If you’ve had a long or varied career history, including every job you’ve held on your resume just isn’t realistic or effective. Your resume could end up becoming way longer and more complex than it needs to be. It could also lead to confusion about who you are as a professional, or simply be overkill by providing too much information. Being strategic about what you include can help your resume build a stronger impression and paint a clearer picture about what you have to offer.
But first, let’s clear something up: your resume is not a legal document, it is a marketing tool. You are not required to list every single job you’ve had since high school, or that two months you spent stocking shelves between jobs. There is usually a form employers provide asking for a detailed job history, and that is where you want to make sure you’ve included everything. But for the sake of your resume, it is an overview of who you are and what you bring to the table so that employers want to interview you to learn more.
So how do you decide what gets included, what to cut, and what to pare down?
Determine how relevant it is to where you are headed.
As mentioned above, little side jobs you’ve held, or short stints at places you really didn’t plan on staying and making a career out of are usually okay to leave off, especially if they don’t create a noticeable gap in employment. One exception would be if you had any significant achievements while there that enhance your candidacy for the job you’re applying to.
If you’re changing the focus of your career path and worked a job previously that is highly relevant, you can always pull that to the top as “Highlighted Professional Experience” if you want more attention paid to that than what you’ve done most recently.
Focus on the past 10-15 years.
Many people have worked their way up the corporate ladder advancing to positions of increasing responsibility. A good rule of thumb is to elaborate on the past 10 to 15 years while avoiding being too redundant. If you were a Senior Director 10 years ago, and that’s where you start your resume, an employer will understand that you didn’t just come out of college and jump into that role. There’s no point in providing too much detail about past positions when you’ve taken on much greater responsibility since that time.
Pare down information for career changes.
Shifting into a completely different industry or role? This is another time when you may want to be selective about what jobs you include. You’ll want to focus on that which most closely relates to the type of job you’re seeking. You can include previous positions in your original field, but you don’t have to go into extensive detail. Or, you can list them as additional experience and just highlight some key achievements that are relevant.
Use your best judgment.
Obviously, you don’t want to lie on your resume, and you don’t want to leave large gaps of time unaccounted for. Use your best judgment in deciding what is most important to include and what will give employers the best overall impression of who you are and what you can do. Don’t stress about not including that job you held in the ‘90s or that summer gig that really wasn’t a good fit. For most people, including the major roles they have held over the past 10-15 years will suffice.