Back in September, I hosted a mentor session for Create & Cultivate Insiders where they were able to submit questions to be answered. There was a lot about resume format and career path, but one question that stood out to me was, “when is it time to take something off of your resume?” This is a great question to tackle because the answer changes based on your experience and the goal of your resume. With that said, there are a few guidelines you should follow to help you see the signs that it’s time to take something off of your resume.
A common misconception is that you should include your whole career path on your resume. While this is true for some people, most people should include some adjusted versions of their career paths on their resume. Today, I wanted to discuss the answers to this question about when to take something off of your resume.
Take it off if… it doesn’t serve a purpose
If you’re pondering the question, “When is it time to take something off of your resume?” consider the fact that you only have a set amount of space to craft the perfect snapshot of your career. Everything on your resume should serve a purpose.
Is an experience listed on your resume to camouflage an employment gap?
Is an experience listed on your resume to highlight your experience in a particular field or specialty?
Is an experience listed on your resume because you want to show that you have experience in a specific role?
Is an experience listed on your resume because the company name holds influential power?
Every piece of information included should serve a purpose. If it does not, it’s time to remove it from your resume.
Take it off if… it was in a different lifetime
Depending on the person and situation, I typically recommend including about 10-20 years of experience on a resume. Including information that’s older than that is often not worth it. There are exceptions to this if the experience serves a purpose, (i.e. it shows a notable company, client, or role) however, most of the time you don’t need to go back that far.
If you have a lot of great experience that was a few decades ago, you can save those anecdotes to use during your interview.
Take it off if… it makes you seem less experienced or too experienced.
Some experiences may have been very valuable and may have even been a turning point in your life/career, but they might work against you. Great examples of experiences that are important but not important for your resume when you have an established career are college classes or internships. Note that these are not important to include if you have an established career.
If you are currently in school or just out of school searching for your first job, college classes or class projects are a great way to bolster your resume and highlight your industry knowledge. However, if you do have an established career, they will often make you appear less experienced.
Unless you’re currently in college or recently graduated (looking for your first job out of college) there is no need to include information about the classes you took in school. Once you’ve made it past your first or second entry-level job, employers care more about what you’ve accomplished at work than what you learned in a classroom. Education is important, but on the job experience always take precedence.
On that same note, it’s important to consider if a role makes you appear too experienced for the position you’re applying to. If you’re trying to shift careers or maybe take a lower-level position because of location, it’s important to be conscious of what information can make you appear too experienced for the job. If a potential employer feels that you’re overqualified for the job, they may fear that you’ll get bored easily which could equate to you inadequately completing required tasks or leaving a role quickly which would increase turnover.
Ultimately, every piece of information you include on your resume should serve a purpose. It may be tempting to include everything to show your entire career path and/or versatility, but it’s important to consider the question of when is it time to take something off of your resume. If it doesn’t serve a purpose or was from a different lifetime, it’s probably time to take it off.
Michele Lando is a certified professional resume writer, personal branding expert, and founder of Write Styles.