How Far Back Should a Resume Go?

At some point in your life, there might come a time when you need to transition from one career or job to the next. When actively seeking work it is almost always a requirement that you send in a CV or resume so that a potential employer can gauge your suitability for a role or position.

Writing a resume is a particular skill that you might find it difficult to complete. There are a few tricks to writing your resume should you wish to do it yourself but there are professional resume writing services available, both free and paid.

One of the most asked questions about resumes is how many years back your employment history should go and while there is a general answer to this, the real solution can vary and depends on your circumstances, the position you’re applying for and whether it’s even relevant.

So, when writing your resume you should consider the following: 

  • The general rule
  • Relevant exceptions

There is a standard number of years as to how far back your CV history should go and this applies to the vast majority of positions but there are some careers with exceptions that can make this number shorter or longer.

Keep it 10 to 15 Years

The standardised rule for how far back your employment history should detail is set at no more than 10 to 15 years. When writing your resume, it isn’t necessary to detail every single job that you have had throughout your entire life and a recruiter might not bother to look at your CV if it is too long. If you have had many jobs over a long period of time then a good tip is to only list the ones that are relevant to the position for which you are applying.

If you list relevant jobs then a prospective employer will be able to see any transferable skills that you can bring to a new position from any of your past roles. For example, if you have recently been studying hard at an adult night class and are looking for a new career as a software engineer, then it isn’t really necessary to list that couple of years you worked at a fast-food restaurant when you were 18. That being said, should you be wanting to apply for a job as a trainee chef or a retail store supervisor, then that would be an appropriate past position to list.

When You Can Vary 

Despite the general one-decade rule, there are some exceptions to this and mostly relate to the professional level of the role that you are applying for. If you are just starting your professional career either as a recently graduated student or undergrad then no more than 5 years is required since an employer knows that you likely don’t have a lot of employment experience. Instead, they will be more interested in your academic achievements and how they propose you as a suitable candidate for a job.

If you are looking for a higher level and more responsible position after gaining some relevant experience in a particular field then it becomes necessary to include more work history on your resume. At this point, you should aim to include more relevant previous roles as you worked up to where you are now as well as important academic qualifications that are required for the job. This might mean that you have worked for longer than 15 years which is where you need to carefully consider what to include so as not to go back further than this.

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