How To Choose Which Jobs To List on an Application

Updated June 24, 2022

In today's job market, it is common for employees to have short tenures at a position. With the rise in contract workers and freelancers, there are often many valuable employees with a resume that may look incomplete, have gaps in employment or indicate that they have not stayed at a position long enough to rise through the ranks. The key is to decide whether each position is worthy of taking up precious space or if it won't affect you either way during the application process.

In this article, we discuss if it's necessary to put every job on an application, and we provide the steps to help you decide which jobs to include.

Do you have to put every job on an application?

If you've asked yourself, "Do I have to put every job on an application?" the short answer is: No, you don't need to list every single position that you have held on a job application, especially if you have a lengthy employment history. However, there is no "right" answer to this question because everyone has a unique employment history and every employer has unique expectations.

When you are completing a job application for an employer, the last thing you're usually required to do is to sign it and certify that all the information you've listed is accurate. You never want to misrepresent yourself, so pay close attention to the language on the application and determine if it's in your best interest to reveal all of your positions, even if it was a short-term job.

Factors to consider about job history

The key is to think about each job, your length of employment and reasons for leaving, and then, determine how each situation might affect you during the interview process. Here are some common factors to help you think about your own job history:

  • You have an employment gap. If there is a gap in your employment, you should be able to account for that time. Depending on the reason, you can add a brief note on your resume, explain it in your cover letter or just wait until the interview portion of the hiring process to discuss it.

  • You were laid off. If you were laid off soon after you started a new position, it may be important to still list that position on your resume since you lost that position due to no fault of your own.

  • You quit a job. Even if you left a job voluntarily, an employer may wonder why you left, so be prepared to address any questions that could arise during the interview process. Perhaps you had to relocate on short notice due to a family emergency.

  • You are a freelancer or gig worker. Some industries are more familiar with freelance or gig positions and, therefore, are more comfortable interviewing and hiring those candidates. Other industries might prefer to know that a candidate held a position for 10 years before leaving to attain a management role.

No matter what your reasons are, make sure you speak positively about each of your previous employers and the jobs you held. You can focus on how your experience has helped you refine your skills as you become more adept in your field.

Read more: How To Create an Effective Job Hopper Resume

How to choose which jobs to include on an application

Follow these steps to decide which jobs you should include on your job application:

1. Create a plan for your application

To get started on your job application, make a list of your past work history in its entirety. Think back about every position that you have held and take note of any experiences that are relevant for you in your current job search. Some positions that require intensive background checks may want to know your job history beyond 10 or more years.

Create a fact sheet that has previous employers, employment dates, contact details and any supervisors who could provide a reference. This fact sheet can become a handy reference as you begin filling out job applications. It will help avoid any errors that could disqualify you from the role and, instead, you will have consistently accurate information at every phase of the application process.

2. Decide which jobs to exclude from your resume

Once you have a full work history that you can reference, you can begin weeding out any jobs that may not be applicable to your current job application. There is no real rule about what you need to put on your application. A good tip is that any position held under six months would be considered a temporary or contract role and can be excluded unless it creates a curious gap in employment. If the job was 20 years ago, feel free to omit it unless it is a critical part of your resume.

As you have grown in your career, you may have decided to change roles or career paths. You do not have to list irrelevant positions. If you are now in an executive management role, you can probably exclude any entry-level positions you had because they are now less relevant than the work you're currently doing.

3. Follow the instructions

As you're filling out an application, you may notice that an employer has specific instructions for how to fill out your employment history. For example, they may instruct you to share the last 10 jobs or list out every job you've had in the past seven years. If this is the case, be sure to follow the exact instructions. If there is a section where you can describe each position, consider explaining any gaps in employment, a short-term job or why you may have taken on a position that doesn't fit in with the others in your employment history.

If the employer does not direct you to provide your entire work history or all positions within a certain time period, consider limiting the number of positions to the jobs most relevant to the position you're applying for. Be sure you aren't creating extensive gaps in your work history, otherwise, be prepared to easily explain any gaps.

