How Far Back To Go In Resume Writing: Tips For Deciding On Work Experience

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So you’re updating your resume and wondering how far back you should go in your work experience. Should you include that summer job you had in high school? What about that position you held for only a few months? It can be a daunting task to decide which experiences to include and which to leave out. But fear not, dear reader, for we have some tips to help you navigate this sticky situation.

Now, we know that the idea of updating your resume may not exactly fill you with excitement. In fact, it may seem like a tedious and dull task that you’d rather avoid altogether. But think of it this way: your resume is a reflection of your professional self, and it’s the first thing potential employers will see when considering you for a job. So why not make it as innovative and engaging as possible?

With that in mind, let’s dive into some tips for deciding on which work experiences to include in your resume.

Key Takeaways

  • Consider relevance of past jobs
  • Focus on recent and relevant work experience
  • Avoid irrelevant or outdated work experience
  • Use functional or combination resume format if necessary

Consider the Relevance of the Experience

You’ll want to focus on experiences that directly relate to the job you’re applying for, so employers can see how your previous work can benefit them. While it may be tempting to include every job you’ve ever had, it’s important to consider the relevance of each experience.

Ask yourself if the skills you gained in that role can be applied to the job you’re currently seeking. If the answer is no, it may be best to leave it off your resume or briefly mention it without going into too much detail.

When deciding which experiences to include, it’s important to keep your target audience in mind. What skills and experiences are they looking for? What will make you stand out among other applicants?

By focusing on the most relevant experiences, you can show employers that you have the skills they’re seeking and are a strong fit for the position. Remember, quality over quantity is key when it comes to crafting a strong resume.

Evaluate the Timeframe

When evaluating the timeframe of your work experience, it’s important to focus on recent positions. This will give potential employers a better idea of your current skills and abilities.

Additionally, consider the length of time you spent in each position, as this can demonstrate your level of commitment and dedication to your work.

Take the time to carefully evaluate your experience and highlight the most relevant and recent positions on your resume.

Focus on Recent Work Experience

Focusing on recent work experience is crucial in showcasing one’s relevant skills and accomplishments in the field. Employers are interested in your most recent work experience as it’s a reflection of your current abilities and knowledge.

Highlighting your most recent accomplishments can also demonstrate your capacity for growth and your ability to adapt to new challenges. To effectively highlight your recent work experience, start by listing your most recent job first. Within this job, include specific accomplishments that demonstrate your skills and abilities.

Consider including transferable skills, such as communication, leadership, and problem-solving, that can be applied to a variety of industries. Additionally, highlight any achievements that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. By focusing on your recent work experience and highlighting your transferable skills and relevant accomplishments, you can showcase your potential as a valuable asset to any employer.

showcasing relevant skills from recent work experience on resume
Showcasing relevant skills from recent work experience on a resume

Consider the Length of Time in Each Position

It’s important to keep in mind the length of time spent in each position when deciding how far back to go in your resume. Duration analysis can indicate stability and growth in your career trajectory. Employers are interested in seeing how long you have stayed with each company and how much responsibility you have taken on over time.

When listing your job responsibilities, it’s important to highlight those that demonstrate your growth and development in each position. For example, if you started as an entry-level employee and moved up to a management role, be sure to detail the steps you took to get there.

On the other hand, if you only spent a few months in a particular job, you may want to consider leaving it off your resume altogether, as it may not provide significant value to your overall work experience.

Ultimately, the length of time spent in each position should be balanced with the overall relevance of the experience to the position you’re applying for.

Think About the Industry

Consider the industry you’re applying for and tailor your work experience accordingly. Industry trends play a big role in shaping the job market, and employers are always on the lookout for candidates who have a deep understanding of the current state of the industry.

By highlighting any relevant skills and accomplishments that align with the job requirements, you can demonstrate that you’re not only qualified for the position, but also have a finger on the pulse of the industry. Additionally, transferable skills are highly valued in the job market, so be sure to showcase any skills that can be applied across multiple industries.

When writing your resume, it’s important to organize your work experience in a way that highlights your most relevant skills and accomplishments. Start with your most recent job and work backwards, focusing on the skills and experiences that are most applicable to the position you’re applying for.

If you have a lot of experience in a particular industry, you may need to go back further in your work history to demonstrate your expertise. However, if you’re looking to switch industries, you may need to focus more on your transferable skills and accomplishments that are relevant to the new field. By tailoring your work experience to the job you’re applying for, you can increase your chances of landing an interview and ultimately getting the job.

Assess the Overall Length of Your Resume

Oh great, another piece of advice about the length of our resumes. Because employers love reading through pages and pages of irrelevant information. But wait, before you roll your eyes and ignore this advice, consider this – resume brevity is important.

Hiring managers don’t have the time or patience to go through every detail of your work history. They want to see your skills and experience that directly relate to the position you’re applying for.

So, when assessing the overall length of your resume, keep in mind that less is often more. Instead of focusing on the quantity of your work experience, focus on the quality. Highlight your most relevant and recent experience, and emphasize your skills and accomplishments.

If you have a longer work history, you can still include it, but consider summarizing older positions and focusing on the skills you gained from them. By doing so, you can keep your resume concise while still showcasing your expertise.

Remember, your goal is to make it easy for the employer to see why you’re the best candidate for the job. By prioritizing your skills and relevant experience, you can make a strong impression without overwhelming them with unnecessary details.

assessing the detail and length of resume
Assessing the detail and length of the resume

Be Prepared to Explain Any Gaps in Employment

When you face gaps in your employment history, owning and explaining them to potential employers can showcase your resilience and adaptability. Here are some tips to help you navigate this potentially tricky situation:

  1. Be honest: Don’t try to cover up the gap with false information or half-truths. It’s better to be upfront about the situation and explain why you weren’t working during that time.
  2. Emphasize the positive: If you were volunteering, traveling, or pursuing education during the gap, highlight those experiences and how they helped you grow as a person and a professional.
  3. Highlight any relevant skills or accomplishments: If you were freelancing or working part-time during the gap, showcase any projects or achievements that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
  4. Have a plan for moving forward: Explain how you’ve used the gap as an opportunity to reflect on your career goals and how you’re now ready to commit to a new role.

By addressing concerns about gaps in your employment history head-on and demonstrating your willingness to learn and adapt, you can turn what might seem like a weakness into a strength.


Remember to consider the relevance of your experience, evaluate the timeframe, think about the industry, assess the overall length of your resume, and be prepared to explain any gaps in employment.

By using these guidelines, you can create a polished and impressive resume that highlights your skills and experience in the best possible light. Don’t be afraid to take the time to tailor your resume for each job you apply for, emphasizing the experiences that are most relevant to the position.

With a little effort and attention to detail, you can stand out from the competition and land your dream job.

So, what are you waiting for? Start crafting your winning resume today!

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Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories. She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.