Do you need to list all the jobs you’ve ever had on your resume? Or is it acceptable to leave out some details?
To find out the answer to this question, we asked experts to provide their insights. Let’s find out:
Emily Frank, M.A.
Founder, Career Catalyst
Yes, you can absolutely leave a job off your resume
I encourage my clients to list what they want employers to see under a heading like “relevant experience” or “experience highlights.”
There are, of course, exceptions. Some government jobs, in particular, will ask for your entire work history, so if it says something like that in the job description, leaving something off will generally be seen as dishonest of you. (And if it’s government, yes, they can check and find what you’ve left off.)
The other sort of caveat is that you do need to truthfully answer if you’re asked if you’ve ever been fired.
I tell my clients to say something like, “Yes, in Position X, there was a change of management, and I was no longer on the same page as the higher-ups.“ (Customize at will.)
You want to be sure it doesn’t sound like either you’re a bad worker (poor attitude, laziness, inability to follow instructions, etc) or that you blame all your failures on an outside force, so something like “we didn’t share values anymore” is often a good starting place.
Finally, if your experience is long, it’s generally a good idea to limit what you list on your resume to around 10 or 15 years’ worth. This minimizes some age discrimination potential and also keeps the focus on the newer (and therefore more relevant) experience.
HR Manager, uAcademy
It’s important to remember that your resume is a marketing document and not a legal document. The purpose of the resume is to make you stand out from other applicants and secure an interview! If this means leaving out a previous job from your resume, then it should definitely be considered. You don’t have any obligation to list every role you’ve held.
That’s the good news, now for the bad: It’s important to remember that you have to be a credible candidate for any role that you’re applying for, and if leaving out that job makes your application less credible then it will hurt you in the long run.
It’s a fine line between leaving out a job and including it regardless of the circumstances
I’ve put together a list of times when it’s important to include the job in the resume and when it’s fine to leave it out.
When to include the job:
- You’re applying for a new job that requires a security clearance.
In this example, it’s imperative that you list every position regardless of the reasons you left. If you leave a job out, then it may backfire, and it may be questioned at the security clearance stage.
- The job is the only experience you have.
If the job you would like to leave out, and it’s the only experience you have in that role, then it should be left in your resume. Even if the job ended badly, it’s vital that you show that you have experienced first, and then you have the opportunity to explain the reason for leaving or any other issues you faced in the role. Recruiters will always look for experience first!
- You’ve had the job for a significant amount of time.
It’s extremely difficult to hide a large gap in your career, and if you’ve held a job for a year or longer, then it’s best to mention this in your resume regardless of the circumstances. The role can then be discussed further in the interview about the challenges you’ve experienced and how you overcame them. Dealing with issues and overcoming them is a great way to display your skills and determination to a recruiter.
When to exclude the job:
- You left the job a long time ago.
Recruiters look at the past 10 years of your work history, and if you left the job more than 10 years ago, then it’s fine to exclude it, but remember not to include jobs prior to this as it will cause a gap which will raise questions.
- The job doesn’t cause a large gap in your history.
If you’ve left your job within 6 months, then it can be left out of your resume, and this shouldn’t have a negative impact. There is a great way to cover the gap by converting all of the dates in your resume to years (e.g 2018 – 2020). This is a well-known method and is used by most HR staff.
- The Job role makes you come across as a job hopper.
Recruiters don’t like job hoppers; they prefer candidates with a strong work ethic and loyalty to their employer. If the job makes you look like a job hopper, then it’s best to exclude it.
Founder of Resume Scripter
The question of whether to leave a job out of your resume is a tricky one. On the one hand, you want to portray your experience honestly and accurately. But on the other hand, you want to make sure that you’re presenting the hiring manager with information that’s relevant to the role that you’re applying to.
Here are the guidelines that I recommend when making this decision:
- Was the position more than 6-7 years ago?
If so, you can likely leave it off without concern, especially if you’ve had consistent, steady employment since then. Employers are usually on the lookout for more recent gaps in employment when assessing whether someone looks like a stable candidate.
- Did the position last for less than one year?
If so, you can easily get away with leaving it off the resume if you only include years in your date ranges for each job on your resume. Note that this tactic may not be as effective if you’ve had many short-term jobs that lasted less than one year.
- Were you working multiple part-time jobs simultaneously?
If so, you can leave off one that overlaps with another. This would allow you to dedicate the real estate on your resume to the position that was most relevant to the job that you’re applying to.
Lastly, I recommend titling the section ‘Relevant Professional Experience‘ instead of just ‘Professional Experience,’ just in case you want to talk about the role that you left off during the interview.
There are different ways to go about addressing this issue
In short, yes. But there are different ways to go about addressing this issue depending on the reason you want to remove the position from your resume.
If the position is not relevant to the position you are applying for:
The most effective solution to this problem is to reformat your resume to a function-based resume. A function-based resume does not need to be in reverse chronological order and feature every single job you had. Instead, the order flows from most relevant positions to least relevant. In this way, you don’t necessarily have to address every job you’ve ever held but rather the ones that you’re most proud of and that speak to your abilities.
