes that the hiring manager will find something in there they like.

In reality, all of that information may overwhelm them, causing your resume to be put aside. And knowing the answer to "how far back should a resume go?" is a good way to prevent this.

Streamlining your resume only to include relevant information is a great way to boost your chances of it catching the eye of the manager. But this isn't easy, as you may end up cutting something significant.

You want to give just enough information that you pique their interest, but not too much that they feel like they do not need to learn more from you.

Time to declutter

Of course, keeping the answer to "how far back should a resume go?" in mind is a good idea, but apart from work history, there is more you can cut as well.

Because recruiters have to look through so many applications during the hiring process, they may only take 30 seconds to review your resume before they have a general impression about you. So it is essential to feature all of your most relevant experience early on to catch their attention and keep them reading.

That means leaving out long sections of information that detail specific roles. No one has enough time to read over everything, so make sure your information is quick, short, and to the point.

You can also cut out most of your personal information and hobbies. Not to be rude, but no one cares that you like to take long walks on the beach unless you're applying to be a lifeguard. Instead, if you have industry-related skills that you did not include, you can do so in a separate skills section.

Also, featuring a references section is usually not a good idea, and they take up space. Those references may be your ace in the hole if it comes between you and another candidate. By showing all of your cards too early, you could lose that edge.

Land Your Dream Job

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How far back should a resume go? Knowing the answer to this question is vital. As long as you stick to the 15-year rule for your resume information, you should be good to go. Just remember to keep your information snappy and to the point.

Also, don't be afraid to highlight older experience if you feel that it would benefit your application. Balancing the old information with the new is always a great thing to do. After all, this is your life, and you should be proud of it.

Have you wondered "how far back should a resume go?" What did you ultimately decide? Maybe you got some great compliments on your resume. Let us know what you've had luck with!

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