How Much Job Detail Should You Put on Your Resume – Ask the Readers

July 3, 2008

Do you put your entire work history on your resume or only jobs that are relevant to the position you’re applying for?

We’ve been doing a lot of interviewing at work lately and I’ve noticed that a lot of applicants list every single job they’ve ever had on their resume, regardless of whether they’re applicable to the job they’re applying for.

Looking at it from the perspective of the candidate, I guess they’re trying to show a long steady history of work ethics and continuous employment. Some of the jobs are quite diverse which I suppose could catch a potential employer’s eye and help them stand out. 

Just listing all your past jobs isn’t such a big deal but when you give extensive detail on past (irrelevant) jobs and even discuss them in the application letter or email it seems almost a form of “resume stuffing”.  As if you don’t have all the skills necessary for the job in question so you talk at length about other qualifications.

So what do you think, from the perspective of someone doing the interviewing/hiring for a specialized job do you care that the candidate delivered pizzas in high school?  When you submit your own resume, how do you decide which details to include and which to leave off? You can share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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9 Responses to How Much Job Detail Should You Put on Your Resume – Ask the Readers

  • Maria

    I have a question in this area. I was a stay at home mom for over 20 years. I did things from home during that time that would help contribute to the family income. But my overall work experience from my entry into the world is only four years. (two jobs I was laid off from)

    I understand when applying for a position, only list the relevant details that answer the job posting.

    What I am curious about is, how far back is good enough? I have been one of those people that has felt the need to ‘stuff’ everything with the hopes of fitting in!

    OH.. and to the guy commenting about Monster – I agree!

    Thank you for your help.

  • Ben

    Connie, I agree, I like resumes that are tailored to to position and only list relevant experience. It seems that if a person isn’t willing to spend the time to customize a resume they may not really be that interested in the job.

    Jon, I think that’s a good idea, listing the most recent experience lets them know what your most “fresh” skillsets are. We always ask for example in the interview so you have many other jobs you can actually discuss in the interview.

    No Debt Plan, I can see how you’d have to tailor the resume based on who you’re submitting it to and what you know about the position. I guess if it’s just a general resume not for a specific job it’s hard to customize it so people list everything they can think of in a kind of “experience dump”.

    Our luck with IT recruiting companies has been mixed. Sometimes we get candidates that are applying for a Java job and they can’t even define a class or inheritance. Then again, working with an IT placement firm lets us avoid depending on our slow and inept human resources department for new hires.

  • No Debt Plan

    The answer is, “it depends.”

    I work as a recruiter in the IT staffing field, so I see a ton … a TON… of resumes.

    If you’re working with us and we have direct contact with the hiring manager (rather than HR), it makes sense to put as much detail as possible on the resume that is relevant to the job you are applying for. The extra detail prevents the hiring manager from having to ask any questions, and they can just say “Wow, John Smith is a great fit!” Case closed.

    However, if you’re just applying online through Monster (not recommended, but won’t get into that here) then I would only put the details specific to that job on the resume. I would still list the other jobs to show continuous employment, but not any details.

    For example, if I was applying for a project manager position… I would list all kinds of PM detail, but if I had worked at Lowe’s when I was laid off from my last job, I might not put that on.

  • Jon

    I tend to arrange my resume in a chronological sense, highlighting the job experience in the last ten years or so that’s relevant to what I’m atttempting to do with my career today. I keep it down to one or two pages of good, solid material.

    When interviewing, I mention that though there’s only about twelve years worth of experience on my resume, encompassing only a couple of employers, I’ve been working for over 30 years, and bring a wealth of other experience and skills to the table.

    For my own personal amusement, I created a list of all of the jobs I’ve actually held since 1971, and the count stands at 24, that I can remember, not counting side jobs.

  • Connie

    When I first started working I definitely did this! I even listed organizations I was involved in at school. I was 16 then though, so that’s a little different.

    Today, when I do an application I generally try to break it down like this:

    Find out what the employer wants and give it to them. If they ask for specific areas of expertise, I detail my experience.

    I do list other notable experience in passing (even if it is not totally relevant) but I do not go into detail since it would have no bearing on the job.

    Still, there are always times I wonder whether or not I send TMI (Too Much Information).

    On the flip side of that, when I have hired in the past, I have had people send me an email with one or two sentences and a link to an online resume. I have mixed feelings about that. They could at least take the time to send me a personalized cover letter?

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