can you leave dates of employment off your resume?

A reader writes:

I recently heard the advice that job seekers should leave dates off their resumes’ employment history.

I was at a job seekers networking event, and an retiree looking for extra work shared it as advice she had received to shield her from age discrimination before the interview. A recent college grad enthusiastically agreed with this advice and said that once she took the dates off her resume, the calls started pouring in.

Is this good advice? Or does it look like people have something to hide when they do that?

It’s terrible advice.

Truly terrible.

Not including years of employment on your resume is like announcing “I’m trying to hide something about my work history.” It also says, “I am oblivious to basic professional conventions and why those dates would matter.”

I’ve actually received a few resumes like this recently — resumes that list employers and jobs but no dates whatsoever — and I’m stumped by them. I have no way to tell if the people submitting them worked at those jobs for three months or for six years. I can’t tell if their experience is recent or if the person hasn’t worked in their field since three decades ago.

And those things matter enormously. If you managed a team for three months 10 years ago, that’s really different than managing a team for the last six years. If you last did online outreach in the days of usenet newsgroups, that’s different than doing it in the last five years. And so forth.

Dates matter.

I’m absolutely sympathetic to concerns about age discrimination. But leaving dates off your resume makes you look defensive about age and like you’re trying to hide something, and it will cause a lot of employers to immediately send your application to the rejection pile.

And while you can always find someone willing to tell you that they tried Awful Gimmick X and got interviews from it, that doesn’t make it a good tactic.

(To be clear, it’s completely fine to leave your graduation date off your resume. It’s really common to do that once you’re past a certain age, and generally no one much cares exactly what year you graduated, unless you’re freshly out of school. But with work experience, length and recency really matters.)

{ 176 comments… read them below }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago

    If you’re concerned about age discrimination, you can also leave older positions off your resume. If you’re 30 years into your career, the things you did at your very first job is unlikely to be relevant.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to combat age discrimination. Even if your résumé gets you an interview, they can guess how old you are from the interview and then find some other (possibly valid) reason not to hire you, and how can you then prove they didn’t hire you because of your age and not because of some other random thing (that has nothing to do with protected classes)?

      1. Am I old now?

        As someone that just hit 51 this year, I’m actually very concerned about this aspect of looking for a new position in the future. Especially with the talk of another recession possible next year.

        1. Liz

          me as well. I’m 53 and while my job is fairly secure and I don’t have any plans to leave voluntarily, I have friends my age who were out of work for 1-2 YEARS. Each had varying degrees of education, experience etc. and were not sitting around doing nothing. they were actively job seeking, so I’m convinced age played a part.

          1. Emily K

            That is insane to me! As an elder Millennial I fully expect to have to work until I’m at least 70 because I don’t for a second believe social security is going to be there once my generation starts collecting. The idea that in your early 50s you would somehow be considered unhireable, when you likely have at least 10 if not 15 or 20 years left in your working years, is crazy!

            1. Mpls

              It’s not that you’re unhireable, it’s that you’re more expensive than a newer hire. Or aren’t a malleable as younger employees.

              1. JB

                And younger employees don’t have enough experience for the role.

                So if you’re not in your 30s, you’re screwed.

            2. Ro

              I agree with what you’re saying. And I too, used to think as you, that I’d need to work past 65 or 67 due to dwindling funds in Social Security. But, as I have gotten older (50 here) and I’ve seen time and again age discrimination, it is scary. I now worry that I won’t even have an option to continue to work and grow in salary.

              Not to be a downer, but you should check out this article- https://www.propublica.org/article/older-workers-united-states-pushed-out-of-work-forced-retirement

              The worst part isn’t *having* to work into the traditional retirement years, but it quite likely may not be your choice or option.

              1. Jd

                I do not agree it’s very common to find work without hardship past your 30s – at least not in my industry (advertising). Rarely do you see anyone, aside from executives, in their 50s.

            3. TardyTardis

              Good luck with that. Ever since the class action age discrimination case against K-Mart collapsed, age discrimination is only *technically* illegal.

        2. Veryanon

          I hear you. I will be 51 in a couple of months, and while I am very happy in my current role and have no plans to leave, as we all know, those decisions aren’t always up to us, the job-holders. During my last employment search, when I was 48, I could definitely tell that I wasn’t getting calls for roles I was very qualified for because they saw my resume as “experienced + older = expensive.” I did start dropping off some of my older experience, and took off dates I had graduated from college and grad school. That seemed to help. Even in HR (where I work), age discrimination is very, very real. :(

        3. TexanInExile

          My husband’s friend and former boss, who is very well regarded in the industry, who is in his 50s, interviewed with my husband’s tech company. Friend did not get an offer. Friend has been in the industry for decades and knows everyone, so was able to get some feedback from another friend at the company. The German HQ told the California office not to hire older people because they are too expensive.

            1. TardyTardis

              Yeah, like that’s going to do any good. The company can always come up with some reason They Actually Didn’t Say That.

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House

            I once had a boss order me to fire one of my key employees “because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” The guy was one of my most knowledgeable and experienced staff, and on top of that, turned up to work on time, five days a week, at 4:30 am. Replacing him was going to be impossible.

            Once I was fully disengaged from the company I gave him a heads-up, but they ended up firing him on some bogus grounds a few years later. I haven’t heard from him since and really hope he’s doing OK.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch

        It’s difficult to combat and it’s also extremely difficult to prove every kind of discrimination, that’s for sure.

        So at least you get in front of someone who may not normally extend an interview to an older candidate. That still increases your chances if they see “well now that I’ve spoken to this person, perhaps they would fit in well here after all.”

        It’s up there with the nasty-vile-putrid issue with those with “ethnic” names not being interviewed as well, so people change that to a nickname and start getting interviews and jobs. It’s all about tricking these people’s minds into letting you at least get in front of them to possibly win them over.

