Writing your resume and trying to figure out how far back you should go? I can help with that. In general, I advise my job seekers not to go back further than 10 to 15 years of work history. But are there exceptions to that “rule”? Absolutely. When is it OK to go back further than 10 to 15 years of career history on your resume?
When you have relevant experience, but it isn’t recent.
We work with job seekers who have experience in the industry they want to get back into, but it was longer than 10 years ago. This is where a chronological/functional combo format for your resume will come in handy. You can tout your relevant experience without dating yourself.
When you’ve had only one job during that entire time span.
Usually what I advise clients in this situation is to break down your career progression. So even though you’ve had only one employer, you’re showing forward movement during the span of your career. However, it may be helpful to list the position previous to the one you currently hold to show depth and variety of experience. I’m not quite sure when having only one employer became somewhat of a negative in a job search, but it sure is looking that way lately. That is a whole other article, though.
When you’re applying for a position and a CV is required.
CVs are more historical-based career documents, where a resume is more of a self-marketing document. In your CV, chances are you’ll go back further than 10 to 15 years. This can also include medical and academic positions (and for my international audience, 90% of the time this will include you). Hiring standards vary from country to country, but the accepted form in most places other than the U.S. and Canada is a CV.
When possible, limit your work experience to the last 10 to 15 years. Chances are it’s going to be the most relevant to the position anyway. Only go back further if you don’t have the necessary experience or it’s required in the case of a historical CV where they want an account of your entire work history.