News Article

CV TIPS - How Far Back Should A Resume Go?

Posted 5th September 2023 • Written by Chris Westfall on •

Consider Your Industry, Your Experience and Your Qualifications: but don’t start there. Look at what the position is requesting. Shape your resumé to the opportunity. Using authenticity, consider how to shape each of your experiences to reinforce why you are a perfect candidate for this particular role. Relevance is the key. Do you match up with the job description, on your resumé? How many years of experience makes you qualified? The answer depends, first and foremost, on what the employer is requesting. If you simply don’t have the qualifications, you’re not out of the running - but you just qualified yourself as a “non-traditional candidate”. You’re probably going to need more than just a resumé to get an interview. But that’s a subject for another post. Consider that Career Builder suggests 10 years as a benchmark for how far back your resumé can go in 2023.


Impact Over Experience: experience proves ability. But how many times do you need to prove that you have the ability to do something, in order for a potential employer to see your value? The initial answer probably lies within the job description. If you don’t have five years of experience in a role, and that’s what’s called for, you might have a tough time getting past the ATS (applicant tracking system - an acronym for automated resumé screening software). Remember, there’s something that matters more than experience, when it comes to your resumé. Speak the universal language of numbers, to reflect the size and scope of the difference that you made for your previous employer(s). Can you show that you made an impact? Does your resumé clearly state the scope of your contribution? The amount of time in the workforce, or in a job, is only part of the story!


Go Here, If You Can: most experts recommend going back no more than 10-15 years. But everyone with an iPhone (introduced exactly 16 years ago, in June of 2007) can tell you that a lot has changed in 15 years.

When to Cut It Short: do you have a life-event that happened to you, in your career journey, causing a shift in your trajectory? Maybe it’s a circumstance that’s difficult to explain, a gap in your resume, or a choice that you made that has no bearing on what you’re trying to do next. Lots of people made tough choices during the financial crisis, for example, in the years around 2008 - maybe you are one of them? You’re a financial analyst now, but right out of school you took a job as a graphic designer to pay the bills. Does that story help or hinder your cause? How’s the screening software going to view that position? Consider that transparency is important, but confusion must be overcome. Storytelling is always selective - and your resumé needs to tell a story. Remember that you are not the first person since God was a boy who took a gig to pay some bills. Your story of an unexpected left turn, or an unplanned gap on your resumé, could be a point of connection, where you demonstrate your resourcefulness and willingness to do what it takes. But that resourcefulness might be best discussed in the interview. How you position your prior positions on your CV needs to be in alignment with your objective. If you have some circumstances that you’re not sure how to pitch to your employer, or a gap that’s six months or longer, it’s a good idea to get with a coach for some guidance. An expert coach can take your history and help you to write a different ending - or at least a really good next chapter.


Is Longevity a Liability? What happens if you’ve stayed at the same company, or worked in the same role, for the last 15 years...or longer? The key here, as with any story about your experience, is to focus on what matters most to your potential employer. Do they value dedication and commitment? A steady and even hand at the wheel? Longevity can be an asset, if your experience is tailored to your next opportunity. However, transitioning from a lengthy career can be another reason to hire a coach - so that you can pull relevance, not rigidity, from your prior commitments.

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Click to see more Interview and CV tips from People First Recruitment to help in your search for a Mandarin speaking job, a Japanese job, a Language job or a job in Supply Chain, Procurement or Demand Planning in London & the UK