“Should I reveal it or not?”
“I’ve been told that my resume should only include the last ten years of my work experience. Is this true?”
“My resume includes experience from 18 years ago and I’m worried that age discrimination might be an issue. How do I handle age on my resume?”
These are questions that I am asked about almost every day by the clients of my professional resume writing firm.
The truth of the matter is that there is no single “correct” way to handle revealing (or not) age on your resume, and the best strategy for you should be chosen based on the big picture of your experience and goals.
What does that mean for you? Simply this: The content of your resume should be strategically selected to support your focus and value proposition.
While it is true that readers of your resume will be most interested in your most recent experience, there is often value in including experience further back in your history.
- Perhaps your early career includes work for well-known, prestigious companies.
- Perhaps you want to document the full scope of your cross-industry experience, much of which occurred in your early career.
- Perhaps you believe some valuable networking opportunities may come out of your experience 15 or 20 years ago.
- Or perhaps your most impressive accomplishments were in a position you held 12 years ago.
In any case, if your career history is lengthy, it will be apparent to the reader that your career did not suddenly materialize ten years ago, so there is little harm and many benefits to summarizing this early experience. Of course, this does not mean that you must give equal page weight to your early career. If you feel early dates will be used to screen you out, subtly leave them out of your early career summary. If some early career positions have more strategic relevance than others, give them more emphasis in your summary. Think carefully about the content of your resume. If there is solid reasoning behind your desire to present early experience, than do so. Here are some possibilities for the formatting that mention on your resume of early experience if you determine it is important to your current goals, but do not want to include dates.
If the company names are prominent and important based on your current goals:
EARLY CAREER: Recruited out of college into highly competitive leadership and management training program at Acme Corporation; personally mentored by division managers, rotating over a period of three years through a variety of company divisions and geographic locations. Identified early on as a high-potential future leader and was handpicked at completion of training program to takeover management of a $10 million, 28-employee department that was struggling under intense competition. Quickly restarted growth and regained competitive positioning, growing sales to $18 million in two years.
If early job titles are important based on your current goals:
OTHER EXPERIENCE: Career began as an administrative assistant, but was quickly called out and recognized for outstanding customer relations skills and natural sales abilities. At first opportunity, tapped by management for advancement into sales associate position, and over the next five years earned four more promotions, ultimately ascending to senior management as a national sales manager.
If the industries you worked in are important, but not necessarily the company names:
ADDITIONAL EXPERIENCE: Entered the restaurant industry as a new college graduate and spent the next six years advancing through progressive positions in two local-award-winning restaurants before transitioning to a supervisory role in the food and beverage department of a national-chain hotel.