In our last Career post, we went over issues on your resume that might cause you to not get a call back.

(You can watch the video on that topic on You Tube or LinkedIn if you don’t have time to go read that article)

One of the issues was providing TMI – or Too Much Information. Specifically, going back more than 10 years on your resume is not recommended as a resume standard. Regarding this point, I received feedback from a another recruiting industry professional that disagreed wholeheartedly.

10 years of work history is a standard because in many cases, what you were doing 10 years ago is not relevant today. In most cases you’d need to be completely retrained to do jobs you have  done over 10 years ago due to tech and industry updates. This means your knowledge in that area is dormant, outdated, or no longer useful. Or, you may have advanced so far in skill level that you no longer need that history to prove that you’re qualified in a certain area.

But this article is about exceptions, and they do exist. So that’s what we’ll go over now to help you  decide when this standard applies to your resume, and when it does not.

Exception # 1 – The Executive Resume

how to write an executive resume

If you are an expert in your field and are applying for a position that requires more than 10 years of experience in it, your resume should show all of your experience that surpasses the requirement up to the point in history that your experience remains relevant.

Let’s look at two fictional example applicants to explain this point further. We will call them “Mark” and “Suzanne”.

Example 1 – Mark is a Senior Director of Engineering and wants to get promoted to a Lead Principal position requiring 20 years of experience or more. He graduated college with a BS in Engineering in 1993 but could not find a job that fit his education for 5 years. From 1993 to 1998, he worked as an insurance Call Center Representative. In 1998, he finally joined engineering firm as an apprentice and has worked his way through the ranks holding various positions. To apply for the Lead Principal position, he will start the work history section on his resume in 1998, leaving off the 5 years after college that he spent in a non-engineering position.

Example 2 – Suzanne wants to apply for a VP of Operations position at a Commercial HVAC & Plumbing Service company. The job requires 20 years of experience. She did not go to college and started working right after high school as an HVAC Service Administrator. She has worked her way up through the industry for the past 25 years and has spent the past 11 years in a director level position with the same company. Suzanne will want to include her entire work history on her resume.

The first reason is that if she follows the 10 year standard, she’ll only show one position. The reader of her resume may see that and immediately ask what else she’s done in her career. Has she held other titles or worked at other companies? Showing diversity in her experience within her field will work to her benefit. Because she didn’t go to college, her time as an entry level employee in the industry may be considered as an equivalent to education. Also, showing how she’s been promoted throughout the years will demonstrate that she is a true leader.

Exception # 2 – Patent and Project History

adding patents and projects to your resume

In many cases, a curriculum vitae or C.V. is more appropriate than a resume for people who will need to include extensive information about their education and training, research, projects, patents, etc.

If you are in the kind of profession where you’ll need to provide a list of work samples, pictures or a portfolio, a C.V. may also be for you.

If you choose a resume format over the CV format, list more than 10 years of experience but keep it under 2 pages. Optionally, you may present your project list or portfolio as a second document. Or, you can add a link to your online portfolio in the contact info or footer section of your page.

It should be noted that depending where you are job searching in the world, resumes and curriculum vitae are two different things that are called the same thing in error.

Exception # 3- The Career Change Resume

how to write a career change resume

Sometimes, things happen in people’s lives and a career change ensues. If not showing more than 10 years of background will cause the hiring manger confusion or uncertainty, you will want to go back farther if even that means including information from a past career. Here is a prime example:

After 15 years as a teacher’s aide, “Andrea” finds her job eliminated to due district wide-cutbacks of all teacher-aide positions. She’d have to go work in another district to find a job in her line of work. Her husband still has a great job in the same school district where they live. Commute times to the nearest districts’ schools would be impractical. She chooses to follow her lifelong dream of becoming a lawyer instead.

She cannot start job hunting in her new field until she’s completed 5 years of schooling. As she puts together her resume, she doesn’t want give the impression that she only has 5 years of work experience, nor the impression that she’s much younger than she is. Her resume will need to tell her story.

She will include all 15 years of experience as a teacher’s aide and her 5 years as a full time student,. This will show how she hit the reset button after being faithful in her previous, long and steady career.

Of course, there are other exceptions but these are all we’ll cover for now.

Has this post helped you decide how much of your work history should be on your resume? Or, do you still have questions? Please let us know, don’t forget to subscribe for more helpful career-focused posts.