Strategically dropping past positions from your career timeline.
Your resume’s key purpose is to land interviews, not serve as an autobiography. As a concise marketing document, what you don’t include on your resume is just as important as what you do include. This applies to minor details like antiquated computer programs as well as significant data such as past positions, and what you should not cover in detail or leave off entirely will change as you progress in your career.
Depending on the position, it can be easy to make the decision to cut it. For example, while pursuing my degree, I worked part-time in retail between semesters. This won’t benefit me in my current career path and occurred several years ago, so there’s no need to take up precious space on my resume to cover a few month-long stints. The skills I gained during that time are valuable, but have since been strengthened and demonstrated within more advanced, long-term roles.
On the other hand, it becomes tricky when the position being considered for omission was recently held and/or is relevant to your current objective. For example, suppose a job seeker held a position for less than a month and decided to leave due to the company’s operational standards (or lack thereof). This job seeker has a steady career history and removing this position does not result in a gap, so not mentioning it in their resume’s professional experience section is a strategic move and makes sense. And, as a general rule of thumb, positions held for less than 3 months do not need to be covered in detail. However, if this position was held for several years, I would highly recommend it be included on the resume and painted in the most positive light possible. An unexplained gap in your career history will work against you.
Keep in mind: the position you delete from your resume may appear in a background check, so be prepared to address it if brought up in the interview. Also, your resume and a job application are two different things. If an employer’s official application specifically requests that you list ALL of your work history, be sure to thoroughly follow the instructions.
If you’re concerned about being “called out” for the omitted position(s), another strategy is to create an “additional experience” section at the very end of your career timeline that only mentions your titles and the companies’ names:
Additional experience: Manager, ABC, LLC, Baltimore, MD; Project Coordinator, DEF Enterprises, Washington, DC; Administrative Assistant, GHI, Inc., Harrisburg, PA
Because dates aren’t listed, you can break out of the chronological constraints and only provide minor details for select roles. This strategy also works well for mentioning positions held 15+ years ago – they aren’t discounted completely, but also don’t make the job seeker susceptible to age discrimination.
When considering what to include or not include in your resume, ask yourself these questions: Will this information help me achieve my goal or be relevant to the reader (hiring manager)? If the answers are no, leave it off or limit the space it takes up. Omission may not necessarily be a form of lying when it comes to your resume, but think carefully about what you decide to cut and be sure that all the details you decide to include are 100% accurate.