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How much experience should I put on my resume? 

 

As an alumnus, you may have many years of work experiences.   It may be hard to determine what is relevant or how much to list on your resume.    Remember, you have 20-30 seconds to grab someone's attention with your resume.    Here are some things to keep in mind: 

 

Layout and Length

Alumni with extensive experience and/or an advanced degree can certainly break the "one page" rule to which most current students adhere.   You may find it necessary to go beyond a page to fully explain your background to a prospective employer.   A strong resume should present the experience you've had in the past 10-15 years.

That being said, keep in mind that many employers receive hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of resumes for open positions, so it is important that your resume be very easy to quickly skim and not include a large amount of information that would not interest the employer.

Using formatting tools like bolding, italics, and indenting can help make certain parts (headings, titles, etc.) of your resume stand out. Be sure to include sufficient white space on your resume so that it doesn't look crowded and become difficult to skim. 

 

Examine the Job Posting and Think Relevance 

Read the job posting and determine what skills and experiences you have that will impress the employer.   Rather than listing all of your previous work experience, skills, education, and extra-curricular activities from college, tailor your resume to suit the specific job posting you are applying for.  

Take the time to consider which of your experiences closely relate to the position.  That way your resume will provide the reader with a more single and focused direction of your expertise.    Remember, there is no way that a person looking to hire you as a bank manager cares about the stint you did at McDonald's when you were 18 years old.   The two are simply not related to each other.    If you place every job you ever had on your resume, a potential employer will have no idea where to look when trying to decide if you are the right candidate.   

Organizing your work history 

Some people work in the same job for many years, while others change jobs on a frequent basis.   If the job you are applying for is not the same as your recent jobs, you cannot sell yourself on that experience alone.  Instead, create two sections to show your work experience.  

If you have some experiences which are much more closely related to the position of interest to you, consider creating a section towards the top of the resume which would highlight them.  List your top three to five most recent places of employment that relate to this category.  You may wish to name this section relevant experience or use an even more specific heading related to the position.

You may also include an "Additional Experience" section further down the resume.  You can summarize previous jobs as follows: "Previous employment includes several increasingly responsible management positions in the pharmaceutical industry at xxx and yyy." 

Additional Accomplishments

If you find that your resume looks a bit empty after removing all of the irrelevant job experiences from your resume, include accomplishments such as honor letters, awards or recognitions in the workplace.     

Education

While the education section almost always comes before work experience for current students, alumni with relevant work experience will often list their work experience before education, particularly if the applicant's work history is closely aligned with the types of positions to which he or she is applying.

Within the education section, your most recent educational experience should be listed first, so if you have an advanced degree it would be listed before your undergraduate degree. As you move further away from graduation, you should include fewer details about your college experience. For example, instead of listing your specific GPA you might simply note if you graduated with honors. Including extensive lists of courses and college activities is not necessary many years after graduation.

 

Special Concerns

Employment Gaps

It is quite common for individuals who have been out of college for a period of time to have an employment gap on the resume. The good news is that employers often understand these situations.  If you were home raising children, you might include volunteer activities to which you contributed. (LOTS of skills can be gained through PTA and other community organizations!) Perhaps you worked on some freelance assignments or did consulting which you could include. Perhaps you earned a certification or took an online class. These could all be good additions to your resume.

Highly Diversified Experiences

While having a diversity of experiences on your resume can be a strength and can demonstrate a wide skill set, it can also be confusing to prospective employers since you may not easily fit into a predetermined applicant profile. It is particularly important for such candidates to understand what will most interest the specific employer and to fine tune their resumes to really highlight those experiences and skills. This may mean choosing certain accomplishments to include in a career summary at the top of the resume or having multiple experience sections on the resume to ensure that the most relevant experiences are towards the top.