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How Far Back?

Author: Jojo Varona

Looking for work and updating your resume can be daunting. If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, you might be wondering:

  • How far back should a resume go?

  • Why shouldn’t you just include all of your experience?

Determining how many years of work history to include on your resume can be a tricky task and is highly dependent on the unique situation of every job seeker.

The prevailing wisdom is to include roughly the last 10 years of work experience, but this may not always make sense. It’s critical that you consider how relevant and important older pieces of work experience are to the jobs that you are currently looking for. How many years of work history you should include on your resume depends on several factors? You will need to consider your industry, experience level and qualifications. Each of these elements can affect whether or not including certain years of experience will be beneficial. The most important thing to keep in mind when making this decision is whether or not a previous position is relevant to your current job search.

If a particular position provided you with valuable experience, relevant skills, and opportunities to improve professionally, it may be useful for you to include it on your resume, even if it has been over 10 years since you’ve held the role. If you have changed career fields over the course of your employment history, you may decide to only list jobs from the last five years.

If you believe the earlier years of your career journey to be irrelevant to your current goals or interests, it may benefit you to omit them from your resume. If you choose this option, be sure to fill out your resume with other types of information, such as skills or awards. You should also be prepared to answer in-depth questions about your work experience if you reach the interviewing stage of the hiring process.

Most experts recommend including 10-15 years of work history on your resume. For the majority of professionals, this includes between three and five different jobs. Ideally, including 10-15 years of experience allows you to show a comprehensive overview of where you started, how you have grown and where you are now. For many, 10-15 years can cover everything from their college graduation to their most recent promotion. However, some more experienced professionals might have only held one or two positions during the span of 10-15 years.

Deciding if 10 or 15 years is enough time largely depends on your professional goals and how much relevant experience potential employers might be looking for. Some job listings call for applicants to have five years of practical experience while others may require 10-15. Tailoring your resume to suit the particular position you are applying for often helps you to seem more qualified and can persuade the hiring manager that you would be a good fit for the job.

Including more than 15 years of experience on a resume is a rare occurrence in today's job market. Typically, hiring managers are only interested in knowing the last 15 years of your work history. Anything that happened more than 15 years in the past has the potential to be irrelevant. Potential employers and clients would typically be more interested in what you have achieved in your most recent position rather than in where you worked more than 12 years in the past.

The exception to this rule would be if you held the same job for 15 years or more. In that case, your endurance, experience, and commitment could make you a more appealing candidate.

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