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Too much experience to include in a résumé?

Resumes and Cover Letters

Question:

I took my résumé to the Résumé Doctor at FCWS, and she said it goes back too far. How can that be? I’m a mature person with lots of background. Don’t those experiences have lots of transferable skills? Doesn’t my résumé show that I have many facets to my personality? Or are the hiring managers just looking to put a live body in a seat these days?

Answer:

As you’ll find out, the answer to almost every question about résumés is “It depends.” 

One of the Résumé Doctors at FCWS was recently faced with a resume that mentioned that its owner had been a stewardess for a famous airline in the 1970s. She mentioned to the customer that this information should not be in a résumé created 35 years after the fact. “But I’m so proud of it!” cried the customer. “And well you should be,” said the Résumé Doctor, “but it doesn’t go on your résumé.”

So why not go all the way back to the beginning of your work experience? Aside from the extra wording, it might make the employer wonder if you are too old to do the job, or if your additional experience is going to cost him too much money. In addition, putting in everything you’ve ever done will make it hard for the hiring manager to find the parts that are relevant. Some employers will just throw your résumé away because they don’t want to read it all.

The rule of thumb nowadays is to include just the past 10-15 years. Go back further than that only if the information you want to add is either extremely impressive or very relevant to the job you’re applying for.

The current trend with résumés is to focus on the individual job you’re trying to get at the moment. Employers expect you to customize all the information you send them, so tell them only the bits they want to know. It’s not unusual for employers to get 100 résumés for a single job opening. They just don’t have time to take anyone’s multifaceted personality into consideration at that point.

Taking that into consideration, what information do you want to send to the next employer? Send the parts that are relevant to the job. You can take the words right out of the job lead. Use not only the employer’s words, but also his order; whatever he lists first is the most important thing. The more your information is like his, the better off you are.

Are hiring managers just looking to put live bodies into seats? Some are; most are not. Their main concern is to get the work done as efficiently and inexpensively as possible. You help them do that by telling them just the parts of your experience that they need to know.