Resumes usually have no specific guidelines despite being the most crucial aspect of initially applying for a job. However, there is still an unspecified standard that resumes are expected to uphold by employers and recruiters. This makes job searching very often challenging and ambiguous. Luckily, there are some recommended guidelines to follow when it comes to curating a resume that have been recommended by job recruiters and other experts in the subject. Here are some guidelines for those wondering “how far back should a resume go?”

A general rule of thumb is to include around 10-15 years of work experience on a resume. According to Lisa Tynan for Top Resume, reducing the job history section of a resume to this amount of time helps to keep the resume concise, only focuses on the most important and/or relevant information and combats against age discrimination caused by the amount of time a person has spent working.

However, thinking in terms of the specific industry/position being applied for and tailoring the resume to relevant experience for that job is crucial. If earlier experiences are highly relevant or showcase skills important for the position, including them might be beneficial. But if they’re less relevant or outdated, focusing on recent and pertinent experiences might be wiser to keep the resume concise and targeted. Two pages is usually the best length for the resume as a whole. This means the job history section likely needs to be condensed if the resume is longer than two whole pages. But again, this may be necessary to highlight all relevant information, especially for those later into their career.

For Entry-Level Careers

Those earlier into their career may only have one page for their resume and that is typically fine. There is other information though, that can be added to stand out as a candidate. One way to do so could be to add an objective or summary that highlights goals and what the candidate can bring to the table. For those fresh out of college, high school jobs and activities are most likely irrelevant. Unless, of course, the role specifically pertains to the job being applied for. Instead, list all degrees, relevant coursework, and academic achievements. It is also good to highlight hard skills (software, languages, technical abilities) and soft skills (communication, teamwork, problem-solving). Lastly, showcase any internships, volunteer work or relevant projects undertaken.

For Mid-Level To Senior-Level Careers

For those in the mid-level or senior-level of their career, it may start to get unclear when asking “How far back should a resume go?” Less information on career goals and personal introduction is needed at this point, as the work can speak for itself. Those at the mid-level in their career should start with a brief overview of their experience and expertise instead if an introduction is wanted/required. Those in the senior-level of their career can begin with a powerful statement summarizing their career highlights and value to an employer.

Both career levels should then detail their work history, focusing on achievements and quantifiable results in each role. Emphasize leadership, project management and specialized skills. Next, highlight advanced skills gained through experience, leadership and management capabilities. Include any certifications or courses relevant to the field. Senior career-level applicants should include any board positions held, speaking engagements, industry recognitions or other high-level accomplishments.

Remember that a great resume for one job position or field varies greatly to that of another. Align personal experiences and skills with the description of the specific job the application is for. Resumes should evolve as your career progresses, focusing on showcasing increasing levels of expertise, responsibilities and achievements.