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Those Difficult Dates
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Where should you place your dates? It all depends on how much importance you want to give them. If you have gaps in your employment history that you would rather explain in an interview, then the dates should be less obvious (Sample). You can even leave them off altogether and list totals instead (Sample), although your reader will automatically assume you have something to hide. You need to make the decision whether leaving the dates off will harm your chances of getting an interview more than putting the dates on your resume.

Another reason to de-emphasize dates is your age. If you would rather not give your age away, then make the reader work to figure it out. Tuck dates against the text with parentheses (Sample) or bury them somewhere else in the resume (Sample). You can selectively choose to leave dates off your education and show them only on your experience.

So, how far back should you go when listing your experience? The answer is simple. When your past experience stops being relevant to your job search, leave it off. The usual is 10 to 15 years in the past, unless there is something in your older experience that is critical to your qualifications. This will help to deflect interest from your age.

Accuracy and honesty are the most important considerations when it comes to dates. Don't lie! I had a client who chose to fudge on his dates and I didn't know about it. He was invited for an interview and then lost the job when previous employers were contacted and the dates didn't match. It wasn't worth it. Honesty is always the best policy.

There are many ways to make room for the dates. One is to establish a clear column of dates to the right of a resume, which keeps the text lines short and makes the dates easy to find. You should not use this clear column of dates on the right if you are creating a scannable resume since this style produces three newspaper-like columns.

Putting dates on the left gives them a great deal of importance. Since people read from left to right, information on the left of the page is read first and carries greater weight. Make sure you really want your dates to be that important before placing them in the left-hand column.

You may use months with years or years only. Some people feel more comfortable with a full accounting of their time and prefer the month/year method. However, making room for all those words becomes a problem if you choose to spell out the month, as in January 1989 to February 1993. Abbreviations or numbers for months make designing your resume a little easier:

Jan. 1989 Feb. 1993
Jan 1989 Feb 1993
1/89 2/93

Dot leaders (. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .) can help draw the eye to the dates on paragraph-style resumes where it is difficult to create a clear column for the dates (Sample). However, dot leaders should not be used in a scannable resume.

There is no single, preferred method for the positioning of dates on a resume. The key is to create a sense of balance by placing the dates in a position that is complimentary to the rest of your information, while keeping in mind how much importance you wish to give them and the scannability of your resume.

From Designing the Perfect Resume, by Pat Criscito.
Copyright 2000.  Reprinted by arrangement with Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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