do you need to include months when listing job dates on your resume?

by Ask a Manager on January 23, 2013

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A reader writes:

What is your opinion/advice on removing months from the dates portion of your resume? I have a few years of professional experience and wonder if the months could come off from my earlier jobs.

For instance, changing “Job Title, April 2011 to June 2012″ to just “Job Title, 2011 to 2012.”

Or is this something that hiring managers generally require and would like to see?

In the example you gave, leave the months. If you just write “2011 to 2012,” I have no idea if you were there for three months (like November 2011 – January 2012) or for 24 months (January 2011 – December 2012). And it makes a difference.

Most hiring managers aren’t going to reject you for not listing the months, but if they’re any good, they’re going to (a) wish you’d included it and (b) ask you to clarify it in an early screening. And if it turns out that it was only three months, they’re going to be annoyed that you tried to conceal that.

That said, if it’s a job in the far distant past or a job where you were there for a longer time (say, four or more years), no one will really care if you just use years.

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen January 23, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I leave the months off of my resume because I have had a shoddy work history the past 5 years. I’ve been laid off twice, and also held two 6 month contracting jobs. So that’s 4 jobs in 5 years. Not good! But.. I feel that when I list actual months on my resume, i don’t get call backs. I feel that when I list just the years, that it ignites some sort of interest from HR and I do get calls. I like being given the opportunity to explain that while I have been laid off twice, I was excited to accept brief contracting work to keep myself going in my industry.

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BeenThere January 23, 2013 at 3:36 pm

I leave months off because the outplacement service advised me to and I really question the logic. I feel like it creates a perception that I’m manipulative and dishonest however I do think I get more contact with actual people. So I’m in two minds and I’ll be interested to see all the comments on this.

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Erika Herzog January 23, 2013 at 9:13 pm

@BeenThere,
i was told to do this too by someone who was a resume service. they also said i should use an objective statement at the top of my resume. i took the months off but have always thought having those objective statement thingies were annoying. now i’m going to put the months back.

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Good_Intentions January 23, 2013 at 9:14 pm

BeenThere:

I received the same advice from both my alma mater’s career advice center, the county department of job and family services and a local nonprofit specializing in finding people employment.

These people, who presumably have training and are sometimes certified resume writers, have repeatedly told me that adding months with the listed years of employment takes away from the clean spacing of my two-page bullet point-filled resume. Consequently, everything on my resume from my current and ongoing volunteer experience through all my previous employment and education.

In the roughly 10 interviews I’ve had since I created this particular resume, not a single interviewer has asked for specifics about my employment dates. No one has asked if I was laid off, on contract or fired from any of the positions.

Maybe I’m just getting very general interviews or talking with people who are unfamiliar with how to properly vet candidates, which is a very likely scenario given how many of the positions end up being new and being in the purview of new administrators.

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Ask a Manager January 23, 2013 at 9:18 pm

For what it’s worth, most career center staff and county “job specialists” have little to no experience hiring people themselves, and their advice is often really, really outdated and off-base. (Case in point here: “adding months takes away from clean spacing”? As if hiring managers would want less info in favor of that? Bizarre.)

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Good_Intentions January 23, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Alison:

Thanks for the feedback on the “job specialist” advice.

Some of the suggestions are just plain weird, but when you’re desperate for job you’ll consider any cockamamie ideas.

I will keep in mind that it’s better to give hiring managers as much information as possible in the cover letter and resume. Then, I will selectively ignore most of the advice dispensed by these well-intentioned, if not clueless, “job specialist.”

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BeenThere January 24, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Thanks all for the feedback :) I’m going to add them back on and see how the next month of searching goes.

@Good_Intentions, yes, I’ll consider most ideas to get my preferred position. I am not the sales type and find sales tactics akin to deception and information hiding. So when someone says a good way to market yourself is to hide the months it can sound like good advice.

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Kimberlee, Esq. January 23, 2013 at 3:40 pm

See, I think the better way to deal with this is to make sure to note that the contract gigs are contract; there’s an assumption that they’re short term. I’m always immediately suspicious of any applicant that uses only years for anything within about the past 4-5 years, just like Alison said (and, to be fair, you’re using years only for the exact reason employers are suspicious of it; you’re attempting to hide something you don’t like about your work history).

It wasn’t your fault, obviously, to have that many jobs, but I think when you throw in contract gigs, its not that bad.

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The One August 27, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Kimberlee, Esq. I’d decided to express (next to my title) whether the position was contract and short or long term. I think that works better for me. I also added the months back to my resume for the reasons I’ve seen throughout this discussion.