        1. Anonymous Educator

          Definitely. Not saying it isn’t a good tactic to use. I just don’t want to give people false hope. There are caveats on this recommendation, for sure.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch

            That’s a fair argument! I think that it’s always important to remember that these tactics may work but they also still will not save you from a true bigot.

            Sometimes people are just ignorant and being put in front of someone and show them this person isn’t what you envisioned is enough. Then there are just people who hate everyone they find anything wrong with and will find any reason to write them off :(

            1. CmdrShepard4ever

              I have been contemplating using the English version of my name on future applications, but worry that it would look weird to then ask to go by my actual name once hired.

              1. The Man, Becky Lynch

                A lot of people don’t go by their resume name! I have had a lot of people who put their given names and then arrive to say “So I go by my middle name.” It’s not weird at all.

                This is also why everyone who we hire is asked their preferred name because we know that a listed name is not always the one they actually go by.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever

                  In my case it would be listing a name that I have never gone by and is not in my given name anywhere to try and combat implicit bias. IE given/official name is Pedro Johnson, in daily life go by Pedro Johnson, but on the resume put Peter Johnson and then during interview or after being hired asking to go by Pedro Johnson. I can’t seem to come up with a “reasonable” explanation why I put Peter on the resume besides implicit bias.

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  “I sometimes go by Peter, but I’m reverting back to Pedro, my legal name, professionally.” It’s not the kind of thing people are likely to press you on because lots of people go by different names in different contexts.

                3. The Man, Becky Lynch

                  Honestly, most of us just “get it” as well, since it’s a well known internalized bias that is spoken about more and more. When we have someone who gives us their “English” name and then says “I actually go by and prefer my given name, Pedro.” they are going to say, “Yeah that’s no problem.”

                  I had a deep conversation with someone awhile back about how we just call people what they want to be called, it doesn’t matter their given name or not, it’s respect for someone. This is an issue in the trans world as well. So you’re not alone.

                4. ssssssssssssssssssss

                  Yes! Back in the day, I physically handed out the pay stubs and I was surprised that “John” on his pay stub had a much longer (but traditional) Vietnamese name.

                5. Wintermute

                  We had a guy, Mark, at a job a while back, a new ticketing system came out that was decreed to use your legal name only (not sure why, maybe tied to how they pulled in the data to make profiles for tons of people that never used the old system but were now expected to manage their own workload not have operations do it for them). The oncall came up as “lazaro” — no one had a clue but it had a cell number so we called him, and mark answered!

                  Mark had been Lazaro, or Lazaro had been mark, for 15 or more years and no one ever cared.

                6. Nyltiak

                  We had a new employee at my old job whose given name was long and formal sounding, think “Margaret” or something like that, who went by her shorter and less formal sounding middle name. So when she started, we called her Margaret, assuming she’d tell us if she went by something else. SIX MONTHS IN, she mentions that her friends call her by her middle name and we were like “…do you prefer to be called by that?” and she told us that she did prefer middle name and in fact hated her first name for being “stuffy. We felt awful. :(

              2. wittyrepartee

                Do it. It sucks that this is advisable, but in an imperfect world one does their best.

        2. Karo

          Hell, the “at least you get in front of them” reasoning is essentially the reasoning behind ban-the-box. People were (are) getting rejected out of hand for mild infractions when, if the company took the time to speak to them and become invested in them before running background checks, the company was more likely to give them due consideration.

      3. pleaset

        All this.

        Also date of college.

        I’m in my early 50s, but luckily often have people think I’m 5 to 20 years younger than I appear. I don’t think they’re being polite – I’ve had draws drop over the years when I reveal my age.

        But schooling on my resume will give it away. Maybe I should leave that off? I have a masterd degree from 7 years ago, plus another masters and a BA from 3 decades ago….

        1. WellRed

          I know you didn’t mean to say draws drop but it gave me a chuckle in this context. Totally different meaning!

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch

          To be honest with you, most people in their late 40’s and early 50’s and even into their 60’s don’t “look” it!

          A lot of it has to do with lifestyle and ability to evolve with fashion/hair trends, etc. Age is preceived based on a lot of factors. “Grandma” and “Grandpa” brings up mental images of [bad] perms and lots of wrinkles. My mom only recently started getting any creases in her skin and she’s in her 60’s.

          1. 2horseygirls

            How is one supposed to get through the automated online application, where that field is very much alive and well, and frequently required? Thanks.

      4. Media Monkey

        totally. i’m 44 and work in the media side of advertising. it is definitely a younger person’s industry. there’s often a massive age gap between the rank and file employees (mainly under 30) and the senior management (45+). where do they go in between?
        i have 2 friends who have either had to take short term work or dumb down their CVs and take much less senior roles than they should expect – both white men in their 50s.
        i have just taken a new role, senior-ish, and a big selling point for me is that they are looking to restructure the agency financially next year when the chairman retires. therefore there may be opportunities to buy in. if that comes off and i can afford it, it should protect me from future discrimination.

      5. New Job So Much Better

        And some companies force you to apply online where you can’t get around something like a graduation date.

    2. The New Wanderer

      I got conflicting advice on how many years of work/different jobs to include. I have 20 years of experience + 5 years of grad school. I had three really cool jobs over 15 years ago, which I started leaving off when I tightened up my resume. But after someone with experience in the field reviewed my ‘long-form’ resume, he asked why I wasn’t listing these other jobs because they were (in his opinion) big selling points. There’s definitely a balance between listing jobs that showcase a variety of still-desirable skills and jobs that indicate a lengthy work history.

      However, I do leave off my graduation years and, when including a bunch of previous jobs, I only list the years that I worked somewhere rather than month-year, and no one has ever asked about that.

      1. Hapless Bureaucrat

        I’ve seen candidates do a selected resume, giving, for instance, the last ten years of experience then adding in relevant jobs from before that. It worked well for me as a hiring manager, though it won’t solve the age discrimination issue.

