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Regular readers know I always tell my clients there is no ONE RIGHT way to conduct a job search. Best practices? Yes. Opinions on the best way to do things? Absolutely! The trick is to identify people who provide opinions based on actual information from people involved in hiring. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people advising job seekers based on nothing but their own experience, which may or may not translate effectively to others.

One slightly controversial piece of advice regarding resumes is about using dates. Typically, when I hear arguments about including dates or not on a resume, the focus is on graduation dates, but I’ve recently become aware that some people are advising job seekers to list some of their job experience without dates.

Graduation Dates on Resumes

Some people believe if they graduated from college too long ago, hiring managers will pass over their resume, assuming them to be too old, too inflexible or too expensive to hire (based on the number of years of experience).

Advice to remove graduation dates targets younger and younger people! I had one client tell me he’d been advised to take the years off of his schooling since it had been more than five years ago. That is an extreme piece of advice. Generally, anyone over 50 may be told to make themselves “look younger” by removing graduation dates.

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Should you leave graduation dates (years) off of your resume? I’m not a fan of this practice. Why? Because, if you leave off the date, you allow the reader to assume when you may have graduated. The hiring manager will naturally believe you are “more experienced” — perhaps even much more experienced (read: older) than you actually are! If your goal is to look younger, that’s what we on Twitter would label a major #FAIL.

Are there circumstances where leaving off graduation dates may make sense? Possibly. If you could have retired 10 years ago, you probably can’t hurt yourself leaving off your graduation date!

Dates for Experience

I’m working with a client now who has been advised to list certain jobs she held in the past without dates. Not all of her work experience, just a few older positions. At first, I thought she had misunderstood the previous career advisor’s instructions, but from talking to a few people, it appears as if this advice to omit dates on certain job experiences is typical.

My bias is to always include dates on experience; I thought it was crazy to advise a job seeker to leave dates off of certain work experience. (My preference would be to leave off the jobs altogether if they were not crucial to the candidate’s time line. For example, account for the last 10-15 years of experience and omit older jobs that don’t add anything to your candidacy.)

I’ve spent a lot of time with recruiters who influence some of my advice to job seekers. Granted, most jobs are not filled via recruiters, but I believe their take on resume norms is valuable, since they constantly evaluate candidates. I posed the question of dates on a resume to my Twitter community, saying, “#Recruiters -I have a client who’s been advised to list jobs withOUT dates on resume. Planning to blog about this. Love to quote you!”

These are the replies I received. Read them from the bottom up to follow the conversation.

While @RapidBi, an organizational change consultant, believed there could be a case for a resume without all of the dates, clearly the trend in this unscientific survey points toward including dates or risking attracting suspicion.

If someone is telling you to leave dates off of your resume, only do so after carefully considering the possible ramifications. Have I heard of people who removed certain dates (typically graduation dates) and still landed interviews? Yes, I have. Be sure to make your decision from an informed perspective. Ask you advisor or coach why he or she recommends one way or another; don’t be afraid to inquire why. Anyone who knows what they are doing will welcome the opportunity to explain.

— If you’re looking for a job and could use a boost, be sure to pre-order a copy of my book, Social Networking for Career Success AND consider getting your own, personal website – a social resume!

photo by Caro’s Lines

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  • Curious to see what the thoughts are with the reverse in mind. Can a candidate be labled as “too young” or “too green” even if the candidate has solid experience and stellar track record.

    • Caroline – Interestingly enough, I have never seen that argument! Thanks for your comment!

  • This feels like one of those things in the career management arena where the answer is there is no answer. It is also an issue that seems to have been around since the time that resumes were written on stone tablets.

    When I am asked about this (which is almost always) my response is that while I may not have a plug-and-play answer, I do have an opinion – which is absent any other information, I would leave the dates on. Will I get fewer interviews? Undoubtedly, but the ones I get will probably be more real.

    • While there is no one answer for everyone (no doubt), I agree to err on the side of including dates, as I have never met a hiring manager or recruiter who doesn’t like to see the dates.

  • Miriam:

    One of the arguments I have heard for leaving off dates is when the “soft skills” required for the job you are seeking come from positions that you held a relatively long time ago.

    • I’ve still never met a hiring manager who would suggest leaving off dates!

