How Far Back Should Work History on an Application Go?

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Most job applications ask you to list your last three jobs and give you the option of adding additional work history if you wish. If you have a long work history, you might not want to include it all because your employer's eyes may glaze over and he may stop reading your application. Include enough work history to give your future employer a sense of who you are without listing every job.

10-Year Standard

  • Although there is no specific rule regarding how far back to go when listing your work history, Frank Dadah of Winter & Wyman says you should go back no further than 10 years, according to careerbuilder.com. If you include too much work history, you risk overwhelming your prospective employer and not getting called for an interview. Thus, you should cut it off at about 10 years. However, if you have worked at one job for more than 10 years, put the correct start and end dates of that job so employers can get a sense of your company loyalty.

Slanting Your Résumé

  • Presenting relevant work experience is more important than the total amount of work experience you have. Most job applications include a résumé, so you can mention the last three jobs you held on the application and use your résumé to highlight work experience that demonstrates your ability to do the specific job you are hired for. You may want to leave off work experience in other fields unless you can make it relevant to the job you are currently applying for.

Determine Employer Expectations

  • Your potential employer may expect you to have a longer work history, depending on the type of job you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a management position, your employer may expect you to have years, if not decades, of experience in your chosen field. Tailor your work history to your employer's expectations as best as you can. Use a shorter résumé for jobs that do not require much experience and a longer résumé for jobs that require a lot of experience.

Other Considerations

  • Employers often frown upon long gaps between periods of employment, so you don't want to leave large holes in your résumé. Don't list only short or temporary jobs at the expense of longer-term jobs either; this makes it appear as if you cannot stay with one job for a long period of time. Aim for a balance; don't list too many jobs, but don't cut your résumé in unfavorable ways, either.

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