4. Look for any employment gaps

Decide if a gap in your job history is more important than explaining why you left a prior position. Depending on the nature of your work history and if it leads to a gap in your employment history, consider what a hiring manager may think. It might look better to not have a gap in employment but a string of short positions instead.

You may not want to have to explain any gaps in your employment history, so if you don't have any, it won't become a topic of conversation during your interview. However, if your employment history consists of several short-term positions, you may prefer to leave some of those out for fear of coming across as a job hopper. Simply be ready to answer questions about what might appear to be a gap in employment.

Whichever you decide, look at the job application and plan what to say in an interview so you can have a professional strategy during the hiring process.

5. Make a plan for short-term jobs

If you are a freelancer or have a variety of odd jobs, form a solid plan before omitting them from your application. If you keep all of your short-term jobs that are relevant, it can let a hiring manager know that you have worked a variety of contract positions that were never permanent. If you omit even one, it creates a gap in your work history.

Another idea is to list all of your contract positions under one position with a generic title like "freelance writer." Under that job title, you can then list how you worked for a variety of clients and employers on several projects. You can also list the relevant skills you used or acquired during that time.

Read more: Top 10 Best Freelance Jobs for Creative Professionals

6. Prepare for the interview

If you reach the interview phase of the hiring process, the hiring manager or human resources representative might ask you to provide references or let you know that they'll be performing a background check. In preparation for this possibility, practice your interview answers. Consider letting the hiring manager know right away that you left some positions off of your application so you could focus mainly on the most relevant jobs for the role you're applying for.

Not every job will be a good fit, and hiring managers are aware of that. With today's changing economy and growing remote workforce, company culture and work-life balance are key features for any position. Simply wanting better benefits or paid time off can be a valid reason for leaving a position and does not necessarily hurt your chances in an interview process. So, when in doubt, list these positions and let the employer know why you're looking for something new and how excited you are about their opportunity.

Read more: 125 Common Interview Questions and Answers (With Tips)

7. Consider the available space on the application

Some job applications are now online with an unlimited amount of space for prior positions, however, you may not have unlimited time to fill them out. With the fact sheet created first, you can consider how and what positions are a priority to list. Refer to the other steps in this process to determine which jobs to keep and how to justify your choice to leave out any positions.

If you can only list four positions, make certain they are the most recent ones. But, you may also want to highlight an important managerial position from earlier in your job history while also saving space for more recent roles.

8. Don't forget to list your skills

If you are omitting any positions, do not let the valuable skills and experience gained at that job go to waste. Be sure to mention those skills elsewhere on your resume, in your cover letter and on your application.

For example, someone who has held a variety of positions has learned to adapt to new processes quickly and will most likely have a versatile skill set. This can become a unique aspect of your work history, so keep these important skills highlighted no matter which jobs you decide to keep on your application.

Read more: 10 Best Skills to Include on a Resume (With Examples)

9. Be honest

One of the most important things you can do in the hiring process is to be honest about your work history. When you sign a job application, you are promising that what you have listed is accurate and truthful to the best of your knowledge. Employers may perform an in-depth check, and the lack of honesty could cost you a position.

Explore more articles

  • How To Become a Protocol Officer in 5 Steps (With FAQs)
  • How To Get a Hospital Job With No Experience (With Steps and Tips)
  • Highest-Paying States (With Incomes and Top-Paying Jobs)
  • 15 Jobs for Music Lovers (With Salaries)
  • How To Become a Plus-Size Model in 3 Steps
  • Top 11 Pros and Cons of Being a Lawyer
  • 5 Part-Time Jobs for Seniors Near Me (Plus Companies)
  • 18 Major Tech Companies in Boston
  • Reconnecting Email: Definition, Benefits, Tips and Samples
  • A Day in the Life of a Lawyer: Daily Tasks and Duties
  • 25 Most Common Reasons for Joining the Military
  • Tax Accountant vs. Auditor: What You Need To Know