  • Like most resume questions, this one can’t be answered unless you know who will be reading your resume and you are capable of reading their mind. Flip a coin.

    These days many jobs have an online application and the web app won’t let you submit your information without dates, so whether you include them on your resume or not becomes a moot question.

  • Miriam,

    Great article and very good points. Thanks for including me in your post! Like it was said a few times above, leaving off dates for jobs makes us (the recruiter/hiring manager) wonder. Our thoughts tend to go to the dark side.

    Job seekers: Help us out by including dates on your resume, or at least offer an explanation as to why they’re not there. Leave of absence and family issues are understandable – just don’t leave us to wonder!

    Great post. Keep up the great work!

    Kirk Baumann

    • Thanks, Kirk! It’s always nice to have an opinion others I respect are willing to support!

  • Leaving dates off your resume will do one of two things:

    1. Cause the hiring manager to spend valuable time “doing the math” to figure out your work/education chronology and to potentially uncover any resume gaps. This will frustrate the hiring manager to be sure.
    2. Cause the hiring manager to pass on you and your resume.

    There’s no fooling people here. You are who you are. Make it clear in your resume and back it up with well thought out answers to interview questions regarding your level of experience (your age) and its appropriateness for the position at hand.

    • Absolutely true – there is no fooling. I agree; it’s best to avoid game playing in favor of focusing on qualifying for the job! Thanks!

  • I have done lots of hiring in the past at large software companies. Dates establish flow and continuity. Being at 3 companies for 5 years each is obviously very different than being at the same place for 15 years. Neither is necessarily better but they introduce a different discussion.

  • I ran tests about this question by having clients send to different employers two versions of their resumes, one with some of the dates left off for older education and work experiences (in a separate section, “Other Professional Experience”) and one with all dates included. The first resume with some of the dates left off resulted in a much higher number of interview invitations. Some of those interviews resulted in job offers and some did not, so my experiment became fuzzier at that point. But for all the people arguing that it is crazy to leave some dates off, I think the question is still up for debate. Note that I came up with this experiment only after the clients expressed desperation about not landing interviews with all the dates included. This isn’t a “true” experiment because designing something worthy of publishing would require a different research methodology, but I still found it interesting. (Perhaps an academic psychologist would like to conduct a more rigorous study!)

    • Interesting study! With job search, you never know how someone will react to any individual thing. Clearly, any of the recruiters who replied to my survey would have been suspicious of a resume without dates, but to each his or her own! Thanks for your comment!

  • M752427

    Dear Readers:
    I am a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). If I find a resume without dates during a ‘compliance audit’, that person will be getting a visit and a possible full blown investigation. Leaving off dates of employment or dates of degrees will get you to the top of an investigation list – a list you ‘don’t’ want to be on!

    Imagine for one moment: There is a criminal investigation regarding the violation of a government contract. The government contract requires specific experience and education of personnel with regards to obtaining the government contract. The resumes dates are discovered not to MATCH the employment application or the ‘real’ date experience of the individual as required under the government contract {Sidebar: A-133 Audit}. Those individuals get to the top of the list for the investigation, which holds that they allegedly could become personally liable as well as their firm. Therefore, if the A-133 gets turned over to the US Department of Justice, what excuse does one use at a Grand Jury to explain why one left off the dates of the individuals education and experience? {Sidebar: Federal Prosecutors really do like the ones who ‘lie’ on their resumes for the Grand Jury by ‘forgetting significant dates’.} What does a person tell their criminal defense attorney, when he/she asks why the dates were left off: “Oh, my career counselor told me to do that!”

    To quote Miriam Salpeter: “If someone is telling you to leave dates off of your resume, only do so after carefully considering the possible ramifications.”

    Excellent advice!!

    Respectfully submitted.

    • I’m glad to have a bit of back-up for my post. Thanks for the comment.

  • Verny Prava

    Dates really are quite meaningless. Number of years work better. How long ago you did something is immaterial since the office software versions and work policies of the next company are no match for wherever you came from. Companies need to focus more on what candidates have done instead of wasting their time being nit-picky with the flow of dates. Since recruiters, HR and hiring managers will typically spend only 8-10 seconds scanning a resume – they really don’t have time to be racking up the date flow. They should, instead, be focusing on whether or not a candidate has the skills and experience to do what they need done in the position day to day. Dates don’t help at all in working day to day.