      2. Blue

        I think leaving months off is fine if they’re longer-term positions (e.g. 2009-2015), and that’s probably what you’re talking about. I primarily see resumes from early-career applicants who have shorter experiences, and leaving the month off on those is still quite problematic. Listing a range of “2014-2015” is completely unhelpful in those cases since that could mean two months of experience or it could mean 23 months.

        1. Elizabeth West

          This. I leave months on because Exjob was nearly four years (Jan 2013 to Nov 2016). If I put 2013-2016, it only looks like three years.

    3. Emma

      Came here to say this same thing. Why not just leave off your graduation date, and put your positions from the last 10-20 years and no more? Your first job out of college probably isn’t likely to be relevant.

    4. Hrm...

      So much food for thought here… I’m old enough to qualify for older-bias, but I don’t have a linear career history. The older jobs are concurrent w/my education, and demonstrate skills I possess, but am not currently using. I keep the years on the education to reflect that they were concurrent & also that I managed to accomplish things in both, despite that added level of difficulty. So, it’s kind of tough to know what to do sometimes. I’m not sure what will stick, so I’ve just been putting it all on there.

    5. Chaordic One

      Yes, drop off the older jobs. I only list the positions I’ve had in the last 10 years and although it leaves off some very responsible positions where I learned a lot and picked up valuable job skills, I get more interviews without them listed than with them.

    6. Candace

      I began my academic career with several simultaneous part time and contract jobs. They are still relevant, mostly because there was a lot of advanced tech in there that has still been useful, but not as much. I lumped them together at 5he end of my work experience section, under the heading of “Additional Relevant Experience – Part-time & Contract” and just listed the title, organization, and dates, without huge details. It shortened the CV and got rid of the awkward job-hopper look. Then my work section could just begin with full time job.

  2. Lance

    I would wonder how much success that recent college grad has from said increased calls, personally. I can’t imagine very much, once those companies figured out she’d been working for less time than they’d maybe hoped.

    1. Antilles

      My thoughts exactly – that seems like a good way to get yourself kicked out of the running at the interview phase. I see a resume with 3 companies and no dates, so I assume each one is the typical couple years or more that most people stay. So wow, someone with 6 years experience compared with all my other candidates who have like 2-3 years? That’s worth at least giving her an interview.
      But then when I find out that it’s actually only like 3 years total work experience, my mental response is “ugh, not what I’d hoped”.

    2. Mel

      OP here, she told us she had several interviews lined up and it sounded like her experience is contract work on some high profile projects.

      I can certainly see it all falling apart in the interview, but I wasn’t sure if this was expected now somehow.

    1. NotAnotherManager!

      Me, neither. I don’t think that my HR would even call someone with zero dates on their work history, unless it was a highly specialized role that was hard to recruit for and there were no other options.

  3. Anonymous Educator

    A recent college grad enthusiastically agreed with this advice and said that once she took the dates off her resume, the calls started pouring in.

    I’m similarly skeptical that “weird thing that worked for me will work for you,” but even if this “worked,” having calls pouring in is not the same as getting actual job offers.

    1. wafflesfriendswork

      That kind of statement smacks of “i started eating cobwebs and joined a meditation gym and the pounds just melted off!”

  4. wondHRland

    I’ve been told to only include the most recent 10 – 15 years of positions on the resume – most job applications also only ask for the last 3 or so jobs. that could be a problem if you’ve been at one job for the past 30 years, but if you’ve had 5 jobs, you can probably leave the earliest 2 off and no one would blink.

  5. Anonya

    As a hiring manager, my first reaction would be, “Exactly what is this person trying to hide?” I sympathize with the age discrimination aspect; I really do. But I don’t think this is a legitimate way to circumvent that particular problem.

    1. BRR

      Same here. And I’m not sure as I haven’t come across this but my second reaction might be “rejected.” I’m still on “make sure to include months when you list a job.” I’m not ready to start discussing leaving dates off entirely.

      1. Antilles

        I agree that you should list months when you list a job. If you’ve got a long resume and the listings are several years each, then fine, it probably doesn’t really make a huge difference – 2009 to 2018 is long enough that a few months difference on either end is irrelevant.
        But short of that, then the month really matters. I would guess that without months listed, the average person would just unconsciously sort of round it off to the middle of the year – so “2017 to 2018” is “oh, you were there about a year”…which is notably different than if it was really January 2017 to December 2018 (two years! you’re shorting yourself here candidate!) and also different than if it was like December 2017 to January 2018 (wait, did you even learn everybody’s name?).

    2. TardyTardis

      It would be hard for me to do that where I live–it’s largish for a small town, but it’s amazing how well everyone knows everyone at a certain level.

  6. (Former) HR Expat

    I’ve seen this happening more and more lately, and my first thought when I see the resume is that someone has been job hopping and trying to hide it. If I don’t have a huge candidate pool, I’ll probably give a quick phone screen to understand their background, but I’ll more than likely pass on them if I have other strong candidates.

  7. Adereterial

    I was once told to replace the dates with the period of time spent in a position, so rather than:

    Teaspout policy official, Department for Teapots – 2017-2019

    I should put:

    Teaspout policy official, Department for Teapots – 3 years.

    Never tried it, but I know a few who did and they did seem to find it successful in hiding employment gaps. UK hiring norms are different, though.

    1. RandomU...

      I’d find that frustrating.

      I generally look for career progression (not necessarily in promotions but for skills) so I’d want to know if JobA lead to JobB to JobC .

      If I had to parse that out from a randomly sorted list of jobs with years spent I think I’d be pretty annoyed and I would wonder what the candidate was trying to hide or gloss over.

      My question is did anyone say that they were asked for the dates in the interview process?

      1. Adereterial

        Nope. Someone was asked for dates for security checking but that was after having got the job itself, and an entirely separate process.

        Jobs were otherwise listed in chronological order, just with the dates replaced by years though.

        1. RandomU...

          Ok, so the hiring person assumed the jobs were listed in chronological order and they didn’t ask if there were any gaps. Interesting.

