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I have been working in the same type of job for over 35 years. In putting my resume together I no longer remember the exact start and stop dates for jobs from several years ago. How do I get these dates accurate without having to call all of my prior employers?

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    usually firms only care about the last 10 years. that should be correct. Before that noone cares or verifies. Infact i have compressed 10 years on my resume to a single line . e.g Apr 1990- Apr 2000 - Various Clients. Software Developer/Analyst. Worked as a software developer at various financial clients. – Learner_101 Feb 8 '16 at 2:08
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    And remember -- if you can't find out the exact detailed dates, then they can't find out either. – A. I. Breveleri Aug 17 '18 at 12:17
  • @A.I.Breveleri Not necessarily true (you may not be able to afford a background check, but the company could). – JAB Aug 17 '18 at 22:55
35

You don't. Unless you're applying for a job with some sort of extremely high security clearance - no interviewer, hiring manager, or HR person is going to care.

In my (considerably) shorter CV, I say:

  • June 2012 - January 2014 - Head of Widgets at Foo Corp
  • August 2010 - May 2012 - Widget Builder at Bar Corp
  • 2008 - 2010 - Widget tester at Blah Corp

Remember, the person hiring you is looking for evidence of your skills, what you're like to work with, how you approach problem solving.

If you have a form that specifically asks for the exact date - I think it's perfectly acceptable to put the first of the month if you don't know.

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    Exactly. The further back in time, the less accuracy is required. – Olin Lathrop Jun 22 '14 at 13:01
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    How much you want to bet that not even your previous employer will know? Just ask your old managers... this is information that you can't even obtain even if you tried, and the cost far outweighs benefits (most of the time there are zero benefits). – Nelson Jun 17 '16 at 1:59
  • my old Boss for whom i worked in a Restaurant thought I was the handyman. I was the cook/waiter :D – Raoul Mensink Jun 30 '16 at 14:25
  • Indeed. And to be honest, the few I totally forgot... I estimate. – Andrew Whatever Jul 1 '16 at 16:31
  • This. It's a matter of "accurate enough" - and for ancient history, you don't need that level of accuracy. They just need the gist of it. – PoloHoleSet Aug 17 '18 at 18:14
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Ideally, you'd locate an old copy of your resume which would have the information on it. Did you ever post a resume online? Perhaps you could search for it.

Failing that, what other records do you have from that time? Do you have any copies of old tax filings? Photos from a farewell party your co-workers might have thrown for you? Go through your old filing cabinets and see what you can find that would help you pin things down.

Are any of your job start or end dates anchored about other life events, like moving, buying a house, or the birth of a child, that you could use to reconstruct dates?

If you really can't find accurate dates, I think it's fine to put "approximately" next to the dates in your resume for those jobs whose dates you cannot pin to a specific month and year.

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    As a hiring manager and as someone who uses approximate dates for positions held in the far path, I agree that "approximately" works just fine. More than a few years back, or when the jobs are held for more than a few years themselves, I don't particularly care what month or day they started or stopped. I care about gaps, sure, but at some point the particulars just stop mattering. – jcmeloni Jun 21 '14 at 12:30
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This isn't quite what you're asking, I know, but I would recommend not putting all 35 years of your experience on your resume. The last 10-15 years, absolutely. The problem with putting 35 years or even 20 on it is that you're basically opening yourself up to be denied jobs based on your age. It's technically illegal but all a prospective employer has to do is look at the years on your resume, do the math, and figure out that you are at the least in your mid-50s (assuming you didn't enter into the industry when you were 7 or something). From there they can drop your resume into the circular file if they're so inclined and you'll never know the difference.

This article on CareerBuilder.com backs up what I wrote and also provides possible exceptions (for instance, if the job you're applying for is specifically looking for people with decades of experience):

http://www.careerbuilder.com/article/cb-2169-resumes-cover-letters-your-work-history-how-far-back-should-you-go-on-a-r%C3%A9sum%C3%A9/

This article from CBS News uses the same rule of thumb (~10 years):

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-far-back-should-your-resume-go/

  • Strongly agree. I saw this first hand after I turned 40 when suddenly the resume that got me frequently interviews stopped working so well. Cut those old jobs off and interest went right back up. – HLGEM Jun 23 '14 at 15:26
  • You make a valid point, but I am afraid removing older jobs helps very little, because the year of graduation still gives enough clue as to the candidate's age, in most cases. That said though, I am not sure there is any better solution. Sadly enough, even if you do get an interview, your face still reveals your age, so they could still reject you despite being fully qualified. – Masked Man Aug 26 '15 at 5:50
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    What about the date of birth? In Switzerland, we need to add that to the resume. No hiding. – Ralph Rickenbach Jun 30 '16 at 7:30
  • @malach: I just wanted to post the same thing. This answer is quite US-centric, in many places (Switzerland, for example) your date of birth is a standard thing that goes onto your CV. – fgysin Jun 30 '16 at 7:35
  • @MaskedMan While it is true that an employer absolutely determined to discriminate against older candidates can do so after an interview, most aren't that determined. And the deeper one gets in the process, the harder it is to get away with. On my resume, I don't include the graduation year of my bachelor's degree. This hasn't hurt me yet. (Canada) – Resigned Jun 30 '16 at 17:26
4

This is kind of screwy, but you could always run a background check on yourself. (This is assuming that you're in the US.)

But here's some other information, from friends who work in HR: companies don't care too much if dates are within two or three months of being accurate, and really far back they won't care much if the dates are a little outside that range. You can give the explanation that you don't have an exact month, but you can give the exact year, and season (winter vs. summer) which will nicely fall within six months of being accurate, at worst. Most (95%+) employers are going to be good with that.

2

From what I saw, companies rarely care about jobs that you had more than 10 - 15 years ago.

I wouldn't even bother putting those jobs there, you probably could make better use of the limited space of a CV to put more relevant stuff in there. I don't know in what industry you work in, so I don't know exactly what "more relevant stuff" could mean in your case.


If you do decide to put that information in there, maybe you could find it in:

  • your old contracts you had with those companies. I doubt someone keeps them for so long, but maybe you can still find them in a dusty box in the garage
  • some emails you exchanged with your employer during that time and you still have the account or you copied them to a newer account

If you really can't find this information, then don't worry too much about it. Just put down only the years, if you remember them. Like "1979 - 1983" or something similar. Trust me, given the length of time since then, it won't really matter (a lot of your coworkers and bosses are already probably dead).

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To echo some of the other answers, the further back you go, the less someone cares. It may be perfectly acceptable to estimate to the best of your knowledge, but this could depend on the individual company and may not be acceptable to all.

True story from my own experience... I applied to a company I had interned with 13 years prior (a Fortune 500 company with very strict hiring processes), and I actually had the wrong dates for the internship on my resume. I had the months correct, but I was off by an entire year. I repeated that error in my background check as well. And no one even questioned it or asked, and I was hired without issue.

In fact, I didn't even realize the mistake until I applied for an internal position 2 years later when the internal application pre-populates your internal positions.

So you should try to be as accurate as you can, but when you get past the last 10 years, it becomes less important to be 100% correct. They hiring manager is more concerned with your experience.

0

In my country, Canada, we have these forms that get sent to the Employment Office called Records of Employment. These are affiliated with my SIN number and every time I leave or stop a job, a record of employment is sent in triplicate with one copy to me, one my employer has to keep for 7 years and another that the government Employment Office gets. Does your country have a similar setup? If so, there might be a solution of asking your Employment Office to repeat back you the start and stop dates (these are always listed on the form).

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