How much information on a resume is too much? This common jobseeker’s quandary may have you stumped, especially when it comes to specifics like the dates of past employment. You don’t want to leave crucial info out of the picture, since employers need a comprehensive sense of your work history to see if you’re the right fit.
But in some cases—especially once you’ve accumulated several years of work experience—you can highlight your skills while downplaying the timeline.
Years of employment
Older jobseekers in particular may be tempted to leave off the years of past jobs. Since years indicate how long you’ve been in the workforce, they may reveal your age or generation and ageism is a bias organizations are still working to overcome. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employees start facing workplace age discrimination as early as age 40.
The good news for seasoned professionals: after over a decade in the workforce, you have more room to pick and choose which past jobs to include. Like all job hunters you want to emphasize skills and experience relevant to the position, not list everything you’ve done since graduation.
In fact career experts often advise leaving out any jobs dating back more than 10 or 15 years ago. This way you can present a career trajectory with few, if any, gaps in employment and avoid stressing about dates.
But there are exceptions. If a job calls for 20 years’ work experience in a certain field, for instance, why not flaunt it if you have it? In this case the years of your past jobs will establish you as a longstanding field expert.
And you may be in a career where best practices are constantly developing, like information technology or health care. If you mention completing a training, for instance, employers want to know whether this training remains relevant, which could depend on how long ago it took place. The year gives your potential employer crucial context. Even if the specific practices you learned are now outdated, you can discuss broader benefits you gained from the job that will transfer to a new role.
Month for month
Should you list the months you spent at each position as well as the years? This question is more complicated. Job seekers who worked many short-term stints in the past—12 months or less—may fear a monthly timeline will brand them as an inconsistent "job hopper."
But providing monthly dates for job transitions is still a good idea. Don’t automatically count yourself out of the running just because you have a more varied work history. Most employers will look at the whole picture, including your potential, ambition, and enthusiasm.
And there’s a big difference between working somewhere for two months and staying there for a year. Omitting months when you list out past roles could conceal important context, like what you might have learned on the job and how your role progressed.
You can handle short-term past gigs in a few different ways on your resume:
- Leave them out entirely, but be prepared with an explanation if you’re asked about the gap in your work history.
- Accurately list the months you spent there and emphasize the skills you acquired.
- Experiment with different resume formats. Instead of a chronological list, try a functional resume or a skills-based resume to describe the ongoing narrative of your career.
While you should include months, you don’t need to list the exact days you started and left jobs (unless a form requires this info).
Will employers want to know the year you earned a degree or certification? This can vary depending on how much experience you have.
Recent grads with fewer than five years of experience should include at least their graduation year. If you recently completed a professional training program, certification, or advanced degree you might want to list the year of graduation as well. This demonstrates you have the most up-to-date education in your field. And it’s particularly relevant if you’re including recent coursework as part of your resume bona fides.
After you’ve been out of school for 10 years or more, though, you don’t need to include graduation dates. Employers will be more interested in your professional accomplishments at this stage.
Once you get a little more experience—say, five to 10 years—you can keep graduation dates on your resume, but they become less important. If you interrupted your career to pursue further education, it’s beneficial to include the years you were in school. Not only do you omit a resume gap; you also give an employer a better sense of your career trajectory and long-term goals.
While dates are important, remember that they’re only one aspect of your career story—and you can always answer questions about them during the interview stage. Regardless of your age and work history, tailoring your resume to show how you can best add value to the organization is key to success.
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