Listing every single job you've held can do more harm than good

There is an art and a science to writing a CV. On one hand, your CV needs to fit neatly onto two pages and look polished. On the other, it needs to cite the most important and relevant details of your career to impress an HR manager.

One of the most common mistakes that job seekers make with CV writing is adding too much work experience to the document. In fact, at TopCV, many of the amends our expert writers make during their CV writing is eliminating early work experience ‒ anything older than 10 to 15 years.

We understand that, as you've spent many years building your career, you're protective of your history and want to include it all on your CV. And you may believe that it's all valuable experience. 

But trust us – you don't need to include every position you have had on your CV, and you're not selling yourself short by excluding old roles. Your CV will actually be stronger for it. Here are a few reasons why making those cuts is important.

How far back should your CV go?

As a rule of thumb, your CV should only list the last 10 to 15 years of work experience, or your last five to six employment positions within this time frame. It keeps your CV highly relevant to the prospective employer. 

You might believe that by including all your past positions, you paint a picture for the recruiter, highlighting the career path you've carved and therefore your strengths. Whilst it's no bad thing explaining your employment journey to a recruiter, a CV is not the place to tell that story. Save it for the interview, when you have the time to elaborate.

Your CV's sole purpose is to demonstrate your most relevant skills and achievements that prove you are an excellent fit for the role at hand. To do this, it's best to zoom in on your most recent professional developments from the last 10 years, as this is likely to be your peak so far – not what you were doing in the previous decade.

Imagine you are the recruiter: You have hundreds of applicants to sift through and you'll spend roughly six seconds reviewing each CV to decide whether the candidate is worth pursuing. First impressions count. With that in mind, review the information you've included in your CV and decide if it is worthy of making the sale.

Why you should eliminate early work experience on your CV

Here are a few reasons why it's best to scale back your work experience to the last 10 to 15 years:

To prioritise your relevant experience

Your career path to date is more than likely an upward trajectory (even if there are a few bumps in the road). That means that, currently, you're at the height of your career. In your most recent role, you've probably obtained some of your biggest achievements, procured your most valuable skills, and held your most senior job title to date.

So if that's the case, why would you draw attention to positions that you had over 10 years ago when you were less qualified? By chopping earlier positions, you give recruiters exactly what they want: your best, most relevant skills ‒ not a comprehensive history of your entire career.

To achieve optimal page length

Whilst there is no one-size-fits-all approach to CV writing, there are some industry standards worth paying attention to. In this case, it's the two-page CV length rule.

If your CV is too long, the chances are that a prospective employer will miss reading some of your best bits. You may leave the time-poor recruiter disgruntled, rather than optimistic about your potential.

Therefore, remove jobs that are older than 10 to 15 years to slim down your CV, so that it fits onto the standard two pages that recruiters prefer.

To mitigate age discrimination

Even though the 2010 Equality Act protects job hunters from age discrimination, the bias still exists in recruitment. Almost half of UK workers feel that their age holds them back when applying for jobs and one in seven believe that they have been denied a role due to their age.

Whilst there are legal measures in place to mitigate age discrimination during the recruitment process, there are a few CV-writing tactics you can implement too. Removing your earlier employment history or scaling down old details will help to shift the focus from your age to your talent.

Exceptions to the rule

Though there are a few hard requirements when it comes to writing a CV, the process is generally flexible and you can mould a CV to showcase your employability. How far back your CV should go is one of the more adaptable rules.

Exceptions include:

  • If you've worked at the same company for more than 10 years

  • If the job you're applying for requires more than 15 years of experience in a specific field

  • If you hold valuable skills from an earlier position that are relevant to your application

  • If you've worked at a renowned or prestigious company or held distinguished job title

  • If it explains a career gap in your CV

Outside of these special cases, it's generally wiser to cut the fat and make the last 10 to 15 years of your career the prime focus of your CV.

Is your CV giving too much or too little information? A free CV review will tell you where you stand.

Recommended reading:

Related Articles: