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What to put on your resume? Everything (almost)

Babysitter. Waitress. Retail clerk. Intern. Sales manager. Vice president. Chief financial officer.

You’ve lived a life by the time you hit the managerial or C-Suite level in your profession, and every job has taught you something along the way (whether you realize it or not). Some people say most of that work experience should be left off a resume that is ideally pruned to focus specifically on your desired position.

But I’m here as an experienced executive recruiter to argue otherwise.

Tell Your Story

Let prospective employers see the dimensions of your personality, the narrative of your career, and the strength of its diversity. If they only take an estimated six seconds to read your resume, then give them the bestselling story of your brand.

Prospective employers want to understand the cloth from which you’ve been cut, and the first five to 10 years of your career is often an interesting foundation that lays the groundwork for what comes next. A recruiter can help you hone your resume and link those experiences to your job application in creative ways.

For instance, consider the person who started their career at a law firm as an assistant. They learned early on how to be professional and work in a sophisticated environment. I’ve also seen any number of CMO, CFO, and Chief Digital Officer candidates who began their careers in creative and then 20 years later still have a passion for it and know their industry inside out.

Sometimes those random jobs of your past can become relevant later. Say you used to work for a big company that specialized in transportation and now you’re in a room interviewing for a job with a fleet trucking business? Or, you worked as a restaurant manager right out of college and now you’re aiming for a CFO position with a hospitality industry chain?

Make It Brief

Earlier experiences don’t have to be super-detailed and can fit on the bottom of your resume. Time off can be explained in one bulletpoint; employers would rather see an explanation than a six-month gap (especially if it’s interesting and entices someone to spend more time reviewing your resume). Did a previous employer run out of funding and close its doors? It’s not your fault. Explain it.

Of course, there are exceptions. You should leave out personal information such as your age, date of birth, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, political affiliation, and marital status. You also should leave out your social security and driver’s license numbers to prevent identity theft.

Your Recruiter as the Intermediary

If you have an arrest record or filed for bankruptcy, know that it will turn up on a background check. That kind of information is better left off your resume and instead addressed upfront with your recruiter, who will brief the hiring manager when she presents you as a candidate.

Be sure to tell your recruiter if you held a job for fewer than 60 days or if you took time off to raise children or care for an ailing parent.

In fact, it’s not a bad idea to prepare two resumes: A focused resume that positions you for desired employment. And another one that contains a comprehensive career history — warts and all — for your recruiter. (I don’t want to find out at the 11th hour that you had employment I wasn’t aware of.)

You don’t need to turn your back on work experience that at the time mattered to you and helped lead you to where you are today. By working with an experienced recruiter and sharing the story of your life’s work on a resume that is succinct, strategic and effective, you’ll land exactly where you are meant to be.