How Far Back Should a Resume Go?

If you’ve had multiple jobs, it’s important to know how far back your resume should go. With only one page to communicate your experience, your resume should include the most important information. Hiring managers and recruiters scan through resumes quickly and don’t want to spend time on a lengthy job list — especially if those jobs are not relevant to the position.

How Far Back Should a Resume Go?

The general rule is to cut any job experience extending past 10 to 15 years. 

Your resume needs to show the ‘what’ and not the ‘how many.’ By only including your most recent 10 years of experience, you are saving space and communicating the most relevant information. By structuring your resume this way, the person reading it can get a good idea of your roles and what you did in each role.

For experienced workers with career experience that goes above 15 years, showcasing the last 10 years is enough to communicate your experience. As you grow your career, you become more skilled and less junior. This experience means incorporating entry-level positions into your resume is no longer necessary. 

But, as mentioned above, this rule is general and there are a few exceptions. 

Exception 1: Young professionals  

There are situations where it is necessary to go beyond or below 10 years on your resume. 

If you’ve been in your career for five years or fewer, for example, listing the past decade is not necessary because you don’t yet have a decade of experience. As a result, it is acceptable to only include the past five years of relevant experience.  

Young professionals are a big exception to this rule because they are new in their careers, with little-to-no job history or irrelevant job history.

Part-time jobs while in high school or college might be unrelated to a person’s ultimate career. If that is the case for you, these jobs can be removed. While these jobs form relevant soft skills, they typically do not communicate experience that is relevant to your career. 

Exception 2: Executive professionals 

For some candidates, it's necessary to go beyond 10 years. Leadership and executive jobs, for example, often require more than 10 years of relevant experience. By the time you reach the executive level, it's likely you will have more than a decade’s worth of experience. Some seasoned professionals log 20 or more years before they take on an executive role, which is why they are the exception to the resume rule.

Recruiters and hiring managers looking to fill leadership roles want to see the steps these candidates took to become leaders, and the skills learned along the way. For many leadership candidates, these steps go beyond 10, or even 15, years and are necessary to incorporate in their resumes. 

If you’re applying for a job that requires more than 10 years of relevant experience, limit your bullet points to your two-to-three strong achievements. This will save space to showcase your lengthy career. 

Exception 3: Relevant career experience 

Are you someone who has diverse work experience? Many workers transition in and out of industries over the course of their careers. If you have relevant experience that surpasses 10 year mark— especially if there is non-relevant experience in between — it's appropriate to incorporate it into your resume. 

In this situation, relevant experience beats the 10-year rule. It's important for the recruiter or hiring manager to know how experienced you are in a particular field or industry. 

How Many Jobs Should You List on a Resume?

Hiring managers are looking for the best person to do the job. The amount of jobs on your resume is not as important as what you did at those jobs.

To best highlight your relevant experience, keep your resume limited to four-to-five jobs. By doing so, you have more room to expand on what you did in each role. 

On each job, list three-to-five bullet points that show hiring managers what you’ve done. Use active voice. Give data and concrete examples whenever possible. Avoid generic terms and phrases like “hard worker” and “detail oriented.” 

Your bullet points should match the job description and duties whenever possible. If you are applying to a social media job, for example, your bullet points should look something like this:

  • Promoted from manager to director within nine months
  • Managed 15 accounts on four platforms
  • Grew engagement across accounts by 20%
  • Secured brand partnerships with eight Fortune 500 companies

If you’ve had multiple jobs and are struggling to fit them all on the page, identify the jobs that are most relevant to the opportunities you’re pursuing. Those are the jobs to prioritize, so list each role by relevance and pick the top four or five.   

Should You Include Your High School on a Resume?

Your work and education history dictate whether or not to add your high school to your resume.

Highest degree earned

If a high school diploma is your highest degree earned, you should incorporate it into your resume. Listing your high school diploma will serve well when you're applying for jobs that require a high school diploma or GED.

Similarly, if you are in college and don’t yet have a long work history to pull from, it is appropriate to add your high school information.

College degree earned

For professionals who have a more advanced degree, you don't need to include high school on your resume. You need a high school diploma to obtain a bachelor’s degree, so incorporating your high school information alongside your college information is redundant in this situation.

As the workforce becomes more skilled, employers are looking for someone who can do a job well, as opposed to hiring based on grade point average and high school experience. Hiring managers want a candidate with a strong track record that produces results. Accomplishments, certifications and data supporting your work create a stronger impact than a high school listing would. 

Final Thoughts

Resumes are limited to one page, giving you limited space to showcase your work history, accomplishments and skills. Knowing space is limited, it's important your resume is as optimized as possible and only incorporates the most important information. 

Need help determining what to keep and what to lose? Teal’s Resume Builder acts as an expert second opinion. The free tool helps you customize your resume to each job opportunity. It stores your work history, so there’s no re-typing your resume. Simply plug in your experience and move onto the next portion. The Resume Builder also has professional templates and interactive tips to help you visualize your work journey.

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Lindsay Patton

Lindsay Patton

Lindsay Patton is a journalist, adjunct professor, podcast host and digital communicator who specializes in business and career growth.

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