Can I Leave a Job Off My Resume?

Woman in Job Interview
Copyright Eric Audras/Getty Images

I’m often asked about whether you have to include all the jobs you have had on your resume. You don’t, but you should be prepared to explain why it’s not on there if the employer discovers it.

Don’t presume that if it’s not on your resume, the employer won’t find out about it. You may need to include it on a job application or it may show up in a background check.

Which Jobs to Include on Your Resume

Keep in mind that a resume is a synopsis of your experience, and you don’t have to include everything that you ever did on it.

In fact, if you have a lot of work experience including just the last 10 – 15 years is recommended.

Resumes vs. Job Applications

There are few things that you are required to include on your resume. There are no employment laws which dictate that you must include all your work experiences whether short or long term. 

Don't confuse your resume with an employment application. If an application indicates that you should list all your recent work experiences, then you should probably include all your jobs, including short-term engagements. Otherwise, an employer might discover that you have withheld information when they conduct a background check.

Resumes allow you much more flexibility and should be considered as summaries of your most relevant experiences. However, you should be prepared to explain why you haven't included a short-term experience if the employer raises the question.

Leaving Short Term Jobs Off Your Resume

There are a number of issues to consider as you decide whether to include a short-term job on your resume.

  It will be easier to justify why you have left off very short term jobs of three months or less, particularly if they are not relevant to your current goals.

Leaving Long Term Jobs Off Your Resume

Longer term jobs present a trickier dilemma. If you have a gap on your resume, you will likely be asked during an interview to explain what you were doing during that time.

In that case, you might be better served by including the job on your resume.  

Leaving Old Jobs Off Your Resume

It is always easier to justify leaving off short term jobs which you occupied many years ago. If your more recent job history of the past five years or so contains consecutive, successful experiences, then employers will usually not be concerned about a gap.  

Focusing Your Resume

Using strategic techniques for structuring your resume can help you to de-emphasize short-term jobs and less relevant long-term jobs, and keep the employer's focus on more compelling experiences. 

For example, you might break your resume up into two categories:

  • Related Experience
  • Other Experience

Then you can place unrelated work in the latter category. If short-term experiences are freelance or consulting oriented, then you might group them together under a heading like Consulting or Contract Employment.  

What to Say if You’re Asked About a Job You’ve Left Off

If asked, you can simply say that you didn't include the job because the position isn't relevant to your current career path. You might add that you took the position to generate some cash flow while you pursued a more appropriate job (like their vacancy).

If a short term job helps you to make your case for the position in question, then you probably will want to include it on your resume. However, if you were not successful in the job and don't wish to draw attention to it, then you might still leave the position off your resume.

When you include a short term job, be sure to include a note about why you might have occupied the job for only a short time if there is a solid justification. You don't want the employer to speculate why you left so soon. For example, you might say that you filled in for an employee on leave or were hired to staff a time limited project.  

Resume Articles and Advice