How Many Years You Should Go Back on a Resume

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated May 16, 2022 | Published February 25, 2020

Updated May 16, 2022

Published February 25, 2020

A person sits at a dining table facing their laptop while holding a mug.

One of the key elements of a successful resume is the work history section. Deciding which of your previous positions to include and how much information to write about each of them is an important part of the resume writing process, and should be evaluated on a case by case basis.

In this article, we discuss how many years you should go back when constructing your work history for a resume, what is standard and what factors might require you to go back further.

Read more: Listing Professional Experience on Your Resume

How many years should you go back on a resume?

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 held the job. 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.

Read more: How to Write Work History on Your Resume

When to go back 5-10 years

The most common reason to limit your work history to less than 10 years is a significant career change. As an example, suppose you graduated from college with a bachelor's degree in business administration and found a job as an executive assistant. Over the next eight years, you maintained an excellent performance record and worked for two successful employers. However, as the years passed, you realized that working as an executive assistant was not as rewarding as you hoped it would be. You decide to pursue a career in nursing instead.

Over the next five years, you go back to school, earn a nursing degree and complete a nursing internship. When you begin applying for nursing jobs, you could decide to only include information on your resume that pertains to nursing. Only including your last five years of experience limits the discussion to the subject of nursing and can help you to avoid questions about your age or your commitment to the field.

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.

Related: Here's Everything You Should Include on a Resume

When to go back 10-15 years

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. For instance, if you are a 30-year-old elementary school teacher, 10 years of work experience includes the four years it took to earn your bachelor's degree, one year of assistant teaching, three years of work for your first employer and two years working in your current position.

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 the individual's 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.

Related: Writing a Resume With No Experience

When to go back further than 15 years

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. For example, suppose you worked for a marketing agency for five years as a graphic designer. Then, you were offered the position of creative director at another company where you stayed for the next 12 years.

When updating your resume, it would probably be a good idea to omit your five years as a graphic designer in favor of including more information about what you accomplished as a creative director. 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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