can you leave dates of employment off your resume? — Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I recently heard the advice that job seekers should leave dates off their resumes’ employment history.

I was at a job seekers networking event, and an retiree looking for extra work shared it as advice she had received to shield her from age discrimination before the interview. A recent college grad enthusiastically agreed with this advice and said that once she took the dates off her resume, the calls started pouring in.

Is this good advice? Or does it look like people have something to hide when they do that?

It’s terrible advice.

Truly terrible.

Not including years of employment on your resume is like announcing “I’m trying to hide something about my work history.” It also says, “I am oblivious to basic professional conventions and why those dates would matter.”

I’ve actually received a few resumes like this recently — resumes that list employers and jobs but no dates whatsoever — and I’m stumped by them. I have no way to tell if the people submitting them worked at those jobs for three months or for six years. I can’t tell if their experience is recent or if the person hasn’t worked in their field since three decades ago.

And those things matter enormously. If you managed a team for three months 10 years ago, that’s really different than managing a team for the last six years. If you last did online outreach in the days of usenet newsgroups, that’s different than doing it in the last five years. And so forth.

Dates matter.

I’m absolutely sympathetic to concerns about age discrimination. But leaving dates off your resume makes you look defensive about age and like you’re trying to hide something, and it will cause a lot of employers to immediately send your application to the rejection pile.

And while you can always find someone willing to tell you that they tried Awful Gimmick X and got interviews from it, that doesn’t make it a good tactic.

(To be clear, it’s completely fine to leave your graduation date off your resume. It’s really common to do that once you’re past a certain age, and generally no one much cares exactly what year you graduated, unless you’re freshly out of school. But with work experience, length and recency really matters.)

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