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If you don’t get the right answer and do guesswork in your resume experience section, the chances of your resume getting rejected would be high.
This article provides a direct answer to the question and addresses the following:
- Why is it important to consider the number of years before writing your resume?
- Why is it not advisable to write all your years of experience?
- How to determine the right number of years for different experience levels?
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Why is it Important to Figure Out the Number of Years of Experience You Should Include on Your Resume?
Based on the job description, there’s a level of experience the recruiters expect from the candidates for a particular job – they often mention that in the job listing.
Each candidate’s experience is different – how many jobs they have worked and the years of experience they have gained are different.
Your experience section should be an optimization between your personal profile and the job requirements. Therefore, it's mandatory to decide the number of years of your career you’re going to write in detail on your resume.
How Far back Should a Resume Go?
If you’re a candidate with years of professional experience to list on your resume, you should go for a maximum of 15 years of relevant professional experience.
Modern resumes are targeted documents just like cover letters – you don’t write everything as you did with your biodatas or CVs. You should only write the key information that makes you the best candidate for the job.
In fact, you don't see many job advertisements requiring candidates with 25 years+ experience – because, the recruiters know that such experience is outdated.
However, certain job ads request the candidate to fully disclose the job history on the resume. On such occasions, you could provide details about all the previous positions you’ve held.
Why You Shouldn’t Include All Your Years of Experience?
You might think if the hiring manager is expecting 15 years of experience, I should go ahead and make a surprise with my 25+ years of professional experience – that makes sense right?
But, there’re reasons why you shouldn’t:
- Overqualified: hiring managers often reject applications of overqualified candidates. Recruitment is a costly exercise for a company – one of the KPIs for hiring managers would be employee turnover – the rate at which the employees leave the company. Therefore, it's the hiring manager’s duty to pick the people who would most likely stay longer with the company. Overqualified candidates would often leave the company faster.
- Age discrimination: with your experience section spanning over 25 years – you’re sending an indirect message to the hiring manager about your age. Remember, it's very easy for the hiring manager to reject a candidate at the shortlisting stage than after the candidate visited for an interview. You could always convince them how your experience would benefit their organization in an interview.
- Space: your resume should be limited to one or two pages maximum. The time candidates created 10-page resumes is over. When you try to list more than 15 years of your earlier work history on a single page, you’re going to lose depth in your descriptions – which would hurt your resume ranking.
- Time spent on a resume: hiring managers only read the first page of your resume and on average they spend about 6 seconds on one application. Your 20+ years of a long career is not going to impress them the way you expect.
- Clarity and focus: Long experience sections often lack clarity and focus. The hiring manager’s concern is about your experience that fit the new job responsibilities. If you put everything you’ve ever done on your resume, the employer will have to make an extra effort to filter out what they’re looking for in you.
How to Determine the Right Number of Years for Your Resume?
One way is to read the job description – check how many years of experience the recruiters expect you to have. You don’t need to have the exact number of years of experience, though it should be close.
The second way is to determine the candidate’s experience. Based on that, there’re three categories of job seekers:
- Candidates applying for senior positions
- Candidates applying for mid-level positions
- Candidates applying for entry-level jobs
1. Candidates applying for senior positions
When you’re applying for a senior position, recruiters often expect a solid relevant 10 years of professional experience from you. Go up to a maximum of 15 years in your experience.
If you got 25+ years of relevant experience for the position, mention that in your career summary instead of providing detailed descriptions of roles and responsibilities that you held 25 years ago.
Those could be the experience that shaped your career and put you where you’re today, but from the hiring manager’s perspective, they are outdated.
2. Candidates applying for mid-level positions
For mid-level managerial and executive job titles, hiring managers usually expect about 5 years of experience. The ideal number of years to write would be anything between 5 to 10 years.
If you have more experience, try to filter out the most relevant experience for the position you’re applying for. If you write 20+ years of experience for a mid-level position, the recruiter will think you are either overqualified or you’ll not have the energy to take up the tactical tasks associated with the job.
3. Candidates applying for entry-level positions
Entry-level applicants could have anything between 1 to 5 years of experience. The exact number of years the recruiter expects would differ based on the job and it would be clearly stated in the job ad.
Here, if you do not possess the minimum years of experience for the job, you could include your experience from previous internships, freelancing work, volunteer work, or any project work you were involved in while studying.
Tips to Impress the Hiring Manager with Your Resume Experience Section
An excellent experience section would make or break your chances of getting a job or an interview. Having the right length to it would create a great impression for the hiring manager. Here’re some final tips t improve your work experience section:
- Your experience section should begin with the position that is most relevant to the position you are applying for.
- More than the number of years you have worked, the hiring manager’s concern would be about the exposure you’ve had – describe your achievements and accomplishments relevant to the new job.
- Use numbers to add credibility to your experience – specify the decisions you made, the results you achieved, and the impact on the organization.
- Disclose the entire career history with a timeline if the recruiter has specified.
- Keep the resume to not more than two pages.
- Job seekers who have been in the same job in their career should pick the right parts of the employment history to write in the experience section – every role and responsibility held is not relevant.
- If one of your previous jobs was in a prestigious company, you could state it in the experience section if you believe that it would add value to your profile – however, this solely depends on the circumstance.
- Become a professional resume writer or use one of our ready-to-fill resume templates to create a perfect resume
Summary: Writing a Perfect Experience Section
- An experienced candidate should write for about 15 years back to their career.
- A mid-level candidate and an entry-level candidate should write for about 10 years and 5 years respectively.
- Writing a comprehensive experience section does not mean writing all the years of experience on the resume.
- Writing all years in your career could sometimes send a negative message to the hiring manager.
- Write only relevant experiences that are not considered outdated for the position you’re applying for.
Should I include my degree that is older than 15 years?
Yes, you should. Even though you remove some of your older experience from the resume as they are outdated, you shouldn’t delete your education section – especially when the hiring managers have specified a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree from the candidate.
However, if you’re listing a professional certification, you should check whether the certification has expired.
Should I include part-time jobs in my resume?
There could be a couple of reasons why you’ll have to list a part-time job in your resume:
- You do not meet the minimum number of years of experience specified by the recruiter.
- The part-time job is highly relevant to the position you’re applying for.