Can I Leave a Job Off My Resume?
Do you need to include all the jobs you’ve ever had on your resume? No, you don’t, but be prepared to explain why an old job isn’t listed on your resume if the prospective employer discovers it or asks about any gaps between jobs you did list.
Your previous jobs aren’t easy to keep secret, so don’t presume that if it’s not on your resume, the employer won’t find out about it. You may need to include it in a job application, or it may show up in a background check.
Which Jobs to Include
Keep in mind that a resume is a synopsis of your education and work experiences and you don’t have to include everything that you ever did, especially older jobs that aren’t pertinent to your career. For example, listing all the odd jobs you held while getting through college probably isn’t necessary.
This is especially true if you’ve been out in the workforce for a while. In fact, if you have a lot of work experience including just the last 10–15 years is recommended.
Resumes vs. Job Applications
Don't confuse your resume with an employment application. A resume is a document you create. There are few things that you are required to include on your resume, and there are no employment laws which dictate that you must include all your work experiences whether short or long term.
A job application is different. If the application indicates that you should list all your recent work experiences, then you should probably include all your jobs, including short-term engagements. Otherwise, an employer might discover that you have withheld information when they conduct a background check.
Resumes allow you much more flexibility and should be considered as summaries of your most relevant experiences. However, you should be prepared to explain why you haven't included a short-term experience if the employer raises the question.
You’ll need to consider a few things when you decide whether to include a short-term job on your resume or just leave it off. A short-term job that gave you more experience in your chosen field may be worth keeping on your resume. However, a short-term job that simply helped you pay some bills can probably be left off.
The length of time is important too. It’s easier to justify why you left off short-term jobs that lasted three months or less, particularly if they are not relevant to your current goals. Jobs you kept for longer than three months may need to be listed.
Deciding to leave a long-term job off your resume presents more of a dilemma and requires some careful thought. Not listing a long-term job leaves a noticeable gap in your resume. You will likely be asked during an interview to explain what you were doing during that time. So, you might be better served by including the job on your resume.
It’s always easier to justify leaving older short-term jobs off your resume. If your recent job history (the past five years or so) contains consecutive, successful experiences, then employers will usually not be concerned about a little gap in the past.
Focusing Your Resume
Strategic techniques for structuring your resume will help you de-emphasize any short-term and less relevant long-term jobs, and keep the employer's focus on more compelling experiences.
For example, you might break your resume up into two categories:
- Related Experience
- Other Experience
Relevant jobs can be listed in the first category, and you can place unrelated work in the latter category. If short-term experiences are freelance or consulting oriented, then you might group them together under a heading like Consulting or Contract Employment.
What to Say About a Job You Didn’t Include
If asked, you can simply say that you didn't include the job because the position isn't relevant to your current career path. You might add that you took the position to generate some cash flow while you pursued a more appropriate job (like their vacancy).
If a previous short-term job helps you to make your case for the new position in question, then you should probably include it on your resume. However, if you weren’t successful in the previous job and don't wish to draw attention to it, then you might prefer to leave the position off.
When to Note Your Reason for Leaving
When you include a short-term job on your resume, be sure to include a note about why you held the job for only a brief time if it’s relevant and doesn't reflect negatively on you. You don't want the employer to speculate why you left so soon. For example, you might say that you filled in for an employee on leave or were hired to staff a time-limited project.