Ask a Recruiter: How Far Back is Too Far Back When Listing Experience on My Resume?

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Jeni Lambertson217
Founder + CEO of the constellations
April 22, 2024 at 9:28AM UTC

Want to know what recruiters are really thinking? In our Ask a Recruiter series, we invite you to take an exclusive look inside the mind of a real recruiter — Jeni Lambertson — to see how she approaches the hiring process.

Twice a month, Jeni will answer a question from one of our readers. If you have a question about finding the right job posting, emailing the right person, or landing yourself on a recruiter's desk, drop it in the comments.

Q: How far back is too far back when listing experience?

As the founder of a recruitment agency (the constellations), I am required to provide feedback on countless candidate resumes.  I've found one of the questions women ask most frequently is: "how far back is too far back when listing my job experience?"The short answer is: there is no one size fits all response.  

Several factors can be taken into account when determining how much of your job history to include.

The average American spends forty or so years in the workforce, and now, most candidates are staying at any one job for fewer years than previous generations (a Career Builder Study found by the age of 35, nearly one-third of employees had held five or more positions). This means that when you map out the chronology of your work experience, there is potential for a quite lengthy resume.      
I'll use myself as an example:  by the time I was 25, I had held 12 different full-time positions — many held congruently, as I worked two jobs for most of my late teens and early twenties. To list out the entirety of my work experience — much of it not pertaining to my current career ( not to say I did not garner a skillset at each job) — wouldn't make sense.  If I were advising someone like myself, I would suggest she only include positions held for the last decade or so with particular attention to those that aid in demonstrating an understanding of the role she is seeking.  

We must also consider some women leave the job force to care for children, which creates large gaps in "traditional" experience.

In this instance, I would suggest she list all relevant work experience (regardless of how far back it may go in years).  Also, it is beneficial to maintain the working relationships you developed before having children.  If you can, stay in touch with your old boss; ask them for coffee, or write them a note and attach an exciting industry relevant article with your thoughts included.  I find it has only been to my benefit and enrichment to maintain my relationships with past colleagues. 

There is also the candidate who has worked with the same company for many years.  

In this case, I would suggest breaking out each role held ( regardless of how long ago that role was held) and including all pertinent information ( title, dates, responsibilities) as you would had you been with several different companies.
More than anything, I believe the most significant thing a candidate can do for themselves when developing their resume is to make it incredibly easy for the hiring manager, HR professional, or recruiter to get a sense of who they are,  the range of their skill set and what they have been up to in a clear and concise way. 

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Jeni Lambertson is the founder and CEO of the constellations, a female-first procurement service. She's passionate about bringing diversity to future-thinking companies while simultaneously doing her part to close the wage gap. 

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