    • Verny – I disagree about dates being meaningless. How many years AGO you did something is actually pretty important for someone to know. You may have worked in a field for 5 years, but if it was 11 years ago, much has changed. Since time spent on the resume is short, it’s even more important to help the reader recognize when you did the work. Most recruiters I know believe it is crucial to know when the candidate did the jobs listed to determine if the skills are up to par.

      • Verny Prava

        Mariam – So in your view if one’s experience isn’t recent then it’s completely worthless? In this economy, for example, with so many millions out of work and many who are very experienced – there are recruiters who believe one, two and three years out of work pretty much means the person is completely unemployable. Do you seriously agree with those recruiters?

  • Brendarenee69

    You’re screwed either way. It’s who you know, not what you know. Where you’ve been and how long you were there is of no relevance. Thirty years in corporate marketing, where the principals rarely possessed the education or experience demanded of recruits. Top notch talent typically doesn’t stick around very long, because the job is so seldom what it is advertised to be. I have found the most dishonesty to be on the side of the employers.

    • It’s not who you know or what you know, but what you’ve done.

      The people who know ‘the right people’ know them because they are also the right people. They work with the right people.

      It’s more important that you do a good job and then the relationships will take care of themselves.

      • Anon ymous

        Really? How come you have been a member of the SGI for some 26 years and you are just a background actor? How come Orlando Bloom hasn’t been in the SGI for nearly that long and he is a big actor and gets a private audience with your sensei?
        Why don’t you write a letter to your sensei and ask him to hook you up with Mr Bloom? Maybe he could hire you as his private valet?

  • Zyggie

    Thank you Brendarenee69 for your comment. I have been looking for awhile. It is not what you know here in my home state, it is who you know. When you do get that chance to interview, some employers are so dishonest in their expectations that it is really sad and/or they already have a person they want in the position but to fulfill their companies policies, they interview. I have had a temp assignment recruiter offer me nothing but work outside passing out pamphlets part time at the lowest wage & I have worked in the corporate world and the U.S. Military environment. The experience and skill set is there. I think that because the job pool is so full of people who need work, temp agencies and HR persons are very demanding. Who needs a Masters or PHD to operate a phone system or file records. I’ve found a lot of the recruiters who were NOT college educated or have a lot of work experience so it does NOT matter what your resume looks like or dates, experience etc. it all depends on the hiring person. THAT IS THE SCARY PART.

  • Old and experienced

    Maybe, but I got NO interviews until I started leaving all of the dates off of my resume. After that, the interviews started coming fast. Coincidence?

    • You never know…you must have hit on people who didn’t mind the missing dates. Based on my research, there are an equal number of people who would be suspicious of the missing dates. Hope your interviews lead to great job offers!

    • 1 AlaskanAssassin

      But jobs? Or just interviews.

  • Over 50

    I was thinking about leaving the dates off my resume because it would show that I was over the age of 50 and it is illegal for potential employers to ask your age. I figured I would just list my last 15 years of experience with dates. Do you think this would be okay?

    • Over 50

      I forgot to include list dates with my experience but leave the date off my college information.

      • KH

        I just got advice to leave dates off my education from a well-known career outplacement and talent management company. This appears to be generic advice and it may be becoming a norm.

    • 1 AlaskanAssassin

      I’m only 34 and I’m considering doing the same thing: Dating the last 10 years, and leaving the date off education and jobs older than 10 years.
      The law about not being able to ask your age is such a joke, because no one enforces it. I mean, how could anyone possibly prove that age was specifically used to not hire someone? There are so so many other reasons that could easily be made up, to justify not hiring someone. Plus, they can put your approximate age together just from looking at you. It’s a joke.
      Therefore, I think only dating the last 10 years is the way to go.

  • zyggie

    Tried to leave off dates but, potential employers always ask for time span with dates up to what you are doing now. So, in the end, you will have to give the dates.

