Strategies for Years and Dates on a Resume

years dates on resumes

Standard resume advice is to present your resume in reverse chronological fashion, going back ten to fifteen years. Not every career is a straight trajectory. 

There are turns, set-back, and breaks.   That standard model does not fit every job seeker. Should you show a straight-forward reverse-chronology of your history?  Is the answer to omit the dates to disguise the gaps or a long career? 

Let’s examine a few common scenarios and share a strategy for each.

Short Gaps in Career History

If you have short gaps between jobs, show only the years rather than months and years.  It is unnecessary to reference the months on the resume. When completing the company’s application for employment, you will list exact dates. For example, you would write (2013 – 2015) rather than 2/2013 – 3/2015).

Returning to Work after a Long Break

If you are planning a return to work after a multi-year break, you may need to show your early history to demonstrate that you meet the job requirements.  For example, if you took a break from 2007 to 2015.  Showing the jobs that you held from 1997 to 2004 and from 2004 to 2006 would be beneficial.  Another tactic that aids this scenario is to mention a brief one-line career break statement explaining why you chose to take the break.  For example, you might say, “Elected to take 8-year career hiatus to raise children. Now returning to a challenging full-time role.” 

Career Change

Let’s say you started your career in accounting, shifted to a real estate sales career, and now you want to return to accounting.  In that case, you will want to show your early career history to prove you have solid work experience as an accountant.  This is another time when it is alright to break the rules and show a little more history.  Another strategy for a career changer is to include a “Career Highlights” section on page one, following the “Profile” section.  In this section present your top three to five relevant career achievements.  This allows you to show the most valuable accomplishments on page one, so the reader won’t have to wait to get to page two to see them.

Long Steady History

If you are fortunate enough to have a long steady career history in your chosen field, a reverse chronological resume format is best.   In this scenario, you can follow the standard rule of showing only ten to fifteen years of history on your resume. This increases your marketability and allows you to focus on the most recent accomplishments, which are generally what the reader is most interested in reading.

The Bottom Line

There are very few resume standards that apply to 100% of job seekers, 100% of the time.  Each person has a unique career history and goal.  Study your situation and design the best strategy to bring you closer to your career goal.

President of Careers Done Write, a premier career services provider focused on developing highly personalized career road maps for senior leaders and executives across all verticals and industries.

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