If you were terminated from a position:
If you did a great deal of important or relevant work at the position, include it on your resume. You don’t need to include on your resume that you were terminated from the position—in fact, you should never include that sort of information. Termination can happen for any number of reasons.
What’s more important than if you were fired is how you address your termination. Explain the situation diplomatically and showcase that you have grown from the experience. Offer a list of references who can speak on your behalf and ease interviewers’ worries about your performance.
If you were laid off:
Getting laid off is never a reason to eliminate a position from your resume, especially if it is relevant for the position you are currently applying for. Include the position and explain in an interview or cover letter the circumstances that led to your layoff. Employers will not look at your negatively for something that was out of your control.
If you had a negative relationship with your superiors:
There are many ways around this issue. Be careful not to speak poorly about your previous supervisor as it reflects poorly on you instead. Simply explain why you were not the best fit and offer a list of references who will speak positively about you.
Career Expert | Author, “Your Personal Career Coach: Real-World Experiences for Early Career Success“
Yes, I believe there are situations when it is perfectly acceptable to leave a job off your resume. If you were only at a position for a short time (a few months), then it can be left off a resume, especially if the responsibilities of the position do not align with the new position you are seeking.
Everything on your resume should support you in securing a new position
Think of the one or two pages of your resume as valuable real estate. You want to be sure you are using that valuable real estate to spotlight the experience and successes that will strengthen your candidacy. Do not include information that does not help you, or worse, deters from your ability to get an interview.
If you were at a position for a short time and you were asked to leave the company or position, I recommend leaving it off. There is no upside to having it on your resume and can create a lot of downsides, especially if you have to try and explain why you were there for only a few months or were dismissed.
For older candidates, I recommend only including positions held from 2000 on and leaving off positions held before then.
Any positions prior to 2000 are not likely relevant to the position you are applying for now and, by including them, can provide enough information for potential ageism. A hiring manager will learn you have experience and maturity when they interview you, but don’t give them any reason to not schedule that interview with you first.
Of course, it is never acceptable to lie or fabricate experience on a resume.
Do not change the dates of other positions to mask the holes created by omitting positions from your resume. If you believe they need to be addressed prior to an interview, a cover letter is a place to explain any gaps in your resume. You can also address them, when asked, in an interview.
Managing Director – Accounting, Finance & Direct Hire at AcctPositions
Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to your resume
Leaving a role off of your resume sets the stage of dishonesty with a potential employer. If an employer does an employment check on you, you will need to list every role anyway, and the truth will always come to light.
When it does come to light, your honesty will always be put into question with your new company.
If you have a temporary assignment, put it down – it shows that you are willing to continue rounding out your skillset and don’t give up. If you had a change of heart after a few months and deemed a role wasn’t a good fit, put it down – it shows that you are not afraid to make a tough decision.
You can flip any situation into a positive and show your character through a cover letter or an interview. Always take the opportunity to flip what you may think looks like a negative into a positive!
Tara Bethell, EMBA, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, RYT-200
Founder & CEO, Copper Quail Consulting
You should not leave jobs off your resume because it often creates more questions
My overall experience is that no, you should not leave jobs off your resume because it often creates more questions than it eliminates.
By listing all of your past jobs, you can feel confident that you provided an accurate job history. You show that you are versatile and can transfer skills from any industry/job to a new one, and listing the jobs shows your areas of interest or passion in the past, which can lead to rich conversations in an interview.
There are few instances where it might not hurt to leave off a job on a resume that will not raise red flags to the hiring manager:
- It was a side hustle or part-time gig that does not have any skills transferable to what you are applying for (however, I challenge you to find the skills you learned in those and apply them forward),
- It was a job that was more than 20-30 years ago,
- Your resume is getting ridiculously long, and you do not want to bore the hiring manager with mundane jobs that do not show you at your best.
Gaps in employment on a resume without explanation never send a good message to a hiring manager. Employers are looking for honesty in an applicant. If a prior job ended poorly, let them know that without drama and provide other references that do not include that workplace.
Demonstrating that you have learned from prior workplaces and are excited to put these learnings, skills, and values into your new workplace is what will resonate with the hiring manager.
ACRW-Certified Professional Resumé and Cover Letter Writer | Customer and Career Services Division Manager, Virtual Vocations
Not only can you leave a position off your resumé, but in some situations, you absolutely should
Before you even begin writing, determine what you want to focus on―how will you use your resumé to tell your career story? Formulating a strategy can help you decide which jobs to include and which jobs to leave off.
Think of it like squeezing an orange: your goal is to end up with the good stuff―the juice―and remove all the peel and pulp (i.e., unrelated experiences).
This applies not only to which jobs you display on your resumé, but also to which skills and bullet points you list under them. Look at the job description and requirements and think about how you’d explain your experiences to the employer as they relate to the job posting.
What stories can you tell in your resumé that answers the job description?
Generally, anything beyond the last 15 years of employment should be left out or condensed, as should short-term jobs―ones you held for less than six months―unless their removal would leave a gap in your experience. It’s important not to leave any breaks in your recent professional history, so take that into consideration when creating your writing strategy.
CEO, HR Search Pros, Inc.