          I haven’t run across this in any resumes yet, but I’ll be sure to be on the lookout for it now and ask for dates if the candidate progresses to the interview.

          1. Cercis

            This was bothering me and I finally figured out why – I’ve been the trailing spouse for my husband’s jobs, so often my jobs don’t show a logical progression. Most of the time it’s because I had to take what was available. I can demonstrate transferable skills, but sometimes I had to take a lateral move or even a step back because there just weren’t jobs in my field when we moved.

            It really bothers me to think that there are employers who are blowing me off because my progression doesn’t track logically. Especially now that we’re in a place where I can focus on my career and my husband (in theory) will move with me if I need to relocate and he’ll be the trailing spouse.

            1. That Girl From Quinn's House

              Ditto. Trailing spouse, and also I’ve worked in a lot of fields that are dysfunctional or disorganized, so I’ll have titles and descriptions that don’t line up. At one point I had 7 concurrently open paycodes and job titles in our payroll system, but I was doing mostly the same work for three years.

              1. Wheee!

                I’ve been in your shoes, and I’ve got a two year gap on my resume to show for it. Assuming that you put locations on your resume, I’d hope that hiring managers would notice that and cut you slack.

            2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

              This is why I do a kind of skills resume, even though it’s frowned upon here. I put all the jobs that are relevant in chronological order as usual in their own section (if I even include the irrelevant ones). Lately I’ve been advised by people in my field to put a few bullet points that highlight a few key things at the top. It feels wrong to me but my sources say it’s helpful to them.

      2. Anonymous Educator

        I’d also find that frustrating. If you list the number of years and list them in chronological order, people can figure out the dates themselves, but you’re just creating more work for them. I’d pass on that résumé unless it was an otherwise unusually strong candidate in an overall weak candidate pool.

        1. Lance

          Well, they can figure out the theoretical dates, at least. As suggested above, it sounds like a subtle (or not-so-subtle) way to hide gaps in employment.

      3. Argh!

        Why would someone have to show a progression? There are a lot of reasons why someone would try on different hats or make lateral moves.

        1. Fortitude Jones

          Yup. I just made a lateral move, but my new title doesn’t reflect that (it actually sounds like it’s a step below my old one) and neither does my salary (which I wouldn’t give to a future employer – and it’s almost 27% higher than my old salary). I took the move to get very specific experience in developing content for proposals, launching a new document management system, and writing customized executive summaries for global bid opportunities – some of these things are things I did at my last job, but I had a whole bunch of other responsibilities in that position that I didn’t particularly care for, so the lateral move fit my work preferences better than a promotion would have. And I still got the pay increase! Lol

    2. BethRA

      I’m sure it does help hide employment gaps, but to me it would also look like that’s what you were trying to do.

    3. It's the little things

      I worked in HR in the UK for a long time and this was really common advice given, to replace the dates with number of years. It never bothered me, I tend to go into things with an assumption of trust unless proven otherwise (which would happen at background check if at all) so didn’t concern myself that people trying to hide things by doing this.

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      This must be a UK thing because it would be really odd in the U.S. and would draw attention to whatever the person was trying to disguise.

      1. Akcipitrokulo

        Might be a section of the UK market thing – UK here and it’s weird to me – and would raise suspicions.

      2. Weegie

        Nope, never come across it in the UK. Having said that, all applications in my field happen via an online form that doesn’t allow for dates to be left off. So I suppose some sectors that still rely on CVs rather than online forms might have different conventions.

      3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

        I have been advised to do something kind of like this but only in the context of making it very clear that I have X number of months of experience doing specific things. Even then I put it in a cover letter or an overview section at the top of the CV.

    5. Akcipitrokulo

      UK here – I’ve never heard of that and it seems weird – and if I saw it when looking at CVs, it wouldn’t be an auto-reject… but would be a yellow flag that they are trying to hide something. (As they were!)

      If you have an employment gap, explain it up front. Trying to obfuscate it will just draw attention to it and make people less inclined to believe the explanation if they have to dig for it.

    6. Jimming

      I’ve also heard of that practice but in an “executive profile” not necessarily the same thing as a resume. It may also depend on what they are looking for – in the example I saw the person was moving away from their corporate career to something they found meaningful to do in retirement, so summarizing their past work experience made sense in that context. The document was more of a high-level overview of their background than a traditional resume.

  8. (Mr.) Cajun2core

    Between leaving my college graduation date off of my resume and only putting my current job and my previous job, someone might think that I am in my early late 30’s. I am in my early 50’s.

    1. Seal

      Same here. I’m in my mid-50s and went back and got 2 masters degrees in my early 40s. During my most recent job search, I left all of my graduation dates off as well as my first job out of college that I had for almost 15 years; that still leaves me with 15 years of relevant work experience. So on paper I look quite a bit younger than I really am.

  9. Zona the Great

    These are the things people think they have to resort to to avoid age discrimination and that really sucks. I’ve been wondering as I move through my 30’s if the protected age (now at age 40) will increase any time soon. 40 seems so young now. Do I have to worry about being too young to be taken seriously while also approaching 40 and becoming a protected class? How odd!

    1. Ali G

      I hear you! I was 39 during my last job search. It was really weird to not have enough experience for some jobs, but to be precariously close to 40 at the same time. I literally accepted a job offer 2 weeks before my 40th birthday (Happy Birthday to me!).

      1. CmdrShepard4ever

        I think it depends for more white collar jobs 40 is still very young, but for some more skilled labor, or unskilled labor jobs 40 can be seen as old and not as capable.

        1. The New Wanderer

          Definitely depends. I was 42-43 when on the job market – had one offer (that I declined) and came in second on two jobs that were senior roles presumably requiring lots of experience. In each case the person who accepted the job was 5-10 years younger than me (based on LinkedIn profile info), which means that the experience component wasn’t as valued as whatever the younger applicant had to offer. Two out of the three companies (global name brands) hire a LOT of younger workers, so the surprise for me was that I got an interview in the first place.

