[Job Search Filter]: How much experience is too much?
December 31, 2012 6:07 AM   Subscribe

When putting down professional experience on a resume, how much is too much?

I'm moving to Minneapolis, MN at the end of this month and I've been applying for jobs as an administrative and/or executive assistant, as I have experience in both.

The problem is that my professional experience stretches all the way back to 1999 when I got my first taste of "white collar" work and was an assistant to two sales reps whose names I can't remember (and Google isn't helping). Almost every job I've had since then (minus the associate editor one, because it's not really relevant to the admin assistant/executive assistant track...or is it?) has helped increase my skills in various areas like event planning, special projects, Microsoft Access (a little), travel planning, etc.

If I only started doing the executive assistant/administrative assistant thing since 2008, do I stop there when listing my professional experience? Or do I really go all the way back to 1999?

I don't want to scare someone into not hiring me because I could be beyond their pay scale range by having 13 years of experience as an assistant, but I also want to beat out all those other applicants who may only have five years of experience.
posted by TrishaLynn to Work & Money (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Ugh, and "by the end of this month" I mean the first week of February. *sigh*
posted by TrishaLynn at 6:08 AM on December 31, 2012

Advice I've often heard is to go back 10 years. On my own resume I usually list my four previous jobs; anything earlier gets dropped. You may also want to consider doing a functional resume instead of the standard chronological one. Good luck on your job search!
posted by lharmon at 6:13 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check the blog called Ask a Manager. There is a lot of great advice there; you can also e-mail the blogger directly for advice.

In general, most folks top out at two pages, unless they are in academia, medicine, or some other highly specialized field. And, it is usually--but not always--better to list experience in chronological order, focusing on accomplishments vs. the tasks you did every day.

Best of luck on your job search!
posted by FergieBelle at 6:18 AM on December 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

The rule of thumb is 10 years and to minimize unrelated jobs (that is, just a couple of lines to cover that you were employed and the basic details of what you did, so as not to raise any alarm bells over missing time). No more than two pages, and if you can get it to one, do so; if you absolutely can't get it to one page, cram as much of the important stuff onto the first page as you can, because there's a good chance that no one will bother turning to the second page.

Everything is relevant to being an exec/admin assistant. Event planning speaks to your organizational skills and ability to roll with the punches; special projects means you won't say "Oh, that's not in my job description"; Access can help you keep purchase orders straight. Hell, if you were a lion tamer, it means you're good at reading nonverbal signals.
posted by Etrigan at 6:40 AM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

I really don't think your resume should be longer than a page unless you're listing publications as in academia or some other special case. Your resume is not a complete employment history, it's a greatest hits collection. I would go into detail with maybe your four most recent positions and at the bottom of the first page or possibly on a second page just list basic information about earlier positions - title, organization, when you were there.
posted by kat518 at 8:11 AM on December 31, 2012

At the top, after your name and contact info but before your chronology, you put columns of your relevant skills (not attributes - only skills.) Do not omit skills unless you are SURE they are not relevant. Your editing skill is ABSOLUTELY relevant to an exec assistant job - you think they won't be excited that an editor is doing the correspondence? Maybe they fired the last assistant for being subliterate.

So: your skills list (put it in columns to save page length space) should include bullet points like: *Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access. *copy editing *event management. Put the most relevant ones in the top line.

Then, reverse order chronology, describing the responsibilities of the job (in order of "how much of it you were doing", most first.) Max out at two pages, but don't torture your fonts and formatting to get there, this is counterproductive.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:13 AM on December 31, 2012

Definitely ask Ask a Manager, and look over the previous questions.
posted by radioamy at 11:11 AM on December 31, 2012

Came in to suggest Ask a Manager, who is awesome about stuff like this. Check out this post, in particular: http://www.askamanager.org/2012/04/how-long-can-your-resume-be.html

Good luck!
posted by itsamermaid at 3:27 PM on December 31, 2012

I've read "Ask a Manager" before, but forgot the link. It really is a great resource!
posted by TrishaLynn at 6:17 PM on December 31, 2012

At the top, after your name and contact info but before your chronology, you put columns of your relevant skills (not attributes - only skills.)

Exactly what does that look like? Find any samples on the web you can link to?
posted by TrishaLynn at 6:19 PM on December 31, 2012

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