“But how many jobs should you list on a resume?” He asked.
And I sighed…I could feel his frustration and knew that my answer of ‘it depends’ wasn’t going to ease his discouragement. With that being said, in order to dig into the very complicated answer to this question, I thought it would make sense to start at the root cause(s) of the question to begin with.
For me, there are three types of candidates who need to seriously analyze how many jobs or experiences they should include on their resume. These include the very experienced candidate, the novice candidate, and the candidate who has shifted gears in the middle of his or her career. Let’s discuss each.
Age Discrimination in the Workplace is Real
The question that started all of this came from a seasoned job seeker that we were representing. His resume was terrific with the breadth and depth of his experiences exceedingly rich.
And I liked him. He loved his job as a CRA and was great at it. He was also someone I would describe as ‘just a really nice guy’. From my view, the reality is that any of our clients would have been lucky to have him.
But he was struggling to win an interview. I would like to think that none of our clients consciously practice ageism…but the evidence in this case is that many of them unconsciously practice it. With that being said, his question of ‘how many jobs should you list on a resume’ is a valid one for those who have many years of experience and may be concerned with experiencing ageism in the workplace.
…with one caveat.
You do not want to remove any experiences that will detract from showing your foundational knowledge and experience as it relates to the career story you are trying to tell. When I provide guidance in terms of writing effective resumes, I often speak of telling a story. Simply put: when I review a resume, my goal is to be able to read the candidate’s career story and I actually read the candidate’s resume like I would read a novel. If I could give anyone advice when it comes to their resume, I would state that folks should worry less about format and more about what story they want to tell.
Which means this: Every hiring manager wants to speak with candidates who are clearly in control of their career path. So your mission when creating a resume is to tell the story that you have strategically made tactical decisions in order to achieve your career objectives. But for those of you who have been in the industry for a while, perhaps you should consider minimizing or abbreviating those experiences from early in your career…as long as they don’t break or conflict with your story.
For example, the lovely gentleman I was just speaking about had over thirty years of clinical research experience in the CRA role. Early in his clinical research career he was a coordinator (we love that!) and prior to that, he had spent several years as a nurse.
I certainly don’t want to go on record to state that the foundational experiences gained as a nurse and coordinator aren’t important. THEY ARE. However, in his case, I advised him to list these foundational experiences in his career summary rather than in the experience section.
I also advised him to remove the graduation dates from when he obtained his degrees.
CRA recruiters and hiring managers look at dates. And while you certainly want to be open and honest about the dates you do show, it may be necessary to eliminate some dates and experiences where necessary.
Your Work History Shows Several Short-Term or Short-Tenured Positions
I recently saw an article on Indeed which spoke to how common it is in today’s job market for employees to have short tenures. We agree. I know everyone is sick of hearing about the impacts of the pandemic (and I am tired of talking about it), but the reality is that many individuals suffered significant career challenges during the heart of this era.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 9.6 million people were unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic. Our industry was seriously impacted due to travel restrictions, and it is our opinion that this situation forced many job seekers to not only seek new positions, but actually consider changing their occupation and career trajectory altogether.
And in the meantime? Gaps. Significant ones, in some instances. And to make ends meet or to keep their skills fresh? They took short-term positions.
The difference between short-term and short-tenured positions.
And there is a difference.
By definition, job tenure is the length of time someone works for a company within their career path. While we see shorter tenures in the clinical research industry, Indeed defines long-tenured employees as someone who has worked for a company for more than five years, while short-tenured employees less.
Note that a single short-tenured position isn’t a deal breaker to us. We understand that life happens…perhaps the fit may have been off or you had to leave a position due to other personal reasons. And maybe the short employment may have had nothing to do with you as an employee. Companies do go through reorganizations, are acquired or go out of business…or maybe the company simply lost funding for their studies and your position was impacted. We also understand that contracts can be short by nature; so note that when we are viewing a resume for short-tenures, we are typically looking at perm positions.
Remember the ‘story’ I spoke of before? What we are looking for is a trend…and when we see a trend of short-tenured positions, unfortunately that is a story we don’t want to see. In all actuality, our advice for these candidates is to find a position and stick with it in order to mitigate the past damage those short-tenured positions have done to that candidate’s brand.
On the flip side, short-term positions are different and we conduct a deep dive into the rules of including temporary or short-term positions on your resume in another article. However, know that short-term positions are defined as being outside of your current career path. When you consider the story you are telling, it may make sense to include some or all of these short-term positions on your resume.
In a recent article on writing effective resumes we discuss how leveraging some of these ‘outside of the industry’ positions on your resume may actually support your career story. Especially when it comes to exhibiting your soft skills. And definitely if you are a Novice Professional.
So Let’s Discuss Novice Professionals
To all of you Novice professionals out there…how many jobs should you list on a resume? Maybe a better question is how many can you list?
Most hiring managers are looking for a two to three job window. Why? Because they want to hear your story.
Even novice professionals should be concerned with the story they are telling. This ‘two to three’ job window should always include your most recent position, and in a perfect world will show career progression.
However, we do understand listing three positions may be more challenging for those who haven’t been in the workforce for long or have held only one or two jobs in their career. If this is your situation, focus on other ‘outside of the industry’ positions that may reinforce the story you are trying to tell.
Straying from the norm in order to represent relevant experience is okay. For example, internships or short-term positions can tell others about your time management capabilities as well as how you deal with difficult situations. These short-term positions can also exhibit the customer service skills you have learned as well as the ability to effectively juggle multiple responsibilities or handle a fast-paced environment.
Volunteer work is something that most people don’t consider adding to their resume, but in reality, listing your volunteer efforts not only says a lot about you personally, but also helps to add depth to your resume. Additionally, if you are a recent college grad struggling to add content to your resume, consider listing professional organizations you are or were affiliated with such as business fraternities and participation in student government.
One thing to note, though. Honesty is the best policy, and creating fictitious jobs to add bulk to your resume will land you right back in the unemployment line. And get you permanently barred from some organizations (like ours).
Professionals at all levels have asked ‘how many jobs should you list on a resume?’. Knowing how to highlight the hard and soft skills learned during short-term positions, temporary assignments, volunteer work and participation in professional organizations can be a challenge.
Consider hiring a reputable resume writing organization or career coach. And, if you are an experienced CRA, reach out to us for help. We will be more than happy to provide guidance on updating your resume.