    2. Working Mom Having It All

      Ehhh, I kind of understand why it should be 40, even with that being the case.

      My husband is a stay at home dad at 44. Our child will be school age when he is 46. Assuming he returns to the workforce around then, and that he doesn’t get a freelance gig or other relevant work in the meantime, it’s possible that people interviewing him could think “Well this guy is basically in his late 40s, which means what, 10-15 years till he’s looking at retiring? And he was out of the workforce for 4 years, so he clearly isn’t a go-getter. Why bother when we could hire a hungry 28 year old who’d probably accept less money, too?”

      Obviously you hope people don’t think that, but the law exists to provide a safety net in cases where people want to base hiring decisions on that sort of thing.

      1. Paperback Writer

        I wonder if the “discrimination” age will change as the need to work longer increases? I’m a millennial, at 40 I may need to work another 30 years!

        1. CmdrShepard4ever

          Even if people need to work longer, like working mom said that doesn’t mean that companies will be more willing to hire people in their 40/50/60’s if they can hire people in their 20/30’s who are usually cheaper and seen as hungry. From a companies perspective yes we hire a 40 year old and they retire at 70 that is 30 years of work left, but we hire a 20 year old and they retire at 70 it is 50 years of work left.

          1. DKMA

            Planning for 50 years of work doesn’t make sense though. No one stays at jobs that long. Why would a hiring manager be looking for something other than competence in the role and flashes of ability to advance a level or two.

            Hungry and cheaper I get, but I can’t imagine thinking beyond a 2-5 year horizon for a person in an individual role and 5-10 years in a company.

        2. That Girl From Quinn's House

          The last place I worked had a good number of older employees (65-80+), because we had extensive community programming for seniors. Many of our seniors were fabulous employees who were valued members of our team.

          That said, your body or mind may not cooperate to follow the job requirements until you’re 70. All of our seniors had a physical, mental, or technological adaptation for the job. Some needed help with a physical aspect of the job. Some needed to have an assistant due to memory problems. Some just struggled with technology and needed extra time and periodic tech support. We had a lot of absences due to medical appointments and procedures. Because we were a relationship-based place and we really valued their contributions, we were willing and able to provide help to keep them on our team.

          A lot of employers will not be willing to expend that effort.

      2. Less Bread More Taxes

        A friend of mine is 44 and recently found a job (four months ago!) after 12 years of being a stay-at-home dad. He found a job pretty easily, but he said he simply asked to be paid what his last salary was at age 32 (quite a lot lower than he’s worth in my opinion). He also had just completed a masters. Both I think were contributing factors to his employment offer.

    3. TardyTardis

      A protected class is pretty meaningless in practice–the company can always find a way not to hire you if they don’t want to.

  10. Zap R.

    Millennial here. After years of working contract jobs, I’ve had interviewers call me out on the number of six-month and year-long gigs on my resume. If I give the dates, I look flaky and if I don’t give the dates, I look shady. So where does that leave me and the entire generation of people in my situation?

    1. LapisLazuli

      Maybe it would be better to lump it into “contract work” and put the date range you’ve been doing contract stuff? I feel like I’ve seen it on here but I can’t remember if it was in a comment section or if Alison specifically answered this in a letter. I feel you though, almost all my friends have spent years doing contract, some on top of their full-time jobs :/

      1. Mel

        Yes, I put all my freelance jobs under one header. I still list the companies and dates for each because I’ve worked with some of these places for years, but it’s sporadic work, so I don’t want it to look the same as my full time employers.

      2. Dagny

        I did this and put it all in one section, with subheadings underneath. It actually helped me get interviews and job offers. Example:

        (bold) Teapot Design Contract Roles
        (italics) Acme Teapot, Lead Teapot Designer, Podunk, Idaho, March 2018 – May 2019
        (italics) Tee Pots 4 Eva, Head Teapot Sketch Artist, April 2017 – February 2018
        (bulleted list) Description of duties performed at those places.

    2. RandomU...

      Listing all of them under ‘contract positions’. That explains very quickly and easily why the short times.

      But your right, if you just list them out on their own it’s going to look odd.

      1. Paperback Writer

        How would this work if the gigs were through different agencies? For example-
        Chocolate Teapot Analyst through ABC Staffing Agency, 6 months
        Strawberry Teapot Analyst through XYZ Employment, 4 months

        Lump them together as 10 month Teapot Analyst, Contract Placements?

        1. RandomU...

          Maybe something like this?

          Teapot Analyst (contract 10 mo):
          Chocolate (ABC Staffing, 6 mo)
          Strawberry (XYZ Employment, 4 mo)
          Accomplishments:
          blah blah blah

    3. Grace

      I’m in a similar boat except I’m Gen X. I have had 2 jobs where I’ve stayed 3 years, the rest are contract. I put “(contract)” after the job title but people still balk and ask, “Why wasn’t that turned into a FT role?” as if I snapping my fingers would’ve converted a contract gig to a FT one -___-. I now put just the years down on my resume without the months, and that helps in terms of closing gaps however, it also goes against me sometimes because I have one role where I was there 2 years and 11 months, but listing just the years makes it look like 2 years flat. I’m kind of at a loss now, too.

      1. RandomU...

        Those people don’t sound very bright. I’ve never held a contract position, but I know enough to know that most are never designed to be converted to full time.

        1. Akcipitrokulo

          And a lot of people prefer contracting!

          I would expect to get the question “why do you want to go permanent?” (and interviewer is thinking “…and lose the much, much higher pay rates and flexibility…”) but as long as you have a good answer along lines of wanting to settle down, wanting to have position where you can develop skills to one place, then you should be OK.

          But why not made permanent? Because it’s a contract position and they don’t tend to do that.

      2. Zap R.

        Yes! I’ve had that happen too. “Why weren’t you hired on permanently? Would you say you left all of those jobs on good terms?”

