4

I'm about to begin working on my old résumé which has been gathering dust for some years. With a fresh look at the things I find myself willing to get rid of some of the old items I believe to be no longer of any value. I'd like however a second opinion on that. I'm planning to be looking for a position in Europe soon, so I'm primarily interested in the opinion of the people doing hiring for European companies.

The question I have concerns my first three jobs after graduating from a university in Moscow, Russia over a decade ago. Those were relatively short and really inconsequential. I'm going to briefly describe them so that you know why I feel the way I feel about them.

Job #1. Got hired by a small shop doing various web-related projects, mostly for the gambling industry, which has now been outlawed in most of the civilized jurisdictions, but was not at the time these events were unfolding. I spent some 4-6 months with them. During that period the company managed to change their location three times moving around the city, so that when I joined them it was the office #1 and when I was there for the last time it was already the office #4. From what I remember from those years, virtually all of the software shops were hiding their whereabouts from the authorities and also hiring strictly off-record, so as not to attract the wrong kind of attention and not to invite some thugs extorting protection money from them. So I was getting a small salary in cash, just only covering my commuting expenses. I did write some code and even built a small tool for them which they used in production, but on the balance I haven't accomplished anything there, haven't learned much (just some socket programming) and always considered this period to be a waste of my time. Also no official record of me being with them can be provided.

Job #2. Got hired by a local branch of an American company which apparently outsourced its development work to a cheaper location. Was mislead by a hiring guy just about everything. Spent 2 months there getting increasingly frustrated with the reality not matching the promises. It ended with two senior guys having a feast fight over a disagreement about their attitude to doing work. Decided to leave before I would find myself on the receiving side of the blows. Got paid but from what I understand again off-record, with no taxes paid on my behalf. Very much doubt anyone would confirm me being there. Learned nothing there, accomplished nothing, but worked with the Fourier analysis, which did impress an interviewer later (on exactly one occasion).

Job #3. Was definitely better. I got hired to lead a project development. Don't laugh just yet, Moscow companies have always loved exploiting students any way they could, to save on paying experienced pros. Worked for several months off-record then they pushed through paperwork and I got my first official experience recorded, for a duration of about 6 months. This latter part can be confirmed through official records. I did build something but not completely (was overwhelmed with the amount of work which should have been done by a large team) and finally got burnt out and left.

Now come the questions. Should I even mention the first two jobs in my CV, given they are not verifiable and the first one would now seem almost illegal? And what with the third one? Should I mention the entire period of being with them or just the second, official part? I've already submitted this official experience to the authorities on several occasions so I'd like for the things to match.

To understand why this bothers me now, you need to take into account my current position. After those brief jobs I had some respectable items in my CV. I studied and worked abroad and have currently grown to become the founder of a startup of mine (launching soon). When I look back at those first jobs, they now seem like a joke not worth the ink on the paper. I'd like my new résumé to be all respectable and official, so that any employment can be verified and confirmed. I can achieve that if I drop my first two jobs and leave only the second half of the third one. Except for one instance, I do not recall these temporary jobs ever being a point of a serious discussion, so I might just as well drop them, nothing will be lost.

On the other hand, I'm going to mention my personal projects too and most of them are no longer publicly available (was a long time ago), so I can't give a proof for them either. But at least I won't be making a claim in relation to a third party which may or may not confirm my association with them and could potentially make me look a liar, which I wish to avoid.

So what do you think? As a hiring manager would you be troubled if you saw a period of about one year after my graduation during which I was apparently doing nothing? I was thinking of mentioning studying some programming technologies and improving on my English skills, both of which I actually did, just not the entire time. Would it be a reasonable explanation for that missing time?

Thanks for reading this through.

  • 1
    If these jobs are not relevant and the rest of your employment history is stable a few months a decade ago won't be missed – Donald May 2 '15 at 1:32
10

In my experience on both sides of the interviewing process, employers generally want to go into detail on the most recent roles, and certainly only those that are directly related to the work you are interviewing for. The discussion rarely goes back more than 4-5 years.

However, because employers look for unexplained gaps in employment history I merely "roll up" older or less relevant roles to a one-line entry on my resume under the heading "Prior roles", and include only the dates, the name of the company and the position I held. This shows continuous employment and the nature of my career without getting bogged down in irrelevant detail.

When I get into an interview as the candidate and I am asked to summarise or walk through my resume, I always answer something like "Rather than walk through my entire career, I would like to focus only on the relevant recent roles and experience in order to make the best use of our time, however I am perfectly happy to go through the older jobs if you wish to. Is that approach ok with you?" - No-one has ever said "No I would love to hear about your first jobs in some irrelevant industry"!

I feel this approach displays a professional and realistic attitude to the interview process and some empathy for the interviewers who really don't want to spend any more time than they have to hearing about someone else's experiences over and above what they need to make a decision on the current role.

  • Thanks for you view. I realize the old entries will likely interest nobody anymore that's why I'm considering getting rid of them and making my CV look cleaner. I was just interested to know if it would be okay in general not to be complete in one's CV. – guest May 1 '15 at 18:46
2

In my opinion the worst thing to have in an CV are holes. It doesn't matter if you regret some things in your life; they still happened. If you learned from them or drew experience from it, don't be ashamed of it.

The description of job 1 sounds hilarious to an outsider, so if the employer asked me personally about such a job, I would use it to lighten the mood :-D. Don't take it too seriously, laugh it off. Nobody will blame you for the sins of your youth ;-)

However, an CV is not an autobiography. You don't have to go in great detail about everything. Keep the stuff which isn't important for your current application short.

  • Thank you for your support. I think I'll simply drop the first two items and if anybody asks I'll tell them I had a couple of short assignments that I feel are not worth mentioning any more ten years later. That is actually a reasonable approach too in order to keep my CV clean and focused on what actually matters. – guest May 1 '15 at 18:50
1

In general, you should always go back at least 10 years (if you have that much experience) and never leave any gaps. Gaps in the last 10 years are a huge red flag for me. Also, if I even suspect a gap is being covered up I will personally call up the company (or school) to make sure the person was there the whole time. Blatant exaggerations are a non-starter for me; I will just assume they are a liar and I don't hire liars, no matter how good they are at programming.

If I can't verify something, like it is a foreign company, I will assume the worst. In general, anything from a country other than Canada, western Europe, Hong Kong or Australia/New Zealand I will regard with suspicion.

If the person has been working for 15 years and the resume goes back 10, I will want a general sense for what they were doing in the 5 years missing. In the army? In prison? Dealing drugs? Living in the parent's basement playing Counter Strike? What was the guy doing for 5 years?

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.