Welcome to Asked&Answered, our monthly advice column in which Ellen Mehling, METRO's Career Services Consultant, answers reader questions. Have a pressing concern about your job (search)? Submit your question here.
Q: I've been told not to include information on my resume from 20 and more years ago. For the positions I am applying for, though, that experience is relevant, and my more recent experience is unrelated. Is it really that bad to include it?
A: I’m asked some variation of this question regularly. The short answer is, yes, it is bad to include it. It will hurt your chances much more than help them to include information from decades ago.
It can help here to put yourself in the reader’s shoes. A hiring manager is most interested in experience that is recent and relevant. I define recent as within roughly the last ten years or so, and relevant as being directly related to the job s/he is trying to fill.
Including older information will make you seem:
...as though you are applying to anything and everything, which can indicate desperation
...uninformed, because a resume is not meant to be a comprehensive account of one’s work history and skills
…as if you don't understand how dramatically things have changed in recent years.
And some employers may use that info to weed out older applicants, which is illegal but it does happen. Remember, too, that you are competing against others who have the more recent experience that the employer wants.
If you have to reach that far back into the past to find something relevant, it is better not to apply right now to positions that require that specific experience. Get fresh experience however you can (part-time work, internship, volunteering) and then apply for those jobs.
Best of luck!