Helpful and functional date formatting in a resume
March 10, 2010 10:35 PM   Subscribe

On a resume, is there a preference for stating explicit dates (up to the month) as opposed to seasons? What about mixing them?

I am a student and don't have enough experience to divide time by years. Most of the positions on my resume center around the academic calendar, so I have designated dates by season. However, there is some variation -- for example, "Spring" has referred to a position held from February-May, one held from March-May, or an experience that took place over five weeks in the spring.

In restructuring and updating my resume, many of the relevant experiences are only a month or two long. Is it misleading or poor form to keep the "Spring, 2007," "Summer 2009" format? Is it better to switch to months for all the entries, even when it leads to awkward things like, "February-May 2007," "June-August, 2008 & 2009," which may make the format less user-friendly? Which is best for a hiring coordinator's purpose? What about mixing them, as long as I stay consistent within categories?

Assume that showing chronology and development of an interest/skill set is important.

Example (imagine that there are a few entries in each category):

Work Experience:
Employee, X University Work Study, Fall 2007-Spring 2009 (alternative: "September 2007-May 2009")

Research Experience:
Research Assistant, Y Research Project, March 2008 (alternative: "Spring 2008")
posted by ramenopres to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would use only seasons. Months is too granular, and mixing them seems weird.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:08 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

don't mix them. keep your resumé consistent. Either one is fine. Figure out which one makes you more comfortable, and stick with that. For a recent college grad (or current college student), seasons would make more sense. As you get further out into the world, months might be more appropriate.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:48 PM on March 10, 2010

I like your seasons method. You could always add the total number of months as well.
posted by evil_esto at 12:12 AM on March 11, 2010

Use months if you're applying for governess or academic jobs. A lot of them have required amounts of prior work experience of various kinds and if the reviewer can't actually tell how long you worked at a job, well....
posted by fshgrl at 12:13 AM on March 11, 2010

My particular HR opinion: I always want to see complete dates on every work history submitted to me via application (month/day/year) or resume (month/year).

I'm going to have to call past employers and confirm those dates and the information needs to match up. Listing just a year (as many applicants do) or a season would be too vague for me. I am also more impressed by an applicant who obviously has their job history documented and was prepared to provide the information required.

All of that being said, I'm sure that many other hiring professionals would be fine with Spring - Summer. I can only speak for myself.

(Also, fwiw, don't worry too much about the heft of your resume at this point in your life. I'm sure it's fine for your relative age / experience. Resist the urge to "pad" to fill up the page. Filler always looks like filler.)
posted by GuffProof at 5:23 AM on March 11, 2010

I've seen plenty of resumes with exact dates, months, seasons and even years (this is a luxury mostly afforded to people with long stable work histories). As long as the units are consistent, I think you'll be pretty much okay.
posted by box at 5:27 AM on March 11, 2010


I mix them on my resume. I did when I was a student looking for a full-time position. No one has ever commented on it. I don't think anyone cares. If that's enough to dismiss me as a job candidate, it strikes me as a bit pedantic and perhaps a signal that I wouldn't be a great fit for that company's culture.

For example:

(in my work experience section)
Giant Computer Hardware Company
Intern, Widgets Division
May 2005 - August 2005
- Relevant experience statement 1
- Relevant experience statement 2
- Relevant experience statement 3

(in my leadership section)
Software Nerds Club
Vice President, Games Team Lead, Pledge Master
Spring 2004 - Fall 2007
- Relevant leadership statement 1
- Relevant leadership statement 2
- Relevant leadership statement 3

It's not a big deal if it makes sense in one or two instances. That said, I would try to avoid mixing it up all over the place.
posted by xiaolongbao at 5:46 AM on March 11, 2010

I read lots of resumes.

In my reading, the only time it is to the advantage of a candidate to list months as well as years is when they had a job that spanned only two calendar years but has a tenure of 12 or more months.

As an illustration, when I see "2007 - 2008" that could either be a job held for four months (Nov. 2007 - Feb. 2008) or it could be for five times that length (Feb. 2007 to Nov. 2008). The former means no experience value-add plus the risk that the person interviews far better than they perform (big risk), whereas the latter is a decent tenure for a younger applicant especially with the intervention of a recession and market melt-down.
posted by MattD at 5:59 AM on March 11, 2010

I have a resume with a lot of summer internships on it, and other work that has fit around a semester schedule. I always go with seasons, since most of those jobs have been in 3 or 6 month chunks. I wouldn't mix them.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:58 AM on March 11, 2010

When we get a CV for credentialing a new physician or other professional (I am on the credentials committee at my hospital) we require that it list months and years so that we can look for unexplained gaps in the person's work/education history. This is probably at the strict end of things, but it is a data point.
posted by TedW at 8:29 AM on March 11, 2010

Unless you are applying to academic-related jobs, I would use months. People out in the "real world" work on months and years.
posted by Doohickie at 10:30 AM on March 11, 2010

Resist the urge to "pad" to fill up the page.
Not a problem -- I have more than enough to fill the page(s). That's one reason that I would prefer seasons to months, in terms of keeping text to a minimum and helping the resume show a clear story and progression. The other reason was that I thought it would be easier for an HR representative to scan a season-based progression; however, it sounds like sorting through months isn't a hassle for those of you who read a lot of resumes.

In my reading, the only time it is to the advantage of a candidate to list months as well as years is when they had a job that spanned only two calendar years but has a tenure of 12 or more months. --MattD
No one has addressed the possible issue of representing month-long experiences with entire seasons, but this comment makes it sound like that may be a good choice, but... also not a good choice, since it could mean that I'm a candidate who interviews far better than they perform. ?
posted by ramenopres at 1:56 PM on March 11, 2010

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