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What Employers Can Learn From The Length Of A Resume

A man standing in front of a job history timeline

The length of a resume can reveal important details about candidates that may help hiring managers in the decision-making process. Here’s what to look for when examining the length of a resume, including relevant work experience, time at each job, accomplishments, and involvement. Resume length plus employment verification can help hiring managers find the most qualified candidates.

Hiring managers have a challenging job; in the beginning stages of the hiring process, they have to make decisions based on just a few pieces of paper. Typically, hiring managers spend an average of six seconds looking at a resume to determine which candidates to move forward with. Most scan for information like current or previous job roles and responsibilities, skills, and experience and make quick yes or no decisions based on that. But how far back should a resume go? And how much job history on a resume is relevant?

In most cases, hiring experts recommend that resumes list 10 to 15 years of work experience. This, of course, depends on how long candidates have actually been in the workforce. However, 10 to 15 years is a long stretch of time that can include several jobs—many of which might not be relevant to the position a candidate is applying for. So, what can hiring managers do during this phase of the hiring process that’s both efficient and strategic? You can pay close attention to the length of the resume.

How long a resume is can reveal details about candidates that may help hiring managers in the decision-making process. And while it may take a little more time to dig through that initial pile of resumes, it can help you select candidates that will ultimately be a good fit for the job and the company. That, coupled with a GoodHire Employment Verification, can help streamline the entire hiring process to find the most qualified candidates and ease some of the challenges hiring managers face.

Relevant Work Experience

Whether a resume goes back one year or one decade, as a hiring manager or recruiter, you’re looking for the most relevant work history and experience. You’re looking for specific roles, responsibilities, and skills that are directly applicable to the position they’re hiring for. But the length of a candidate’s job history often isn’t enough to decide who to move forward with.

For example, if a candidate is vying for an entry-level position or their first job post-graduation, you may not expect a lot of relevant work experience. But if the candidate still has previous jobs listed, it can give additional insight into other desirable qualities, like having a strong work ethic, responsibility, and longevity.

On the other hand, a candidate may have the recommended 10 to 15 years of job experience on their resume, none of which is relevant to the job they’re applying for. In other words, a lengthy job history on a resume doesn’t always equate to relevant job history—something you should be mindful of when assessing resumes.

So, how many years of job history should be on a resume? To gain the most from candidates’ work experience, don’t make snap decisions solely based on the length of their job history; look for specific keywords and responsibilities listed on their resume that are directly compatible and relevant to the position and company.

Career Growth

Another insightful detail a candidate’s job history can reveal is the trajectory and growth of their entire career. You can ask yourself questions like:

  • Have their positions changed over time? 
  • Have they taken on more (or different) responsibilities in each role? 
  • Have they grown into more leadership roles?

These are all relevant considerations hiring managers should think about when reviewing resumes and hiring for different positions. That’s because it can help narrow the candidate pool to the most qualified candidates.

For example, if you’re hiring for a managerial or leadership role but see that the candidate has remained stagnant in their job positions over the years, it may not be the best fit. But if a candidate’s resume shows they have been promoted within the same company or have changed jobs over time, this may indicate they have taken on roles to take on more responsibilities and advance their professional growth. As a result, they may have more desirable qualities that make them a better fit for the position.

Time Spent At Each Job

The length of a candidate’s resume and job history can also reveal a lot about the time spent in each of their roles. The longer the job history, the more experience a candidate likely has. However, it’s important to note how long they spent in each position, which can mean different things.

For example, if a candidate has a long job history but spent little time in each role, it may indicate that person is a job-hopper. Depending on the position you’re hiring for, someone with short stints in their previous jobs may not be a good fit for a position that requires a longer-term commitment. But if you’re looking to hire someone with a lot of motivation who desires opportunities for growth, a so-called job-hopper may be a great fit for the role. 

On the other hand, if a candidate’s job history doesn’t look that extensive, it may be because they’ve spent several years with the same company or companies. This can showcase loyalty, commitment, and longevity in a candidate, which may be the better fit for certain positions.

A thorough job history review can also highlight any gaps in employment a candidate has that may impact their qualifications for the job. However, unless those gaps are directly addressed by the candidate (in their resume or cover letter), it’s difficult for hiring managers to understand the full context as to why those gaps exist. If a candidate still has relevant work experience and strong skills, it may be worth moving forward and asking them to address the employment gaps.

Accomplishments & Involvement

In addition to relevant job experience, a candidate’s resume can also highlight other desirable characteristics a hiring manager or recruiter may be looking for. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Do they list any awards, accomplishments, or recognition they received throughout their career? 
  • Do they list any involvement with company or community groups, boards, or task forces?
  • Do they showcase any volunteer work?

While these details may not be directly relevant to the role you’re hiring for, they can shed light on the type of employee (or person) they are. For example, it can reveal how they choose to align themselves with their company’s core values and their involvement in company culture. Outside of work experience, it can also demonstrate participation in professional organizations, the local community, and any leadership roles they take on in addition to their primary job. 

Additions like these can make all the difference when you’re looking for high-quality candidates and could make up for the lack of a lengthy job history or strengthen a candidate’s work history that much more.

Go The Extra Length With Employment Verifications From GoodHire

No matter the position you’re hiring for, employers can learn a lot based on the length of candidates’ resumes and job histories. While a one- or two-page resume can never paint the full picture of a candidate, it can help streamline the initial selection of who to move forward with. However, paying a little extra attention to additional details like relevant experience, career growth, time spent at each job, and accomplishments can help ensure you choose the most qualified candidates.

Another way to accurately review job histories? Employment history verification with GoodHire. No matter how many years of job history and experience a candidate may have, Employment Verifications: 

  • Confirm candidates’ work histories
  • Act as an extra step in confirming previous job titles and roles
  • Help mitigate the risk of hiring someone with false credentials
  • Streamline the entire hiring process

With Employment Verifications, you can feel confident that the information on resumes and applications is accurate. That’s because everything is verified by contacting previous employers directly. Each Employment Verification confirms details for one position, including job title, job start date, and job end date. GoodHire can also verify any jobs candidates may have held outside the US.

Ready to make better-informed decisions about potential employees? GoodHire offers Employment Verifications and hundreds of employment screening services.

Conduct Employment Verifications With GoodHire

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The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

About the Author

Ashley Blonquist is a former news journalist. She writes about GoodHire’s employment screening services and how employers use them to make informed hiring decisions.