Removing Previous Positions from Your Resume

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Is it ever a good idea to deliberately omit previous positions from the work history section of your resume? Some job seekers object to this move on broad moral grounds, with the argument that we should be proud of—and we should proudly share—every decision we’ve made during the course of our careers.

But there’s a fallacy hidden in this argument: a resume is not designed to serve as a statement of our general merit. It’s not a report card of our overall performance in the game of life. And by no means is a resume a summary of our worth, a complete list of everything we’ve accomplished in the world, or even an assessment of what we’re capable of in the future.

So before you decide that it’s an act of self-betrayal to remove previous jobs from your resume , think again. Here several circumstances in which hiding your past may not only be reasonable, but necessary.

Remove a past position or education credential if…

1. It’s not relevant to the job at hand.

“Employers” are not a monolith. They aren’t a giant entity or an institution with a single voice. “What employers want” will vary with every open position, every company, and every team of hiring managers in the world. As it turns out, hiring managers are just people. And most of them just want a candidate who can handle a specific job and adapt well to a specific company culture. Don’t feel overwhelmed or crushed by the demands of a universal employee ideal. No such thing exists. If you have a skill set that has nothing to do with the job in question, you don’t need to include it in your resume.

2. It might portray you as overqualified.

If you have qualifications these employers haven’t asked for, it’s reasonable for them to assume that you’ll be too expensive, or that you’ll leave as soon as you find something better. It’s not a value judgment on their part; they have a business to run, and they have an obligation to make smart, strategic decisions. If these employers may be put off by a PhD, just remove those three letters from your resume.   

3. Its inclusion is repetitive and unnecessary.

If you held three jobs in three years, all doing basically the same thing at the same level, and you don’t feel inclined to list and describe all three of them, don’t. Just choose the most relevant one. 

4. It’s not something you’re proud of.

In order to pay the bills, you once held a job that may have been “beneath” you. It may even have been a little embarrassing. But work is work, and you had the humility, grace, determination, and survival skills to do what you needed to do at the time in order to get where you needed to be. Should you feel obligated to showcase this position on your resume? Of course not. Just be ready to explain what you were doing during this time if the subject comes up in your interview. 

Your Resume Is a Career Development Tool

Your resume is a simple, functional document that can help you land the job you need—and nothing else. Keep your information streamlined, purposeful, and to the point. Turn to LiveCareer for tools and resources that can keep this task in perspective and make the job search process a little easier. 

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