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How Far Back Should Your Résumé Go?

Gavin Davis -- Remember that there is such a thing as “too much” on a résumé. Focus on what the hiring manager wants to see, not on how much information you can cram onto it.

I recently came across a résumé that listed a summer cashier position in 1976 as part of a person’s “professional experience.” While it may seem a little strange or ridiculous to include an irrelevant position from nearly 25 years ago, I can tell you that it’s actually not that uncommon to come across something like this. A lot of people think that they literally need to include everything they’ve ever been involved with on their résumés, and I can assure you that not only do you not have to follow suit, you also don’t really need to go back any longer than 10 years.

The main goal of your résumé should be to impress the reader with the specific qualifications and experiences that make you fit to be hired for a desired position. That being said, the reader is most interested in what you have done recently, not in what you did over 10 years ago. The bulk of your résumé should be devoted to the last few years of your working history -– this is what potential employers want to know about.

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably held a number of jobs over time if you include the part-time and casual positions. If you wrote a little bit about each one of these, your résumé would probably near the four page mark on experience alone. Considering it shouldn’t be longer than two pages, this is far from ideal.

When it comes to listing your professional experiences, stick to the most recent and relevant positions. There is no need to include everything, and writing about too much will sometimes blur your positions together and detract from your real qualifications. Unless you’ve held the same position for over 10 years, there is really no reason to go back any longer than this, and employers don’t even expect to go back that far on your résumé anyway. If you do have quite an extensive work history of relevant positions, focus on the most recent ones and then simply list the earlier positions under a new category for “previous or other employment.”

Just remember that there is such a thing as “too much” on a résumé. Focus on what the hiring manager wants to see, not on how much information you can cram onto it.

RedStarResume provides résumé and cover letter writing services for students, graduates, and young professionals. For more information, visit www.redstarresume.com, or follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RedStarResume.

© 2011 RedStarResume Publications

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