Strategically Addressing Past Work Experience in the Resume

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By Lori Jazvac.

Many experienced job seekers typically have a lengthy employment history. When updating their resume, they often encounter a common concern: how far to draw the line when it comes to including past experience. The reality is that, as we move forward with our career, we move further away from our past experience.

Employers tend to primarily focus on recent employment and achievements in current roles. Ten to fifteen years of work experience is typically enough to give an effective snapshot of the candidate’s expertise and skill set.

Other areas to consider when detailing past experience in the resume:

  • Employers favour a concise two-page resume rather than a three pager, as they have little time to scan through lengthier content.
  • College internships do not always fare well on a seasoned executive’s resume as higher level achievements tend to override junior roles.
  • Candidates who have changed careers would not likely need to focus a great deal about their previous positions in another field. This applies especially if work experience in their new field is quite extensive.
  • It may be appropriate to include a previous role that equates with the present career target, briefly outlining the position, company, and dates employed is also another strategy to address gaps. Use your discretion of what details to include.
  • Include only technical skills relevant to today’s market rather than outdated technology.
  • Account for any large employment gaps either in the resume or the cover letter.

More Helpful Tips:

Consider an innovative design and format aligned with today’s resume standards such as the hybrid format. If appropriate career achievements and specific skills are more prevalent in the past, consider including a Career Highlights section at the beginning of the resume. Ensure that the resume is aligned with the requirements of the job posting by highlighting relevant keywords and phrases that signal a good fit.

To increase the chances of finding meaningful work related to the desired career target, then create a results-oriented resume. Emphasize both quantitative and qualitative achievements, not only responsibilities. However, do not get so hung up on past achievements that current milestones are minimized or neglected.

To give the prospective employer an idea about the scope of  experience and responsibility, considering including some context, but providing a line or two describing the company and role.

Getting a resume noticed is really a matter of strategy. Shift to the employer’s perspective. If a unique value proposition is not clearly articulated throughout the resume, then achievements will have little impact. After all, the resume is a personal marketing tool to distinguish the applicant from other candidates.

For assistance with resume writing or for help in articulating your unique value proposition, contact a Certified Resume Strategist (CRS).

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