I’m looking at a job application and says “it is important to list all relevant work experiences.” This seems very subjective to me. Would I be able to determine what is relevant or not? What would be a strategy to determine if something is relevant or not? Would making a pro and cons list of why a job would be relevant to the job I’m applying for count?
You're overthinking it. This is an invitation for you to list all jobs/experience/whatever that would convince me to hire you.
"Relevant" doesn't even mean "jobs". I see student resumes all the time which skip unpaid experience (First Robotics, the Sun Seeker) that would convince me they're interesting.
what is relevant? - anything that you can use to showcase your skills.
In the case of having a very short history of employment, then list every job. You are demonstrating that you have a job history. Of course highlight the skills you lerned and the tasks you completed that apply to the position or company.
In the case of a longer employment history, since they are allowing you to list a subset of your previous jobs, only list the jobs that you think will help you get hired. If a past job included a significant skill that is listed on the job description for the new job, then include it and mention it.
If the new job needs a person with x years in technology X, then list all the jobs where you used that technology, and then work it into the list of accomplishments.
The key is to relate the experience to the current job on your resume.
The book "What color is your parachute" goes into this in detail.
But one of my jobs was in fast food, how is that relevant to my position as a software developer?
- Good relations with the public
- Handling angry customers. (end users can be brutal)
- Handling stressful situations (You thinks someone's upset over a big mac, wait until you see a manager with a deadline closing in)
and so on. There is no such thing as "irrelevant" work experience, just tie it in to what you want to do.
Would I be able to pick and choose what is relevant or not?
Yes, you would determine whether or not your work experience is relevant. For instance, when I was applying for a software engineering internship in undergrad I included my work experience as a host and server in high school. I decided to include this experience, because I didn't have any other work experience and I highlighted my achievements in my year on the job (e.g. promotion from host to server, team work, customer-facing skills).
What would be a strategy to determine if something is relevant or not?
I recommend narrowing your work history down to directly related jobs unless your work history is very short. This process is to help the person reviewing your resume finding the most relevant skills for this particular job. Most people won't take the time to read through your entire resume.
"relevant work experience" referrs to anything that is part of the tasks to be performed on the job being posted.
It may also include work that the company posting the job performs or is widely being done in the industry which the job / company are part of.
Nonetheless, you should always list all your experience, skills and qualifications but note the "relevant" ones first / separately.