        1. Lance

          “Well, they paid me on time, and held to the contract… so yes, I’d say so.”

          Seriously though, they’re contract positions, not temp-to-hire.

        2. Dagny

          “I worked with that agency on multiple assignments and always got very positive feedback from my managers.”

      3. Rez123

        That’s really interesting. My bf does contract work and quite often is offered a FT position but he always refuses. The contract work pays significantly better and he has no issues finding a new one. In his field contracting is a popular choise.

      1. Zap R.

        Thank you. I’m going to start doing this. I went to one of those provincial employment centres and they said not to put it but that’s honestly hurt far more than it’s helped.

    4. Dragoning

      I just put “contract” in parentheses after the job title, and no one has ever asked further.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch

      This is an issue with gig culture and contract/temp positions.

      Some people are best when they’re in these sorts of positions and it does make a hiring manager pause when they’re starting to explore a FT position. We have to sit and think “They haven’t been anywhere for longer than 6-12 months, will they get restless or want to go back to this short term kind of lifestyle?”

      But I’ve been in this boat when I left employment after ten years at one job. You get the “But why would you ever leave?” drilling.

      1. Mel

        I have that too. I was at one job 11 years and people always ask why I would leave if I loved it so much. No benefits is a convenient answer, but it seems obvious that there could be a lot of reasons why someone would stay at a job for so long, but not love it enough to stay longer!

        1. Slartibartfast

          Change of ownership/ management, or ran out of opportunities for growth seem like good reasons.

    6. Qwerty

      I think AAM has answered a couple of questions relating to how to put contract work on your resume, if you search the site. The advice was along the lines of grouping them together under a heading, similar to what some freelancers do. Or if you change your job title to include “contractor”, it’ll make it more obvious that the position was a gig.

    7. Jaybeetee

      I spent years in temp hell. There were a couple of very short-term and similarish jobs that I lumped together along the lines of “Customer Service Representative, X Inc. and Y Co. Jan-May 2014” type things, then listed the job duties. If I was there less than a couple of months AND couldn’t combine it with similar work around that time, I’d just leave it off completely.

      For longer-term contracts, I would list them separately, but indicate (contract) after the dates. Temp/contract jobs are common in my city, and were particularly so during the Recession, so it didn’t seem to raise any eyebrows – though I suppose in cases where I was never called, I’ll never know!

    8. NotAnotherManager!

      If you identify short stints as contract work, it doesn’t look shady or flaky. If you work in government contracting or IT, this sort of tenure is expected.

      My spouse started his career doing temp work for years. When he first graduated, he was working three part-time jobs. We grouped the temp/contract positions by type of work and then listed the individual companies/dates beneath it.

  11. XRaeofHR

    Alison,

    Thank you so much for putting this information out. If you leave off the dates and still manage to get a call, the first thing the person on the other end of the phone is going to do is…. Ask you all of the dates.

    1. Ali G

      Not to mention that employment dates are mandatory on like 99% of online applications.

      1. RandomU...

        I just mentioned in another post that I don’t think I’ve run across any missing dates. But now I’m wondering if they don’t get past our initial screening. I should ask our recruiter because now I’m curious. I’m also wondering now if there’s a review between resumes and applications.

  12. bluephone

    I’ve heard from several hiring managers (including ones hiring in my industry) that leaving off the graduation year is weird and off-putting. They were also confused by advice I’d previously received (from someone not in hiring/not in my field) that I shouldn’t put my Master’s degree on my resume because “I’ve never heard of this school so I doubt anyone has either”*
    So anyway, Resume Advice is varied and confusing and there is no one right answer except maybe Don’t Tell Lies. (FWIW, I absolutely do put employment years on my resume because DUH. I just wanted to point out that Alison’s sidebar about leaving off your graduation year isn’t always cut-and-dried).

    *It’s a fairly well-known Ivy League school on the East Coast. A high-ranking, very well-known politician is affiliated with its business school. Like, you’ve heard of it, trust me.

    1. RandomU...

      Weird… I can’t say I’d care one way or another about the date being attached to the degree information and I don’t really consider the school.

      I assume that during the background/pre-hire screening all of this is being reviewed.

      And I’ve just confirmed your point. At the end of the day people are still making subjective decisions.

    2. pleaset

      “*It’s a fairly well-known Ivy League school on the East Coast.”

      And there are only eight Ivies – if someone is judging schools and literally hasn’t heard of one of them, they’re dopey.

      Note – I am not dissing to people who don’t recognize these schools if they’re not judgemental about where people graduated from.

    3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)

      An interviewer once told me the same, and 80% of the engineering department were graduates or close to graduation from said university… *facepalm*

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      Literally more than half the resumes I receive, including from great candidates, leave the graduation dates off. If those hiring managers find that weird and off-putting, they either aren’t doing much hiring, or are only hiring very junior people (where it’s more common to leave it on), or … something else I can’t think of.

    5. That Girl From Quinn's House

      I got admonished for taking my year of graduation and my GPA off my resume, maybe 5 years after graduation.

    6. Me

      You’ve unfortunately just managed to talk to a couple of people who have no idea what they’re talking about.

    7. Public Sector Manager

      Going on 6 years as a managing attorney at my agency, with 3 years as a supervisor before that, and I could care less when someone graduated. If lack of a year on your degree is what separates an applicant from an interview, then that’s a win for the applicant because that’s such a tiny issue for a hiring manager to get hung up on.

    8. techPerson

      … The idea of “I haven’t heard of this school, so you shouldn’t put your degree on your resume” is so baffling. Even if it *was* a no-name college, why would that make your Masters degree irrelevant?

      The fact that it’s literally an Ivy League only makes this more puzzling.

