I know that something similar was already discussed here, but my situation is rather different. I've been told that, to keep a resume/CV down to a reasonable length, it's OK not to list my very earliest jobs, such as those I had in or soon after high school (and which aren't at all relevant to the position of GIS technician I'm seeking now).

Because it took so long for my career plans to crystallize, I still have rather little relevant experience, and much of my work history consists of "high-school-type" jobs. My question, then, is, how far back to describe my work history if the employer doesn't specify this? A staffing agency that asked for my resume massaged it to include only the stuff relevant to the position I'm seeking. That, however, makes it look as if I have very little work history indeed, although I've gotten a few interviews with that type of resume.

I've also tried listing the relevant experience, arranged chronologically, first, followed by a small section that lists (but doesn't describe) the irrelevant stuff, again arranged chronologically. This type of resume, however, has been no better or worse at getting me interviews.

How, then, should I structure my resume? Should I include only relevant experience? Or should I list other things, too, and, if so, how far back? I'm concerned that the experience I want to highlight will get lost among all the other clutter.


4 Answers 4


If this is your first or second job out of high school/college, having some non-relevant jobs is ok. It shows you can hold down a job, which at least tells us something about your work ethic. (Although if you had a bunch of short jobs, just don't. They aren't helping you).

Beyond that- scrap anything that isn't directly relevant. If this is the 3rd job in your career, they aren't going to care about your time working at the local grocery store in high school. Resume expectations differ between fields, but if its too long people just ignore everything after a certain length anyway (unless its ridiculously too long, in which case you probably won't get a call), so I'm not surprised if you aren't seeing a big difference between the two.


When you have a large work history, there is a simple little fix to make a resume/CV most useful: change the heading "Work History" to "Relevant Work History", then list only work history relevant to that specific job.

If the entity you are applying to explicitly require a full work history, then of course provide it, but it is perfectly acceptable in business cultures I'm aware of (US-centric, across multiple industries) to present yourself as the recruiter encouraged. Sensible employers don't care whether or not a prospective programmer or accountant use to deliver pizzas, so such a waste of space is the first thing to go when you have other things to list and talk about.

As far as how far back to go, for a resume/CV outside academic contexts this is usually 1-2 pages worth. Try to fit it on 1 page, but if important relevant information won't fit then go to a second page. 5 years is common, more than 10 would be odd unless it's super relevant to the job.


Your goal is to use your resume and cover letter to demonstrate that you are the best and most qualified person for the job. Keep everything focused and relevant, as the staffing agency has recommended. As your career advances it will be okay to add more information, but for now keep the resume and cover letter to one page each.

Start your resume by listing specific areas of GIS where you have knowledge, experience, or training - focus especially on key words that are included in job announcements and job descriptions. Then follow up on this by listing where you attained this knowledge and experience. I'll include a rough outline below for an example.

After writing the resume, do research on the company advertising the position and use this information in your cover letter. For example, find out if the company does GIS in general or if they focus on GIS in a specific industry. If it's generalized, then you can demonstrate your ability to work in a variety of situations. If they focus on a specific industry, you can talk about how you are able to use GIS to address the unique needs of this industry (giving examples).

Hope this helps :)

header (name, contact information)

skills and abilities

  • Design or prepare graphic representations of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data, using GIS hardware or software applications.
  • Analyze Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data to identify spatial relationships or display results of analyses, using maps, graphs, or tabular data.
  • Maintain or modify existing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) databases.
  • Enter data into Geographic Information Systems (GIS) databases, using techniques such as coordinate geometry, keyboard entry of tabular data, manual digitizing of maps, scanning or automatic conversion to vectors, or conversion of other sources of digital data.
  • Review existing or incoming data for currency, accuracy, usefulness, quality, or completeness of documentation.

experience - start date, end date, company, position description

education - start date, end date, school, degree or certification achieved


If you have a bit more employment history, then there is the obvious question: Does anyone care what you did 20 or 30 years ago? I go ten or twelve years back, anything before that is just a keyword.

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