I always recommend not leaving a job off of your resume
This is a question I have gotten many times over the last 15+ years I have worked with HR professionals. I am a big proponent of honesty and integrity; so, I always recommend not leaving a job off of your resume.
The world is getting smaller and smaller, and with all the technology out there, when you apply to a job, chances are the company will find out at some point you left a job off of your resume. Then you will get questions about why you left it off (i.e., Are you trying to hide something? Are there other things you aren’t truthful about? etc.).
These questions are much harder to answer than if you just leave the job on your resume and talk about it when asked.
I have heard of instances where candidates did leave a job off of their resume and ran into major issues during an interview process. For example, I spoke with someone who was interviewing for a new job, and one of the interviewers had a connection to the candidate that he was unaware of.
This interviewer knew about the job he left off his resume and brought it up during the interview – then the whole interview process went south. The candidate couldn’t recover from it, and he missed out on a great job because of this.
As our Moms always taught us, “Honesty is the best policy,” – so I recommend not leaving jobs off of your resume.
Product Owner & Co-founder, cvonline.me
Leaving a job off your resume is totally fine, as long as it serves a purpose
Short and simple, our answer is yes, leaving a job off your resume is totally fine, as long as it serves a purpose, and you can explain it in the interview.
It’s important to remember that a resume is a piece of personal marketing, and it should be kept as concise as possible, so it doesn’t make sense to include irrelevant information that doesn’t add value to the application you are currently using it for.
As a general rule, we recommend professionals with more than 10 years’ experience, to only include their last 4 positions. More so if the positions they had in their early career are non-related with the position they are currently job hunting for. If the positions were actually related and the candidate believes they showcase their career path, then our recommendation is to keep the descriptions of those jobs short and sweet.
Leaving irrelevant jobs off the resume is usually also a good move for people who have made a career change. In these cases, you can leave some of the previous experiences off your resume. However, we don’t recommend leaving them all off. Instead, the candidate should adapt the job descriptions highlighting common skills and tasks, adding value to their new career choice.
Matthew Warzel, CPRW
President, MJW Careers, LLC
You are not legally bound by anyone to display your entire work history or experience
However, you can get terminated from employment if you lie on your application, so don’t add content that isn’t true—but eliminating content? Absolutely!
In fact, sometimes, it’s a strategy to help reduce a red flag or two. Maybe the job lasted for a week, a month, maybe even a year, but luckily you overlapped from your older job and your new tenure (i.e., you worked Job 1 from January 2010-March 2018, Job 2 from April 2018 to November 2018 and Job 3 from December 2018 through the present. Just drop the months and Job 2, so it flows seamlessly on your resume — Job 1 2010-2018 and Job 2 2018-Present).
The flip side is, what if you actually did a really neat accomplishment or two there? Or even developed a skill set or usage of the software that can still be relevant? Easy, still, drop the job, but sprinkle in those accomplishments into your accomplishments section and flesh in those buzzwords or technical skills into your core competency section.
The end goal is to land an interview. Be pragmatic with your judgment.
If a job is sitting on your resume with either no relevance towards your new target, enables a red flag in the form of a job hop, or alters the way the hiring manager may perceive you as a viable candidate, it’s probably a good idea to leave it off, so you give yourself a better chance for interview requests.
Career Coach | Author, “Job Joy: Your Guide to Success, Meaning, and Happiness in Your Career“
It depends. The decision to show (or not show) a position on your resume depends on a lot, including the length of time you were there, and it’s relevance to your new desired role.
Before deciding, I encourage job seekers to craft their complete career story – how their background, skills, passions, and personality make them the perfect fit for the job they’re seeking. If the role in question distracts or confuses the reader, it’s out.
Former Yale School of Management Career Coach | Author, “Punch Doubt in the Face: How to Upskill, Change Careers, and Beat the Robots“
You can leave a job off your resume if it doesn’t relate to the job you’re applying to
Job seekers can leave a job off their resume if it doesn’t relate to the job they’re applying to. In an age of gig work, side hustles, and freelancing, many people are taking on small jobs, often in addition to our day jobs.
Those jobs, and other short-term work, don’t need to be on the resume. Instead, job seekers should save their limited resume space for jobs that are most relevant to the role they’re targeting to ensure they stand out to future employers.
CEO of TechLoris
The thing to remember is that a resume is what you want to present to your potential employer. It’s not supposed to be a legally binding document and is not required to be all-encompassing.
It’s like Facebook: Put only what you want other people to see and hide all the ugly stuff.
As CEO of TechLoris, I’ve actually spent a fair amount of time combing over resumes when we’ve been hiring. I can promise you that, if I’m hiring a tech writer or a web developer, I don’t care that you were a line leader at McDonald’s for a semester when you were in College. In this way, I want you to restrict what jobs you put on your resume. Well, the same goes the other way.
If there’s a position you don’t want to put on your resume—don’t.
Even if I decide to peruse your LinkedIn profile and see that you worked there, I’m not going to just rule you out because you didn’t list it. I may be curious, but again, there’s nothing requiring you to list it. Bottom line, if you don’t feel like a job helps you put your best foot forward, don’t list it. It’s up to you.