When you're putting together your resume, it can be tempting to list every job you've ever had. But is this really necessary? More importantly, will doing this help or hurt your chances of getting the job? In this article, we'll look at what really needs to be on your resume — and what doesn't. We'll also answer:
- When it's okay to leave a job off your resume
- When you need to list every job on your resume
- How many jobs you should include on your resume
- How far back your job history should go
- How to choose which jobs to include and which to leave off
- What to do in specific situations, like if you were fired or if you've held short-term jobs
Do you need to list every single job on your resume?
No, you don't need to include every job you've ever held on your resume.
Let's start by dispelling the notion that everything you've ever done needs to go on your resume. A resume is not an exhaustive list of every job that you've ever had — it's meant to be a summary of your relevant work experience, skills, and education.
What jobs do you need to include on your resume?
Which jobs should you include on your resume? The litmus test is that jobs should be recent and relevant. So:
- Any job you've held in the last 10-15 years (with some exceptions, like short-term jobs).
- Any job that's similar to the one you're currently applying for, or where you demonstrated relevant skills.
For example, if you’re applying for a job that involves coaching softball and you were an assistant coach during college, that job would still be relevant even if it was 15+ years ago. On the other hand, if you're applying for a job as a financial analyst, that old position can safely be left off your resume.
Which jobs should you leave off of your resume?
The short answer is: You can leave any job off your resume for any reason. A resume isn't a legally binding document, and no reasonable hiring manager is expecting it to be a comprehensive work history.
The longer answer is: You should consider leaving off any job that doesn't actively support your candidacy for the specific job you're applying for. This includes:
- Jobs in a completely different role or industry. For example, if you’re interested in a receptionist job, your baking experience isn’t relevant.
- Jobs you held 10+ years ago. Even if those jobs are still relevant to your current career path, it can still be better to leave them off if you have more recent experience doing the same thing.
- Short-term jobs. If you were there less than 6 months, you're unlikely to have many standout accomplishments — remember that listing jobs on your resume should be about that you achieved, not just that you were hired.
- Jobs you left on bad terms. If you were fired for cause or are unlikely to get a good reference, it's okay to omit that job entirely.
What you should do if ...
Wondering what the best thing to do is in your specific situation? Here's where we answer your burning questions about some common (but tricky) job scenarios.
You were at a job for less than 6 months
In most cases, listing very short-term jobs on your resume is going to raise more questions than it answers. Like: Why did you leave? Were you fired? Are you likely to leave this job just as quickly?
If you have a very compelling reason to list a short-term job on your resume — like if you accomplished something genuinely noteworthy, or if it was intended to be short-term from the beginning — it can stay. Otherwise, it's best to just leave it off entirely.
Alternatively, if you held a few similar short-term jobs, you might be able to consolidate them under a single heading, like "Sales Experience" or "Telemarketing Experience." This allows you to keep those jobs on your resume without looking like a job hopper.
Related: Should you leave short-term jobs off your resume?
You worked multiple part-time jobs
It's okay to include part-time jobs on your resume — but it's also okay to leave them off. If you worked more than one job at the same time, you can choose to list both of them on your resume — simply list the most recent one first. If you want, you can add "(part-time)" next to the job title to prevent any confusion.
On the other hand, if you were working a part-time job alongside your full-time position, or if you had an unrelated side gig, it's completely fine to just leave them off. You also don't need to indicate that a job was part-time if you don't want to — for example, if you held two part-time jobs at once but only want to include one of them on your resume.
Related: The right way to list contract work and temporary jobs on your resume
You were fired
If you were fired for cause, it's generally best to avoid listing that position on your resume. Depending on how long you were there, this might leave you with a significant resume gap. If you can, fill it with other activities like volunteering or freelance work. If not, you'll need to decide if the circumstances of your departure were bad enough to warrant the gap on your resume.
Related: How to list gaps on a resume (without making it a big deal)
You don't have a lot of experience
If you've only ever held one or two jobs, you should keep them on your resume — even if they were short-term positions or in a different industry. Try to focus on transferable skills; for example, if you worked as a server at a restaurant and are applying for a retail position, you should focus on your customer service experience and cash handling experience.
Related: How to write an impressive resume without a lot of experience
You're changing careers or have unrelated jobs
Whether you're making a deliberate career change or temporarily stepped outside your field, the trick is curating your resume to tell the story you want.
How? By creating a targeted resume. Emphasizing transferable skills, tailoring your accomplishments, and separating your job history into "Relevant Experience" and "Other Experience" can all elevate your resume. You can start by using Resume Worded's free tool to create your own targeted resume.
You should also try to include skills and keywords that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Use the skills search tool below to find the right ones.
Related: How to update your resume for a career change in 2023
You have a lot of experience or are applying for senior roles
You can compromise on listing older positions on your resume by just listing the employer, job title, and dates, without the accompanying bullet points. This is a good idea if you're applying for more senior positions, where it might look odd if your resume only goes back 10-15 years.
When deciding how far your resume should go back, you should let the job description guide you. For example, if you're applying for a job that asks for 20+ years of experience, you should include jobs from at least the past 20 years.
Related: How to write a resume if you're an older worker
You gained relevant skills in a job you haven't listed
Just because you were at a job for a short time doesn’t mean that you didn’t gain any skills. You can still list skills from jobs that aren't on your resume — hard skills can go in your skills section, while you can talk about soft skills in your bullet points from other jobs.
Related: Here's how to include soft skills on your resume
You're asked to list every job on an application form
While what you put on your resume is entirely up to you, job applications can be different.
Some job applications ask for a full job history — in that case, yes, to do need to put every single job on there. If you leave off a position and it's uncovered in a background check, it can be grounds for termination.
This can also be true of jobs in specific industries, like government — if you're ever asked to provide a complete work history, don't leave anything off.
You're asked about your work history in an interview
Even if you didn't include a job on your resume, a hiring manager could still ask you about it in an interview. (This also goes for references — most jobs will ask you to provide references, but they're allowed to contact anyone else they want.)
When discussing your resume in an interview, it’s important to be honest. If the interviewer asks explicitly about a job that isn't on your resume, simply explain that it was a short-term job, it was an unrelated industry, etc.
You don't need to proactively offer that you were fired from a job, but if you're asked, you do need to tell the truth. There's no need to go into details, but you should prepare a brief, unemotional response; for example, it wasn't a match for your skill set, or they were looking for someone with more experience in X.
Related: Should you put a reason for leaving on your resume?
Find out if you've chosen the right work experience for your resume
If you're unsure how effective your jobs/experiences are on your resume, upload it to the tool below. It'll analyze every job on your resume and suggest which ones to remove or improve.