more resume shenanigans – leaving off dates of employment

I’m seeing what might be a trend of people using a chronological resume format but leaving off any indication of how long they held each position.

This is really not a good idea. It looks like you’re trying to hide a series of short stays and in a pretty inept way, because it jumps out like it would if you left off any other important piece of information (like an email address, which I’ve also seen some people do).

As of today, I’m going to start emailing candidates who do this and asking them to submit a version of their resume that does include the time periods they held each position, since otherwise I’d need to spend time on the phone interview having them walk me through it for each job, which is tedious and not how I want to spend interview time. These shenanigans will not stand!

{ 28 comments… read them below }

  1. Chris Bigelow*

    No dates at all seems strange.

    Based upon incessant browbeating by an outplacement firm and unemployment office personnel I finally caved and took the dates off my oldest experience, choosing instead to summarize it with a list of positions/companies and a few significant achievement bullets.

    I've had some recruiters say they don't like it and at least one say it the way I did it is fine, as my whole work history is still present and they apparently aren't too worried about undated early experience.

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Best regards,

    Chris Bigelow
    Senior Industrial/Manufacturing Engineer


    "I don't design products – – I develop & implement methods to manufacture them quickly, inexpensively, and with high quality."

  2. Anonymous*

    I'm curious to know– what about years only, not months? On my resume, I list, for example, I was somewhere from 2006-2009, but don't specifically call out April 2006-January 2009. Is that still shenanigans?

  3. Chris Bigelow*

    I didn't mention it but that is another change that was recommended and I made. My positions going back to 1988 are dated with years only – not month and year like I used to do. Not intended as shenanigans – it makes for a cleaner look and the months seemed unimportant (at least to me).

  4. Anonymous*

    I also only use years. There's not much room for months, and most positions were over a year anyway. Is that shady?!

  5. HR Minion*

    I'm surprised you are even asking for a revised version. With tons of people applying for the few jobs out there you would think that stuff would take a person out of consideration entirely. Month and year people.

  6. A Girl Named Me*

    I wouldn't even bother calling the people don't put dates on their resumes. They are hiding something and thinking (hoping?) people looking at their resume won't notice.

    The way to handle short stints or some missing time is to offer some explanation in the cover letter.

    As for only listing years, I think that's fine if you've been at each place for years. What I always find fishy is when someone lists a different position for each year:

    2009: Barnes & Noble
    2008: K-Mart
    2007: Etc., Etc.


  7. Fred*

    As of today you're going to email the candidates … ????

    You have time for that? That seems like a very wasteful use of your time to ask candidates to resubmit a resume when there's likely to be another resume in your stack for another candidate that gives you the information you want … especially these days.

  8. Anonymous*

    AAM — What about the whole month/year thing? If you've everywhere for at least a couple years, is it necessary to specify month?

  9. Ask a Manager*

    I agree that for jobs in the distant past, it's fine just to use years. And I think that for jobs where you there, say, four years or more, it's fine just to use years. But for shorter term stays, I like to see months, because if you just list "2007-2008," I don't know if that means December 2007 to January 2008 or something closer to two years.

    Now, plenty of people just list years anyway, and if we get to a phone interview, I'll just ask. But that's how I see it.

  10. Anonymous*

    AAM – Same anon as above. I'm also wondering how to list jobs that were different positions at same company, i.e. due to promotions, lateral moves, etc.

    I never know how to best list these so that the resume reads smoothly but clearly. Do I first list the total time period during which I was at the company, and then separately list dates of individual positions?

  11. Anonymous*

    AAM — What about the whole month/year thing? If you've everywhere for at least a couple years, is it necessary to specify month?

  12. Interviewer*

    I handle recruiting in-house at my company. Hiring managers tell me they want to see month/year in case the candidate is smoothing over any longish gaps in employment.

    Not that it's bad to be unemployed (especially these days) but it's much harder to calculate how much experience someone has if it's years only on the resume.

  13. Anonymous*

    I will only ask a candidate to resubmit their resume with dates if their resume is otherwise stellar. If there are other potential problems with the resume, I don't bother.

    As far as month/year vs. year only, if a candidate worked somewhere for 3-4 years or more because the difference between 3 and 4 years at a job is much less important then the difference between 1 month and 18 months.

  14. Anonymous*

    YES YES YES! Just yesterday my manager and I were talking about this new, strange and bewildering phenomenon. I've received three applications (who otherwise would have gotten a phone call) but unfortunately, they failed to include ANY date on their entire resume.

    This does not land you a job. Ever. I blame blogs out there with crappy job-seeking advise.

  15. Anonymous*

    Month and year is required. I'm sorry but it is. I just had someone try and make it seem like they were at a position from early '08 until very recently. Since their resume only indicated 2008 – 2009, it raised a red flag. Turns out they were there from November until February. Shady bizniz.

