Far Back Resume

How Far Back Should Your Resume Go?


I recently came across a resume that listed a summer cashier position in 1976 as part of a person’s “professional experience.”

Related: 4 Outdated Resume Tips You Should Be Avoiding At All Costs

While it may seem a little strange or ridiculous to include an irrelevant position from over 25 years ago, I can tell you it’s actually not that uncommon to come across something like this.

A lot of people think they literally need to include everything they’ve ever been involved with on their resumes, and I can assure you 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 resume 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 resume 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 resume would probably near the four page mark in 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 resume 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 there is such a thing as “too much” on a resume.

Focus on what the hiring manager wants to see, not on how much information you can cram onto it.

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  1. I’ve got over 2 decades of various work experience, but for the resume I send to people for job openings, it stops around 2000. The whole-9-yards version is something that I put together with the help of my employment dept. I have it available if they really want it, but I don’t know how much value it would be to an interviewer.

  2. So what do you do then when one who is university educated has had a wonderful career spanning over a 12 year time period (in sales, training, marketing field) and then decides to be a stay at home mom over the next 15 years working a few contracts in between. Now that her family is grown, she wants to get back into the workforce but has struggled to get work that is as “career” oriented as she once had.

    Would this not be a reason to put information on achievements 20 years ago? People don’t lose the skills they gained just because it was over 20 years ago.

    Maybe this is another topic for discussion. I agree with Ramesh.

    • Elizabeth, Being a stay-at-home mom is a full-time job and should be treated as such. Unless you spent the last 15 years sitting on the sofa eating bonbons, you have used your previous work skills, and probably developed some new ones. Did you manage your family’s budget, pay the bills and make purchases? You were a financial manager. Did you plan your families schedule, make sure your kids and husband got to their activities on time, and keep track of the family calendar? You were an events coordinator. Did you purchase food, plan and prepare meals for your family? You were a dietitian/chef. Was your home neat and in order, were your family’s clothes kept clean, did you make sure that your home was well maintained? You were a property manager.

      Don’t sell yourself short just because you were “just a stay-at-home mom.” If you think long and hard about the things you did both in your home and in community involvement, I’m sure you will find you have done much more that can apply to a career than you think.

      • I am dealing with this situation also right now.

        In addition to homemaking and taking on temp jobs that may or may not have been related to my career field, I homeschooled my kids for 15 years and then suffered an illness for a couple of years. It can look like a disaster on a formal job application without the context of a resume.

        Paul’s advice is well taken. However, in my case at least, the bulk of experience related to the jobs I’m aiming for is 20 years old. There is also a distinct prejudice against home education in some circles. (If the original poster is like me, she’s concerned about prejudice on the homemaking front, too.)

        After much trial and error, I have finally given in to listing the old experience fairly briefly, in spite of the chance of age discrimination.

        I’m a writer, and my writing samples are also mostly old. I found ways to display them without the dates.

        I have also looked for common threads throughout my work experience. I highlight these and group as much as possible together.

        For example, I wrote training material in my writing job; taught my children, including writing curriculum (which I just call tutoring and curriculum development); copyedited Sunday school curriculum (which I just call curriculum); tutored for the school system; and tutored independently. I call my profession during the stay-at-home years “writer/editor/instructor” and highlight the other items where relevant.

        That being said, I have accepted that at my age and with my background, my best chances for a job are going to come through networking. There are people who are going to be prejudiced for whatever reason. However, there will be people who will love me, too.

        I realized, though, that that’s not so bad: networking is the best chance at a job for everyone.

        Best wishes in you search, Elizabeth.

        • Best of luck to you as well GB. One thing I have found that mature women want to hire “mature” women. I have worked in the nonprofit sector for most of the past 5 years. Individual donors also like to deal with an older age group. I am moving away from this area because of the turnover and truly unskilled general skills the non profit female and male leaders tend to have.

          I still haven’t found an online support group for those who are in the situation that you and I are in. There has to me many people out there who once had a career stayed home for a number of years and are looking to reignite their career over the next 15-20 years.

      • Thank you so much for that and believe me I know all of these things volunteering, organizing, managing, negotiating, selling ideas, advising…and as a result have 2 wonderful daughters. I do think it is incorrect though not to include a 10 year career with a large IT firm and all of the accomplishments made and skills learned.
        I am sure I am not the only middle aged female faced with this situation. I have spent the past 5 years trying to establish a career only to find myself starting all over as if none of these previous skills or education ever existed.
        There should be a topic written that addresses how older women can get back into the workforce after raising a family.
        It is tough out there and companies seem to prefer someone straight out of college.

      • I was a stay home Mom for 15 years and did all of the things mentioned in this issue. Do I write down that I was a Financial manager, events coordinator, chef and property manager on my resume? How do I present this on my resume? On my resume now I have the company I worked for and the dates. I haven’t shown the position or details. I’ve titled it under Professional Work Experience. Would you put it under something else? I am struggling with my resume and I want it to look professional. I have gotten my resume down to 1 page from 3. Also can I put References available at interview? What is your advise? I would appreciate any tips you may offer.

        Thank you

  3. I agree that one has to use one’s discretion on what needs to go into one’s Resume, but there are several other instances which may necessitate inclusion of most of one’s work history. For instance, if one has made multiple career transitions, each having contributed to the learning & growth of the person, I feel there should be no harm in including ALL such jobs, though one may end up raising eyebrows and invite questions on such a checkered career. IMO, it’s a combination of one’s work history and the requirements of the job one is applying for which should determine how much is too much.

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