How Many Previous Jobs Should You Mention On A Resume?

When it comes to listing the number of jobs you’ve had in your resume, more isn’t necessarily better and less might not be enough. The right number comes down to one thing: relevance. How relevant is your previous job to the position you’re applying for?

With that mind, deciding on how many jobs should be mentioned in your resume isn’t cut and dry. There are a number of other factors to consider other than just relevance:

  • Your total years of work experience.
  • The kind of position you are applying for – entry-level, supervisor, mid-level manager, senior manager?
  • The types of jobs you handled – freelance work, side gigs, volunteer work.

You’ll come across many different suggestions on how many jobs you should put in your resume. Some will tell you to keep it to no more than 3. Others will advise you to not take chances and include even the jobs where relevance is vague at best.

We can just say “It depends” but that won’t do you any good!

We’ll clear out all the smoke and confusion and give you the most effective approach to deciding how much of your employment history you want to disclose on your resume.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What do recruiters think about the length or extent of your work experience?
  • What makes a period of employment relevant?
  • How many jobs should you list based on your work history?
  • Top 4 tips to make your work experience section relevant to the position you’re applying for.

Let’s get started by answering the longstanding question about the work experience section – quality or quantity?

What Recruiters Think About The Length Or Extent Of Your Work Experience Section

You’ll be excused to think that the longer your work experience section the more impressive it will come across to the recruiter. After all, having more jobs is generally associated with being a “hard worker” or someone who is “in demand”.

Unfortunately, recruiters don’t think the same way. They view a resume from a different filter.

When a recruiter sees there are many jobs listed in the work experience section, the following thoughts could race through his head:

  • You can’t hold on to a job. This is likely the assessment if your employment periods are less than one year.
  • You’re never satisfied with your job. You’ll be tagged as a “job hopper” or someone who resigns when he gets bored.
  • You’re not qualified for the position you’re applying for. You’re trying to cover up your shortcomings by backloading your work experience section even if most of the jobs aren’t relevant.
  • You’re overqualified based on the status you’ve achieved in your work history.

Lastly, recruiters might take it against you for unnecessarily lengthening your resume by adding irrelevant work experience. Not only might they think that you’re trying to game them, but you’re making their job harder.

Recruiters don’t read resumes – they scan them.

A recruiter doesn’t review a resume as if he was preparing for a board exam. He looks for keywords, phrases, and details that are relevant to the job.

You might have come across the study that a recruiter only spends 6 seconds on every resume that ends up on his table or inbox.

Therefore, unless the information is 100% relevant to the position you’re applying for and will help you meet your goal of getting hired, keep your work experience section short and concise.

It all comes down to one thing.

Relevance.

What Makes A Period Of Employment Relevant?

You see it in many of the job ads posted online and broadsheets:

“At least 1-2 years of relevant work experience is required.”

But what does relevant work experience mean? When can you consider a period of employment as relevant to the job you’re applying for?

The simplest definition of relevant work experience is a period of employment whereby the skills, knowledge, and summary of duties and responsibilities are in line with what the position requires.

Let’s say you’re applying for the position of Head Market Researcher at Anvil Securities. To make ends meet in college, you worked as a Barista at Farm Fresh Coffee Company.

Can you establish relevance between the work you managed as a Barista and the duties and responsibilities of a Head Market Researcher?

No. You can’t even justify it by thinking that you “researched” the difference between Arabica and Liberica coffees or why Cold Brewing is becoming popular. You shouldn’t include your time of employment as a Barista in your resume.

To be clear, relevant work experience doesn’t mean that you should have worked the exact same job as the position you’re applying for. A period of employment can be considered relevant if it includes skills that are transferable to the new job.

Going back to our previous example, if you worked as a Content Writer for a website, that could be considered relevant work experience because the job required you to conduct various types of research – topic, industry, market, and keyword.

Now that we’ve established what makes an employment period relevant, the next question we need to answer is how far back should you go in your work history?

How Many Jobs Should You List Based On Your Work History?

Just like you, we’ve been there before.

A lot of questions go through our minds when we reach the work experience section and rightfully so because we know the recruiter will be using the information to assess our practical qualifications and state of readiness for the job.

The popular advice we’ve all heard is to keep the resume down to one page. When planning for the work experience section, we get conscious of how it can affect resume length.

The best way to resolve all of these issues is to base the number of jobs listed on your work history and the position you’re applying for.

Entry-Level Positions

When you don’t have formal work experience, any type of work experience – paid or unpaid – becomes important. It shows that you can function within an organization, manage the duties and responsibilities assigned to you, and most importantly, work with/for people.

You might have worked as a freelancer, volunteer, or participated in a few On-The-Job (OJT) and apprenticeship programs while in school.

Include these experiences in your resume but prioritize the employment periods that are most relevant to the position you’re applying for.

If you’re applying for a sales position, you can mention the time you raised money for your community but you can leave out the part where you were the mascot for the neighborhood ice cream parlor.

Mid-Level Management Positions

For those applying for supervisory and mid-level management positions, the jobs you handled for the last 5 to 10 years would be sufficient.

Again, focus on relevance. Prioritize the jobs where you acquired and applied the skills for carrying out the designated duties and responsibilities.

Mention no more than 3 jobs. Anything higher than 3 jobs within a 5-10 year employment period will make you look like a job hopper.

If you had side gigs such as freelance work or ran a business and these experiences are relevant to the job, you can mention them but there’s no need to go into detail.

In fact, you can mention these types of experiences in the Objective Statement or Career Summary sections.

Senior-Level Positions

Recruiters expect candidates applying for senior-level management positions to have extensive work experience because you’ll be handling greater responsibilities.