  • zyggie

    Interesting observation:

    I just quit a temp job which was suppose to be straight filing but when the 6 ladies showed up, we were set up (poorly) in a training class and the person who was suppose to be the supervisor of the 6 ladies was an older worker (60’s). We got more flack from her than we did from anyone else which in turn caused the trainers to act strange. I have never been in a training environment where it was frowned upon to ask questions. I terminated on the first day. It is NOT about your knowledge and teamwork attitude, it is about who you network with, who you know and your willingness to be treated as a sub-human being or like a child. I quit as well as another older worker. The job was quality control not filing with was a red flag for us as NOT being told the truth by hiring temp agency.
    I am praying that there is that job out there for all of us seasoned workers where we can work and be appreciated for what we do. Hopefully, we all will find that soon.
    I had been very disappointed in today’s work environments. The young people who hire you really do not know how to work with people.

  • Linda Plant

    Im 58 years old and was just told that my resume wasnt what they wanted because it had employment dates. I was told that it would let the company know how old I am. Its age discrimination but I was still told to re-do my resume with no employment dates. Ive had two jobs of long standing employment since graduating high school (one employer closed their doors after being employed there 20 years). Doesnt this prove to future employers that I dont hop from job to job, that im a steady employee? What am I supposed to do??

    • Linda – If you’re asked to remove dates, I would suggest you do it, but most recruiters and hiring managers hate receiving resumes without dates, as it looks suspicious. They will naturally assume you are older than you likely are! I would keep the dates on your resume for other opportunities and make sure that you highlight how you are keeping up with technology and using social media to help demonstrate you may be experienced, but you are not “over the hill.” Good luck!

    • 1 AlaskanAssassin

      You were not told that, you’re hearing what you want to hear. No company would say specifically that it was because you had dates on your resume /smh.

      • KO

        @1alaskanassassin:disqus you are rude and did not read @Linda Plant’s post. She said she was told, but not by whom. Not to mention the fact that she is correct. Age discrimination is strong in this country. Don’t be so nasty in the future or at least read what was written before climbing upon your high horse.

        • 1 AlaskanAssassin

          Of course I read it, there’s no way a hiring manager would risk lawsuit by directly saying, “the employment dates on your resume will let the company know how old you are, and that’s why we’re not hiring you,” which is what she said, that they said. The manager probably made some comment, and that’s what she turned it into in her head, reiterating it on here.

          Worry less about hurt feelings, and more about bad information from the exaggerations of women.

          • Just Saying

            I know this is a late reply but I cannot stand your stubbornness. If you were not there then you do not know what she was told! My mother was actually told the same thing by 2 different people one being a manager of a company she applied to as a “suggestion”. So stop being “I’m right and everyone else is wrong” because you do not know everything.

        • Jimmy Coltrane

          Nothing he said was rude so why have you got your knickers in a twist? That there is age discrimination is irrelevant to what he said- he was discrediting that a company would be explicit about it, not that it exists. Perhaps read what was written as per your own advice? And age discrimination is world wide.

    • Jimmy Coltrane

      It does prove that but so what? Being a steady employee is not the sole criterion that employers use to employ. They also take into account age, obviously, that is the point. You’re supposed to leave off the dates as per the advice.

    • Jermaine P Race

      Who told you that? I’m sure it wasn’t someone at the company you were applying to. Was it a recruiter? If you don’t include dates, do you include the amount of time employeed at least?

  • Resumes don’t get people jobs; they get interviews. They’re marketing tools, submissions. I’ve had corporate jobs and I’ve worked as a professional actor (that’s what I do now), and it’s the same.

    The resume needs to say and describe your experience and skills. Dates are not experience or skills.

    Are you proficient at using Windows 95 or just Windows? The 95 doesn’t matter.

    And is your college education going to go sour after thirty years? No, of course not.

    The only time I’ve been asked for dates is after an initial interview has been requested or done. The HR folks need it for their system. But by that time they’ve already pretty much hired me.

    • zyggie

      I’ve gone on jobs with and without interviews and/or dates on my resume. It was all in who I had networked with. So, ultimately it is not what you know but who you know. I found that out first hand and on more than one job in public sector, private, government, entertainment etc. I’ve worked in all venues.

  • Frank Malloy

    So leaving graduation dates means you’re “hiding something” – that you are older. Putting the dates leaves NO DOUBT that you’re older.

    That’s better?