  16. Charles*

    ". . .I'm going to start emailing candidates who do this and asking them to submit a version of their resume that does include the time periods they held each position. . ."

    You mean that you are going to do this only for those candidates that you truly have an interest in interviewing, right?

  17. Anonymous*

    I don't put dates on my resume' because of the age discrimination that is rampant in this country. I can always tell when an interviewer is attempting to guess my age by asking how long I was at each position after an hour or so into the interview. I look much younger than I am and have a vast amount of experience and accomplishments. One person came out and asked me how old I was and stated that she knew that I had to be older than I looked from my great resume! Another one became visibly hostile once she learned that I had over 20 years at a previous position. Most of my interviews have been with people that are a few notches up the food chain at the hiring company- not HR representatives.

  18. Anonymous*

    This is interesting. I never thought of doing this before but recently saw a friend's resume where she left off all dates. Here's the thing, though, that got me thinking– she got the interview! (and it's for a very good, well-paying, f/t job).

    So, maybe it all depends on the person reading the resume.

    I just submitted a resume today with no dates. It seemed strange and looking back now, I wish I put the dates, but I thought of my friend who got an interview, so I decided to try something different. I figure it can't "hurt" me anymore than all the jobs I've applied for, with dates on my resume, that I haven't gotten any responses from!

    It did feel nice though to "hide" my age by leaving off dates. Age discrimination does exist.

  19. Anonymous*

    One other thing on no-dates…which BTW, is a bad, bad, bad idea. When you have no dates, you must spend time in your interview answering why, assuming you get that far. That is time for which you are playing defense and playing defense will not get your a job. Ever interviewer is trying to answer the question "Am I impressed enough to hire this person". If you have to spend the first 10 minutes of a 30 minute interview going through your job history, you've lost 1/3 of your time to wow them. Not a great track record.

  20. Anonymous*

    This issue of age discrimination is also a concern of mine. Shouldn’t the more relevant information to provide on the resume be the specific LENGTH of time (i.e., years/months) in a position rather than the specific dates?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Length is definitely important, but I’m also interested in knowing whether the experience was relatively recent or, say, 15 years ago (when it might be less relevant, depending on the specifics).

  21. Anonymous*

    Age Descrimination

    Employers do not want to hire anyone over 40 years old. I cannot even get an Interview due to my age. I am about to make a Resume without dates.

    That way this “Ask a Manager” person will at least Interview me. It is the way it is in this Country. If Age should not be a determining factor in hiring by Law and the Employer will not even interview you then the only way to get an interview becomes NOT putting the dates on the Resume.

    Just Managers talking BS.

  22. Wizard of Cause*

    Thank you, thank you, Alison for your candid advice!

    Regarding the month/year issue: ten years ago, I returned to work after a seven-year break to stay at home with my daughter. I also got divorced at the same time, and I live in a rural area where “good” (full time with bennies) jobs are only available at the hospital and the college. Otherwise, everyone has to “cut and paste” to earn enough to live on.

    One job I never list but during which I learned legal billing software—a nifty skill to list—was with an incredibly sexist attorney who called me his “gal Friday.” Honest. He was an a** but I was desperate and it got me working at least part time.

    After 8 weeks of that BS, I got a call from a job I’d applied for months earlier. I only stayed there six months b/c they were terrible employers, too, for a lot of reasons. They treated everyone badly and had insane turnover as a result. Also, it was an accountant position, but I ended up being the ONLY financial person on staff, and there wasn’t anyone on the Board of Commissioners who knew any more than me about finances. Scary to be a virtual CFO! Not cool. However, I acquired some severely outstanding skills!

    Anyway, while I was job hunting, I did consulting in addition to working for a tiny nonprofit foundation for peanuts, b/c I thought I could make a difference and wanted the chance to be an Exec. Director. After six months, they ran out of operational funds, which they never told me up front, so that was the end of that. (Oh, and *those* sexists routinely referred to me as the Foundation’s “Executive Secretary.”) Needless to say, I was not averse to leaving.

    The problem is that the six-month position gave me a TON of experience (learn or die) in public housing, even though it was very short.

    I have been at my current job two and a half years, and am leisurely job searching because I am planning to get the heck out of Mayberry and move to a metropolitan area. The realities of rural employment opportunities and practices probably won’t translate well to metro employers and would sound like excuses.

    How do you recommend handling ALL of this: the short-term jobs, the gaps during my consulting years, claiming credit for the skills I developed, although the job(s) were short-term, and having to explain why I left a job without criticizing a former employer?

    I want to list months and years, but I don’t know how to handle this stuff.

    THANKS! BTW you rock. :)

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