    9. Lily Rowan

      Even if you think it’s a state school, wouldn’t you think you had heard of it?? (Assuming I know what school…)

    10. The Man, Becky Lynch

      I haven’t heard of 95% of the universities that are listed on resumes and all that means is that there are a lot of universities that don’t get press, I prefer not knowing them honestly! Most of the ones I know of, outside of the state schools and sports related are due to their shady shenanigans. If I haven’t heard of them and they’re not Harvard/Yale/Standford etc, it’s because they haven’t done anything outrageous and probably don’t heavily focus on sports, that’s a-okay with me.

      So they can stuff it with “I haven’t heard of this school, don’t list it.” nonsense.

      1. Fortitude Jones

        I went to the school right next door to bluephone’s (hi, neighbor), and I had a hiring manager at my old insurance company admit to me that when she got my resume, she thought it was an online school because she never heard of it. Someone on her hiring committee was from Jersey, though, and knew all about my school’s rep and assured her it was not a fly-by-night online school and that it was actually academically superior to the universities in their city that she had heard of (I liked that guy a lot). Had he not spoken up, she may have circular-filed my resume (I’ll admit – it was still rough at that time as I didn’t quite know how to present my limited post-college work experience).

  13. Sophie

    How do people feel about just putting years?

    I deliberately use (for example) 2014 – 2017 which allows for some hiding of gaps between roles or the collapsing of short internal transfers into larger buckets.

    Does this also seem like I’m hiding things?

    1. Victoria Q Nerdballs

      Just came here to say I recently did the same thing, mostly because I was trying to transition out of a volatile industry prone to sudden inescapable layoffs and didn’t want the fact that my job tenures were getting shorter and shorter (11 months at one, 9 months at another, 8 months of freelance) to raise too many questions.

    2. Lance

      If it’s multiple-year stints, as in that case, I’d think it should be fine. If it’s one year to the next (e.g. 2017-2018), I think an argument could be made for putting months, for clarity’s sake.

    3. Manic Pixie HR Girl

      I personally can’t stand it … BUT, I say that with the caveat that I do HR for a Gov’t agency and most of our recruitments have very specific and rigid minimum qualifications. If it is a recruitment where I have a lot of applicants, where it says 2014-2017, instead of reaching out to every individual who applied for clarification, I am going to assume it is Dec 2014-Jan 2017, which would equal 2 years of experience. Of course, it could actually be Jan 2014-Dec 2017, which would be 4 years. If I have no wiggle room on minimum qualifications (and I often don’t), then this can be really problematic.

      Having said that, Government is Different. I would also add if it is a lot of years (say, 2001-2015), leaving the months off is probably fine.

    4. RandomU...

      I think that’s pretty standard nowadays. I can’t say I’m the voice of all hiring managers, but this is what I typically see anymore.

      I will ask if I have a question about a short tenure. But I don’t assume anyone’s trying to hide anything. Mostly I assume that they (like me) don’t really remember the exact dates for some of the older stuff and want it all to be consistent.

    5. Working Mom Having It All

      My rule of thumb is that if the job was long enough ago that I don’t remember what months I started and ended on the job, I can probably just put the years. Unless doing so would misrepresent the amount of time I’d worked there in a sketchy way.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch

      It does still sometimes feel “tricksy” to some of us who are hiring. Especially if you say 2017-2018. Then we don’t know if you’re Sept 2017-Jan 2018, you know? It could easily be a way to mask a lot of shorter than a year stints.

      However if it’s 2007-2010, 2010-2013, and so on, they string together at least a two-ish/three-ish way of things, and then mask your gaps a bit that way, I’m not going to read too much into it. It really varies and feels shady sometimes and not shady other times.

    7. Akcipitrokulo

      If it’s a year or two – then it’s not great as 2017-2018 could be a couple of weeks or almost two years. And yeah, I’d assume it was a couple of weeks if I saw someone saying that on a CV.

      If it’s a few years, it isn’t so relevant; I personally put it on anyway for my last job (5 years) for consistency with the job before it (13 months). I don’t like seeing the date in different formats :) and I’m not putting year only for such a short period. So all of them get months.

      It’s worse with another job I had which was almost a year, but would have read 2011-2011. So… a day then?

  14. Amphian

    This is standard practice now, based on my job search last year working with a couple different recruiters. (I’m over 50.) I have the last two jobs (15 or so years of experience) fully listed out with years, a section with older jobs with no dates, and no dates on my degrees. No one asked me for dates or acted like it was at all weird.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      This is a hybrid version though! Since you’re still listing years for the last two jobs.

      It makes sense to just add years for the older, most likely irrelevant jobs, then most likely you could even get away with leaving them off unless you’re working for places that want an extensive employment history.

      1. Amphian

        Yes, and it would make a difference if my last two jobs were each something like two years of experience, I think. I went to just years on my resume several versions ago. What day or month did I start the job I got in 1997? I don’t have the faintest idea. I understand that 1997 – 1998 means anything from two months to two years, so that’s a problem for people who have shorter jobs – which my early jobs were – but, seriously, who can remember this stuff? Older jobs are like graduation date – no one really cares.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch

          I think it boils down to references and verification as well in the end.

          I’m going to ask you for at least employment verification for the last 5-10 years-ish if that’s listed. So if you have had two or three jobs in 10-15 years, that’s spot on and all I really care about because those employers are going to be references I’m interested in. The older stuff is simply “Oh she’s steadily employed, that’s good too.” but how many employers call the place you worked in 2003-2005 [in my case, that place no longer exists and many places wouldn’t even keep employment records that long since standard is 3 years after employment is terminated].

          I flinch at graduation years. Some of what they teach you in HR training courses is to remove your even tingly spidey senses of trying to guess someone’s age while hiring. So I saw someone with a 1971 graduate year awhile back and knew that they were in the later stages of their career without even a second thought. And I hated it. Hated it. Thankfully they weren’t at all qualified so I could just safely reject it without that sinking feeling and dread I feel if someone would ever want to try to pin age discrimination on us [which we’d be able to fight given our average workforce is very diverse! But I hate even knowing someone is thinking at some point that it’s going on]

          It also can be misleading anyways. Often people get degrees later in life or it takes people longer to complete, etc. Just tell me you have a Bacholor’s or Masters or Associates or certificates and leave out the when, usually that’s not going to matter when it was achieved and we can confirm if necessary.

