Career Advice

3 Tips for How Far Back Your Resume Should Go?

min read
Vera Chan

There may be an optimum and ideal length for a resume, but there is no hard and fast rule for how far back it should go. Each time you find and apply for a new job, you should re-visit and tweak your resume to match the job description. How many jobs should you include in your resume or how many years should you list?


Getting the experience section of your resume right is key to presenting yourself. You should show relevance when it comes to skill sets and even positions of the same calibre. So, how do you find the right balance between a lot of experience to almost no experience?


Below we cover all ranges of positions. Spot how you find the fine line between too little and too much information.


It Is Circumstantial

Target your resume or curriculum vitae to the job description. Start by reviewing your current situation and take into account the requirements. Note your past experiences and skills that you have picked up along the way. This can go back to your first job, so long as it is relevant to the role you are applying to. 


Senior Positions

This can involve 10-15 years of work experience. This type of job listing will ask for a certain amount of professional work in a specific field. This is usually stated and requested in a job description. There is no need to have to go back all 15 years, but be selective. Pick and choose to mention positions at the same level and relevant job experiences.


Mid-Level Positions

This can involve an 8-10 year job history. Learn to weigh out the scales when it comes to describing your experiences. Alongside full-time jobs, it could also be helpful to mention freelance projects. Other mentions could also include part-time jobs that contribute to your skill sets. An example could be hands-on sales experience or customer service. Also, if you have a personal website, it is a good opportunity to include this to understand you better.


Entry-Level Positions

What do you do when you have little experience? This could be 1-2 years of full-time or part-time jobs. How do you best present this? Think about the skills you have gained along the way that you can bring to the table at this new role. If you have worked on side projects or work that has gained awards, be sure to include this. If you also have a portfolio to show what kind of work you have done, this is worth mentioning. This will give them a better overview at a glance and will help them visualise your skills.


Novice Positions

New to applying for jobs? How should your resume look and what should you include? Mention volunteer work, part-time jobs, internships, and freelancing (if any). This goes to show initiative and ambition. You want to show that you like to keep yourself busy and are keen to learn. If you are a fresh graduate, include student organisation roles. These can show collaboration and or leadership skills. Mention your education and achievements first. Remember, not all work has to be paid. All experience can contribute to a job application if it is relevant.


Note: Sometimes one may change career and apply to a role that is at a lower level. What do you do? Be strategic with what you mention in your experience section. Do not only list senior positions. This will avoid the recruiter or hiring manager seeing you as overqualified. You want them to give you a chance to explain why you applied and why you think you will be a good fit for the role.


1. How Many Jobs Should You List?

The experience over the number of jobs listed is more valuable. Ensure they are relevant to the position you are applying for at the resume will be on the right track. Other experiences, such as speaking at a conference or being on a panel discussion also add value.


2. Extra Experiences

Should you mention other or earlier experiences in addition to your education? The answer is yes and no. Ask yourself if it is relevant. If your first job is, then sure, by all means, include it and mention the details that most apply to the current job. Breakdown and selectively choose a few jobs over your career, rather than listing all. Then, use bullet points to break down the details.


3. Tailoring Your Resume

Stay in alignment with the position by mentioning keywords related to the job. This will keep you top of mind, as a reviewer will scan your resume and look to connect the dots. They know what they are looking for, so help them take out the guesswork, and help them find it more easily. Match your resume with the JD and address the employer's needs.


The Takeaway

Finding the appropriate points to mention is more valuable. Spot areas of relevance and describe each position that explains how they relate. If you have over 20 years of experience, the chances of the jobs you have had will likely be less relevant. The practical experiences you have encountered are key. So are the skills you have gained along the way. Keep your resume brief and to the point.

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