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Job Magician Include the Early Parts of Your Career
On Your Resume

  • A lot of resume books and resume writers will tell you that only your latest experience is relevant, so you can leave the other parts of your career off of your resume.
  • The early parts of your career actually are important, and sometimes critical. Employers and recruiters do look at what you did early on – and leaving off the early details can hurt you.

I was just thinking of a couple of searches I’ve worked on recently, and of how I’ve distinguished candidates.

In one search for a VP/Sales & Marketing for an engineered product manufacturer, the client strongly preferred not only an engineering degree, but also actual experience as an engineer before the candidate had moved to the sales and marketing side. Many sales and marketing folks in their industry had been engineers early in their careers; if a candidate left those jobs off of her resume because they took place more than 10 or 15 years in the past, she removed a key selling feature from her resume.

In that same search, I found that most candidates in that highly-technical industry with marketing titles who had never had a field sales position were poor salespeople. I started skipping candidates if they hadn’t held a sales or sales management position at some time during their careers. Once again, a person whose resume made it look like he had magically graduated from college and immediately become a Director of Marketing overseeing an $85-million product line ten years ago hurt himself.

In another search for a Business Unit General Manager, the client wanted someone with a broad background. The ideal career started with an engineering position, and included technical marketing experience and product development experience as well as senior management experience, hopefully as a general manager. Many people, especially those from big companies, have careers that include stops in many departments. Those who didn’t include these stops – viewed as the ideal steps by many companies to a general management career – weren’t as likely to get a call from me.   


For the most part, there are only a few reasons why people leave off the early parts of their careers.

1) Some people have been told that a resume cannot be more than two pages long (a fallacy – a resume can be four or five pages long if page 1 is interesting enough to make someone want to read page 2, and page 2 makes her want to read page 3, and since resumes are read on a computer screen for the most part, no one really knows what page they’re reading).

2) Some people are trying to cover up job hopping or parts of their careers that they’d rather not publicize.

3) But the largest majority of people who leave off their early experience do so because they are trying to hide their age. This is not a great idea – anyone can find your age on the internet in a few clicks if they really want to – but it makes the employer wonder if you think your age is an issue (see If You Name Something As an Issue, It Just Became One, and I’m Too Old for more on this subject).  One study revealed that those who hide their age by leaving off college graduation dates or by leaving off the early parts of their careers were believed to be ten years older than they really were, so covering up seems to fail.



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