How Much History Should You Include on Your Resume?

John Krautzel
Posted by

Your work history gives prospective employers an idea of how you gained your experience, knowledge and qualifications for a position. Provide just the right amount of relevant information on your resume to make your future employer want to know more.

Preconceived Notions

The general rule of thumb is to include no more than 10 years of work history on a resume. However, if you have a bit of work experience from 15 to 20 years ago that shaped the employee you are today, that position remains relevant. Always consider the relevancy of each position you held rather than trying to show you remained employed without any gaps.

Job Description

Read the job description thoroughly for each position to gain a good idea of how much work history you need to put in your document. Make an outline of your job experience, and eliminate jobs that have nothing to do with the job description.

Earlier Jobs

Some earlier jobs may remain relevant, even many years later. For example, your mentor at your first job might be a high-level executive for the company that has your application now. Clearly, listing that job and that supervisor is worth your time. Each position is different, which is why you should tailor your work history section to each employer.

Relevancy is the key. The fast food job you had for a year as a teenager may seem irrelevant, but if you're applying for a management job in the hospitality industry, it's important to describe your experience as a fast food worker. Consider using a previous boss as reference if he can speak to your work ethic in a particular industry.

Combinations of Positions

If you held the same type of job for multiple companies, show this by listing your jobs by the types of duties first and then the companies for which you worked. Do the same thing if you held multiple positions with the same company. List the company first, and then summarize each position in one line. This saves space on the page while also showing how you earned experience or promotions in previous jobs.

Career Summary

If you gained a lot of experience in college or early in your career and don't want to leave this information off of the resume, consider writing a Career Summary section at the top of your document rather than including a long work history. This summary emphasizes your top-level skills without mentioning how you obtained them.

The point of having a work history on your resume is to stand out from the pack. Make sure everything you include presents you as the ideal candidate for a position to boost your chances of getting called for an interview.

Photo courtesy of Union Communication at


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch