“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
That line from Hamlet – now broadly used to express doubt based on someone’s over explaining – often comes to mind when a client is adamant that every detail of their background, no matter how old, must be included on their resume. The reasoning, per the client, is that each position contributes to the perception that they are the most qualified candidate for a job. I completely get that thinking, but – based on the consulting work I do with small and large companies – I know that it is not an effective strategy. I want you to be armed with the best information possible, so here is the unvarnished truth…
- Focusing on outdated or irrelevant positions in an attempt to bolster your qualifications is not effective. In fact, like that quote, many readers perceive this kind of “over sharing” as a sign of insecurity. It can send the message that you are not confident in your recent experience – in the impact you have made lately – and that you are trying to make up for that by throwing everything at the reader.
- Readers don’t have time to be regaled with your entire career history. They want to know what you’ve done lately and what you can do for them right now. That experience from 15 years ago may be a powerful part of your career trajectory (nothing can change that), but unless you have put those skills to work recently, potential employers are just not going to care when reviewing your resume.
- To that last point, the reason most clients want to show older experience is because they want to capture something (a skill, a quality, an achievement) that they believe will pique readers’ interests. That makes perfect sense. But if you’ve not exercised that skill or achieved something as significant in, say, the last 10 years, then including that information on the resume could just frame your recent experience as "less valuable."
Keep your resume current and have the courage to allow older positions to age off of the resume. Remember that there are other ways to honor older experience that you feel differentiates you (e.g., LinkedIn, during the interview process, a mention in the cover letter, etc.). Focus on what you’ve done recently and the potential impact you can have on an employer, not on aging experience that has little relevancy to readers today.