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Esra January 23, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I think you’d be better off listing the jobs as contracts, rather than leaving the months off. Depending on your industry anyway. For mine, contracting gigs are pretty regular and listing them wouldn’t be strange on a resume, but leaving months off entirely would get you some raised eyebrows.

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Anonymous January 23, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I usually have the opposite problem… I’ll get asked for an exact day when entering my employment data into an electronic application.

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KarenT January 23, 2013 at 3:36 pm

If I didn’t know the exact day I’d put the first or fifteenth.

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Sam January 23, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Yes! How do you deal with this when you don’t have a record of the exact days? During my last job search, I filled out at least one electronic applications that required specific dates for ALL jobs held. (And that’s another question – do you really have to include all jobs? Like even PT high school work?) For some of those dates, I just ended up entering the first of the month, because the e-app literally would not let you move forward without entering something in that field. It took me over an hour to complete the app, and then I got an instantaneous auto-rejection for reasons unknown. Sigh.

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Kimberlee, Esq. January 23, 2013 at 3:45 pm

I agree with Karen T; first or fifteenth is fine. If someone calls me to verify the dates of former employees, I confirm if as long as it’s within the same month (or, within a day or two, if we’re talking March 31st vs April 1st).

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The One August 27, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Kimberlee, Esq. I’ve run into the same issue and I typically just use the first. I have no idea of the day I started to ended a position and I think it’s a bit ridiculous for a company or job site to have the specific day as a requirement.

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jesicka309 January 23, 2013 at 7:38 pm

I had an interview today where they were impressed by my five years of McDonalds work while at high school and uni. I had quantifiable achievements (crew trainer of the year, promotions etc.) and McDoanlds has a great repuation for training leaders.
I’d evaluate the P/T jobs you’re including. If it’s something like “sales assistant at supermarket for two years” I’d include it, particularly if you went on to be a senior shift worker and helped orient newbies etc. You can always draw on the experience of working with new members and how you helped them in your interviews as example of leadership (esp. if it’s your first job out of college!)
If it’s two week working the factory floor over the summer, I’d leave it off. :) It’s not a long enough job to list. Anything over a year while you’re in high school is an achievement of it’s own.

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Contractor January 23, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Jen,

I work as a contractor, so my resume is full of six-month gigs. But it doesn’t look bad in my resume, I just list these assignments like this:

Aug. 2009-Present: Independent Consultant
[Quick overview of my accomplishments and responsibilities]

Aug. 2009-Dec. 2009 – Consulting assignment at Company A
[Accomplishments and responsibilities]

Jan 2010-Apr 2010 – Consulting assignment at Company B
[Accomplishments and responsibilities]

Recruiters and hiring managers understand about temporary assignments. Even if yours are not in sequence like mine, you can easily identify those as fixed-term contracts, and it won’t count as job hopping.

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mel January 23, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Hmmm… You’ve got a whole line of space – I feel like the only time this would even occur to me is if I had a ridiculously long position title that could just fit if those six extra letters weren’t there.

Otherwise, got a hate on for months?

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J. January 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm

“Don’t be sneaky” is a good rule of thumb.

If you’re not putting in the months to hide something, you should put in the months.
If you’re not putting in the months for some other valid reason [like space on a resume or something], you probably don’t need to put in the months…though like Alison said, it would probably still make life easier for the hiring manager.

More transparency about logistical details like these is almost always better.

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Job seeker January 23, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I don’t think not putting in dates is necessarily trying to be sneaky. Sometimes if it was a long time ago, you do not remember the exact day but only the month and year. Also, I have been thinking a lot lately about how complicated it seems to be with all the rules of do this and don’t do that. I have always been a honest person and if someone ask me a direct question, I will answer. At my last job, I was told by a co-worker I was always too honest. She meant this as a compliment to me because I try hard never to deceive anyone. But, I would just love to be able to get more interviews. I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot before I could even get started. Sometimes, many of us just don’t know how to navigate this process and are just doing the best we can. I know getting pass HR and filtering systems are the way it is done now, but honestly I don’t think I can possibly be perfect in everything. There is a old saying, if someone has a gun don’t give them the bullets. Sometimes, I think once you are in an interview you can present yourself in a way that puts yourself in true light and give yourself at least a chance.

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Elizabeth West January 23, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I can only remember the days for the last job I had, so I put month/year. If an electronic app asks for days, I put the first. So far that’s worked just fine.

Pending a successful background check and assuming nothing I ate will mess up a pee test, it doesn’t matter anyway, because……

……wait for it…..