          1. Amphian

            I agree about the verification and I worried about that at one point, even though it’s really common problem in my industry. Of my first four professional jobs – the first company still exists in some form – I think, two and three no longer exist (and haven’t for over 15 years), and four was me running a web development business. I couldn’t begin to give you contact info for any of them other than me.

            I have the first three on my resume because they were non-web programming and everything else after is web dev. It lets me bring up that I have a bunch of different experience and taught myself web dev while doing other kinds of programming, so I can learn whatever weird system a potential employer has concerns about my not knowing.

            I left years on everything until this last layoff (not my first, being in tech). Then I freaked out with every single recruiter, outplacement counselor, and former coworker telling me to expect to struggle to get a job due to my age. I ditched years on everything except the last two and I started a new job less than two months after getting laid off, but I know it took some of my former coworkers a long time.

  15. Old Old Fashioned

    Out of curiosity, at what age should one consider leaving off the graduation year? I’m approaching 40 so I don’t think I’m at that point quite yet, but I am starting to wonder at what point my X years of experience is no longer a selling point.

    I’m pretty worried about age discrimination since I’m struggling to find a job now without that (unfair) issue. How much worse will it be when I’m, uh, whatever age “they” think is over the hill?

      1. Old Old Fashioned

        Oof, that makes me feel old and past my prime since I barely remember my early 30s. :D

        Thanks, I’m off to edit my resume now!

        1. Me

          By 40 most people are well into their mid-career. It’s kind of like still putting your college internship on there, just no longer real relevant.

      2. Another worker bee

        Would you say this is a hard and fast rule, or more like “ten years since graduation”?
        In my early 30s (and look every bit of it, unfortunately), but only have just over 3 years of work experience, because I was in school (phD) until I was 29! Without that context I think it would be like “why does this almost middle aged woman only have 3 years of experience on her resume?”

  16. Fibchopkin

    So weird that this got published today – I literally JUST finished reading through a stack of resumes for an open position on my team and a handful had no dates whatsoever attached to the various jobs; of the ones that did, fully half only had the years listed. Gotta be honest, I have enough great resumes with dates for the position that the ones that made me have to guess went straight into the recycle without consideration.

  17. Sally Forth

    Make sure your Email address doesn’t look like a year.
    For example, SallySmith1955@gmail gives off hints.
    I mentored a man who looked much younger than he was, had just taken a one year post-diploma course with honours and who had a lot to offer. However, his email address and year of graduation both gave him away as 64. Once he cleared those, he started getting interviews and a chance to sell himself.

  18. Cacwgrl

    I have seen cases where not including dates hurt the candidate based on the inability to qualify them on paper. We need month-year for our agency. How else can I prove that you’ve for sure got X number of years doing something? If you say you were Program Manager 2016-2019, you might have spent January 1 2016 to current doing that job. But how does our agency know you didn’t get hired 31 December 2016 and quit 1 January 2019, so the most they would consider crediting is 2 years.

    IMO – terrible advise to follow!

  19. Luna

    My resume doesn’t have exact dates. It has the month/year of when I start and the month/year of when I stopped at each job. Mostly because I really do not recall what *day* I worked there. Just dimly that this retail store was in September of 2009. (Though I have had an interviewer ask me for details on a job of that age. Like, it’s been 10 years since I worked there, no, I do not remember how many sandwiches we managed to make in an hour.)

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yes, no one is suggesting day, month, year. Just month/year or year. Even if you recall the exact day, it wouldn’t go on the resume.

    2. That Girl From Quinn's House

      I have been asked exact day on applicant tracking systems. [Company] from MM/DD/YY to MM/DD/YY and it won’t advance unless I select a day. For jobs I had 17 years ago.

      1. Katt

        I believe in that case–particularly when you’re talking ten or more years previous– it’s acceptable in many fields to estimate your start date as either the first or the fifteenth of the month you began working. It’s kind of absurd that their system works that way, but I tend to take it more as a quirk of their online application system than a priority to the hiring manager(s). It’s not as though a difference of (maybe) seven or ten days worth of experience seventeen years ago would make an appreciable difference in your value as a hire, after all.

  20. Peggy Olsen’s Blues

    Also, when employers are in regulated HR fields (think government) they need to know dates and length of employment to determine if you get screened in for an interview. No dates means you’ll be credited one year max. It may make you look unqualified for a position when you have lots of experience.

  21. Feotakahari

    I wonder how this affects people who spent time in prison. I mean, that can be a pretty clear gap.

  22. Amethyst

    When should we start leaving off graduation dates on resumes? I received my AAS 4.5 years ago (nontraditional student) and I still have the date I graduated listed on mine. What’s a good rule of thumb in this case?

  23. Leah V

    I am 30 but well educated in a specific tech field. I manage a team where I tend to hire people 40-50 because of the amount of development experience required by HR (one of those ‘i can’t be 19 with 10 years of exp.’ things).
    I’ve had some issues with those candidates not respecting my position at first but once they find out that I am knowledgeable & a good manager, they seem to turn around.

    I tend to work off their most recent experience when looking at resumes since tech changes so frequently, especially in my niche.

  24. Elizabeth W Kidd

    Putting my graduation dates on my resume got me some looks I might not have received otherwise- because I earned my BS at age 47 and my MBA at age 56!

  25. Elizabeth K

    Putting my graduation dates on my resume got me some looks I might not have received otherwise- because I earned my BS at age 47 and my MBA at age 56!

  26. Ser Brienne

    How about leaving months off of a resume? I hired a professional to rework mine and she left the months off (i.e. just listing 2017-2018 instead of listing May 2017-April 2018 or something similar) and I’m wondering if that was good advice.

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