To know how many jobs you should mention, go back to the job ad. The Human Resources department would indicate the minimum length of tenure, the list of skills, and experience level in the list of requirements.

Usually, HR would prefer those with more than 15 years of relevant experience. If this is the case, you can mention 3 to 5 jobs as long as these can provide information that is relevant to the position and give your chances of getting hired a big boost.

And don’t be conscious about resume length.

When you have more than 10 years of work experience, it’s perfectly fine to exceed one page. Don’t leave out any important details. If it takes 3 pages to comprehensively describe your work history – so be it!

4 Top Tips To Make Your Work Experience Section Relevant To The Position You’re Applying For

On average, a job opening can attract 250 applicants. How can you convince the recruiter that you’re the most qualified candidate for the position?

To stand out from the crowd, you have to prove that the skills you acquired and the experience you’ve gained are relevant to the job. Here are our top tips on how to accomplish this.

Cross-reference Your Work Experience with the Job Ad

The job ad has all the information you need to align your resume with the needs of the employer. Read it carefully and take note of the requirements on skills, experience level, and expertise.

Create a spreadsheet and summarize all of the information from the job ad in one column. On the right column, list down your current level of experience, expertise, and available skills.

Mark the qualifications you have that meet, or at the very least, are compatible with the requirements and specifications listed on the job ad.

In the work experience section, cite examples from your employment history that validate these similar qualifications. Be as detailed as possible and include numbers if possible.

Last but not least, quantify your accomplishments with numbers. Staying with our example of a Digital Marketer, job descriptions that are showcase numbers will get more eyebrows rising:

  • Increase website traffic by 312% through an aggressive blogging strategy, frequent social media posting, and a consistent schedule for email marketing.
  • Improve sales conversion rate by 34% after lengthening product descriptions, embedding a chat support plugin, and revising the CTA copy.
  • Boost search rankings from 16th position to 3rd position within a period of 6 months.

Your objective is to make it very easy for the recruiter to see that you have a good understanding of the job’s demands and are ready to hit the ground running once you’re hired.

Group Together Experiences That Are Relevant

Let’s assume that you’re applying for the position of Digital Marketer. Yes, you’ve done this work for the past year.

However, you have work experience in the past that is relevant to the job but you’re worried including the information might unnecessarily lengthen your resume.

The best thing to do is to summarize all of the relevant information under one category:

Internet Marketing:

  • Content Writer; www.technotoday.com, July 2015 to December 2015
  • SEO Specialist; SEOPro Inc., January 2015 to May 2015
  • Social Media Marketing Assistant; Vertex Marketing, July 2014 to November 2014

These experiences were all in the past and your tenure in each period was less than one year. But these experiences all support your qualifications as the new Digital Marketer.

And by summarizing these experiences under one category – Internet Marketing – you keep the recruiter from thinking you’re a job hopper.

Worried About Creating an Unemployment Gap? Include an “Additional Experience” Section

Yes, staying relevant is important. But what if removing jobs that aren’t relevant to the position you’re applying for creates gaps in your resume? Gaps raise red flags. A recruiter might think you were unemployed for an extended period of time.

If a gap happens as a result of removing irrelevant jobs, what you can do is to create another section called “Additional Experience”. Instead of completely removing the irrelevant jobs, put them under this section.

Going back to our previous example, let’s assume that after working as a Content Writer, you landed different jobs that aren’t related to digital marketing work. You can place these occupations under the heading “Additional Experience” like so:

Additional Experience:

  • Customer Service Agent; BNP Contact Center Solutions, November 2016 to March 2017.
  • Technical Support Officer; BizTech Innovations, July 2016 to October 2016.
  • Sales Officer; Prince Water Purifiers, January 2016 to May 2016.

Recruiters are quick to notice discrepancies in your resume. Leave no stone unturned and work to cast away all of the recruiter’s doubts. Plug in the gaps and keep your resume rolling along the hiring process.

No Work Experience? No Worries!

Not everyone finds part-time work when they’re in school. If you’re one of them and have zero work experience, don’t worry because there are ways to get around this situation.

Include Unpaid Work Experience

Did you work as a volunteer in your community? Volunteer work might be unpaid but it still counts as experience because it gives you the opportunity to apply and/or acquire skills.

Learning how to communicate and work with others are in-demand soft skills that are much sought after by recruiters.

Mention Relevant Coursework

Coursework might include On-the-Job Training, sponsored training programs, and apprenticeships. Similar to volunteering, most of the time, these types of work are unpaid. However, many recruiters still place great value in them as learning experiences.

Highlight Your Skills

If you don’t have work experience – paid or unpaid – but you have the skills needed for the job, highlight them in your resume. This means using the functional format that will arrange the resume sections in the following order:

Contact Information
Objective Statement
Skills/Strength
Certifications/Licenses
Education

It would be a big plus if you were certified or received a professional license for the skills you acquired. For example, if you become certified as a Digital Marketer, SEO Professional, or Web Designer.

Conclusion

The objective of the resume is to get you to the next stage which is the interview. Don’t worry so much about the number of jobs that you have to mention in your work experience section.

As long as your previous jobs are relevant to the position offered by the prospective employer, go ahead and mention them in your resume.

We’ve shared useful tips on how to organize these jobs to fit your level of work experience, employment history, and to meet the requirements stated in the job ad. Use these tips to keep your previous jobs relevant to the position you’re applying for.

Felix T. Web

I founded ResumeOK in 2011 to help people increase their chances of getting a better job. I am a career expert that has reviewed and written thousands of resumes. During my career, I found patterns that make a resume successful. Together with our team, we are sharing insights and knowledge in our resume samples and career articles. Do you have a question or need help? Just contact us here.

Last Updated on December 21, 2021 by Felix T. Web