I GOT THE JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Ask a Manager January 23, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Congratulations! That’s fantastic. This is the first-choice job you’d mentioned yesterday?

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Elizabeth West January 23, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Yes!!!! :D

And the offer was even more money than she had initially said!!!

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Parfait January 24, 2013 at 11:16 am

Hurray!

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yen January 23, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Congratulations!

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GeekChic January 23, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Hurray! Good luck in your new job.

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Good_Intentions January 23, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Elizabeth:

That’s fantastic news! Congratulations on your well-deserved and hard-earned success!

I applaud your persistence in applying for many positions and making it to the interview stage in several of them. It’s a testament to your writing style and valuable skill set.

Good luck in the new job!

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Jamie January 23, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Yay! Congrats! I am so happy for you!

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jubileejones January 23, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Elizabeth, I’m de-lurking and posting my first comment to say congratulations! Gives me hope.

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Elizabeth West January 23, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Aww! Thank you!

Thank everyone, including Alison. Everyone’s advice, and Alison’s book and blog, have helped me so much. I feel like I would not have felt that I could get a job this good without all the great information here. Seriously, I was trying to find something wrong with it and so far, I can’t. :)

Now I have to read AAM to see how to be fab in my first job OFF THE FRONT DESK! Waahoooo!

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Elizabeth West January 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Trying to find something wrong with the job, not the information. Duh. And to think I was hired because of my writing skills! Arrgh!

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KarenT January 24, 2013 at 5:09 pm

So happy for you! Keep us updated on how it goes! YAY!

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Job seeker January 24, 2013 at 2:13 am

Congratulations Elizabeth. I am so happy for you.:-)

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EM January 23, 2013 at 11:10 pm

Woooooo!!! :D

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Rana January 24, 2013 at 4:47 am

WOO HOO! ::high five::

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Min January 24, 2013 at 10:46 am

Congratulations!!

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Erik January 24, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Congratulations!

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Your Mileage May Vary January 24, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Congratulations!

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BeenThere January 24, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Woo Hoo!!!!!!!!!!! Congrats :D

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sr January 23, 2013 at 9:18 pm

What if it’s a job you’ve worked in for years?
eg, my current resume would be

2010 – present
2009 – present
2012 – present

I can see the point in adding the month I started in the last one, but for the job I started in 2009? That’s clearly been several years…

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sr January 23, 2013 at 9:19 pm

that came out funny:

full-time job 2010 – present
relevant side job 2009 – present
relevant side job 2012 – present

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Cassie January 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm

I would prefer to see the months. Just saw a resume where the last job was 2012 – present and couldn’t figure out if the person has been at the job for a full year or maybe just one month, especially since the previous job was from 200x – 2012. It turned out the person had started the last job in Feb 2012, but there’s no way to garner that from only the years on the resume.

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Lisa January 24, 2013 at 10:34 am

I think years are fine as long as it implies years at each job

Chocolate Teapot Maker, 2000-2003
Sr. Chocolate Teapot Maker, 2003 – 2005
Manager, White Chocolate Teapot Department, 2005 – 2009
Director, Chocolate Teapot Division, 2009– present

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Jen January 24, 2013 at 2:28 pm

I work at a university career center and we usually tell students and alums to leave the months on their resume and we hardly ever encourage them to use an objective statement. We pride ourselves on keeping up with updated hiring information and all of our staff have served on multiple search committees. We also talk with hiring managers about what they look for in applicants. Just want it to be known that some career centers do have accurate knowledge to share.

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Ask a Manager January 24, 2013 at 2:29 pm

There are definitely some good ones out there! I wish you guys weren’t the exception though!

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Good_Intentions January 25, 2013 at 2:23 am

Jen:

Could you please take your up-to-date information and go on a nationwide tour of outdated college and university career centers that give students outdated and inaccurate job seeking advice?

A nation of recent and not-so-recent graduates would be forever grateful for your efforts!

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Stressed September 13, 2013 at 1:29 am

I have a reference that I am required to use, but that particular employer has the least amount of experience in knowing me (one year to be exact). Others listed have known me from four to twenty-five years. Is it unprofessional to put years known next to each reference on a resume? He has never taken the time to get to know me, revealed to three other colleagues the he does not care for me, and fired me after three years.

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Kathy February 11, 2014 at 11:12 am

As someone who is paid to help people with their resume I would say 99% of the time you should include months with the years you worked your jobs on a resume. Employers want to know how long you used those skills on your resume. 2011-2012 is shady beacuse it could mean December 2011 – January 2012. If you want to put the emphasis on your skills and not your work experience create functional resume. Just my two cents!

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