Should you put dates on your resume?

Creative career coaching to land your dream job

I have several clients who characterize themselves as “late stage” in their career, and I’m not too crazy about that description. There is something wilted and tired about it – and these clients are anything but. They are men and women who are working or want to work into and well beyond their 60s.

But some ask me, “Should I put dates on my resume?” The short answer is: yes.

But there is a caveat.

Let me explain with an example.  

I have a client who is 62; let’s call her Catherine. She was laid off from her most recent COO position because of a company buy-out and now wants to find a similar position. Catherine has never had to look for a job because throughout her career, she explains, promotions and new opportunities just presented themselves. She updated her resume, but came to me because so far, she had not been successful in getting many interviews.

One of her questions was:

Should I put dates on my resume?

My first response was yes – you’re not fooling anyone by omitting them.

Ageism is alive and well in the work world but no employer has to explain why he/she is not interviewing you or why he might choose not to hire you. It’s up to the candidate or career coach to think creatively.

Catherine’s resume needed to be updated and then tailored to positions she was interested in. I rewrote her resume, highlighting her skills and related accomplishments so prospective employers would immediately see how Catherine could contribute to their organizations. Catherine got several interviews but still not the number of inquiries I expected.

I try not to do the same thing over and over expecting a different result (at least not consciously).

So I took another look at her resume and considered her question about excluding dates. For clients who have been in the professional world for a number years, I often add a section on their resume that summarizes: “Positions prior to 2002.”

This summary only includes the company name, the client’s title and when he/she worked there. Most employers only need to know what you’ve done in the last 10-15 years. In my view, additional detail could distract from what you’ve been doing recently; plus the additional information takes up space and your resume should remain two pages, max.

I decided to take off the dates in the summary section and remove the dates next to her various education degrees. Not to fool anyone – it wouldn’t.

My rationale was: let’s remove any possibility that the reader might focus on when my client did something rather than what she accomplished.

That was the only change I made and she has since received several more requests for interviews. In my view, a resume’s sole goal is to get your foot in the door – a resume alone will seldom get you a job. But the interview will. So, we got her “in the door”, and once that was accomplished, I knew she would be playing on an even field in terms of competing with other candidates.

Did she get more interest because we took the dates off her resume? No idea.

Read more: The eight most common resume mistakes

But why create a potential distraction. I was not lying by omitting some stretches of time; I was helping the reader focus on the more important aspects of her resume: her qualifications and accomplishments. If deleting dates helped with that, I plead guilty and would do it again if it helps a client get hired for a position they love.

If your resume is not working for you – if it’s not getting you interviews – something needs to change. Think creatively about what that might be. Your chances of getting hired jump dramatically if you get a face-to-face interview. Do whatever it takes to get your foot in the door.

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