November 7th 2019
There are very few reliable rules for resumes and really the only way to figure it out is by messing up a few times. This series exists to save you one or two of those mess ups — because we've probably already made that mistake and we can tell you, no, you don't need to include a summer job from 8 years ago...but you can if you want to.
This time we're talking how far back to go, summaries and how to order your resume.
How far back do I go?
This will vary pretty dramatically from person to person but you should go back only as far as you need to include your relevant experience. While it’s great to show off the depth and breadth of the work you’ve done, there’s really no reason to go back 10 years to include a service job that lasted 3 months. That being said, if you’ve been in an industry for 10 years in a variety of roles it might well be worth including all of them.
Generally, if you have a few solid, relevant jobs under your belt, it’s best to limit yourself to those. Take this as an opportunity to really elaborate and explain your work at each job rather than filling up your resume with a bunch of little jobs in between. It’s great to keep everything on a single page if you can, particularly if you’re on the junior side of things, so be discerning about your experience. What can you put in here that will let you showcase your experience meaningfully?
Resumes aren’t about drowning the reader in qualifications, you can’t brute force a job. A curated selection will always go further than a slurry of barely relevant work experience. If you feel your list getting long, make sure it’s because you’re painting a picture of consistent industry experience and not because you’ve started padding things out.
Resumes aren’t about drowning the reader in qualifications, you can’t brute force a job.
The entire SuperHi team shared one opinion on this: make sure you’re writing for relevance. But what that means can be flexible. If you can make a persuasive case for your cross-disciplinary experience, it’ll probably make a real impact. If you used to work as a copy writer and are now pursuing design work, emphasize how it taught you to document and craft a compelling narrative, that’s a huge deal! If you were an assistant and are moving towards PM, show off how those organizational skills will translate to project management! Be sure that you’re making these connections clear and highlighting the parts of that work that will carry over to the position you’re applying for. You never want to leave a hiring manager wondering why you included something.
Should I put a summary at the top?
Ok. We really disagreed on this one. Some folks on the SuperHi team were all in, a few were kind of equivocal and a couple people gave it a hard no. Clearly there’s a spread here. That probably puts the take-away somewhere around a hard “it depends.”
Summaries can go either way; you could come off as self important and awkward or give a hiring manager a reason to speak to you right away after reading the best three line summary they’ve seen all day. While summaries are an opportunity to inject genuinely personal information into a resume. It’s a tricky balance and clearly varies not only from industry to industry but reader to reader. Think about where you’re applying and maybe have two versions on hand that you can use depending on what you think will fit best.
While summaries are an opportunity to inject genuinely personal information into a resume, it’s a tricky balance and clearly varies not only from industry to industry but reader to reader.
There was a SuperHi consensus around the idea that you might want one if you have something specific to explain that wouldn’t otherwise fit on your resume like extended breaks or dramatic career changes. Then again, these conversations might be better suited to discuss in an interview. Depending on the scenario and what you value in a work place, you might not want a job at a place where you need to hand-wave away a six month leave of absence.
In what order though?
Lead with your strengths! You’ll almost always want to start with whatever your strongest section is, whether that’s experience or education - skills should almost always be last. Consider how recent each item is, you want to be conveying a sense of progress and momentum. Did you just finish grad school in a relevant field? Put that at the top. Is your work experience more impressive than your education? Lead with that.
Last time we refined our skills section and in our next installment we’re going to get into some details figuring out how to talk about freelance work and what to write on your resume if you’ve only worked at one or two places.
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