Are you showing employment dates all wrong?

The way you show your employment dates on your résumé can help or hinder your job search success.

The dates are actually important selection criteria for not only the recruiter and employer, but also for the computer applicant tracking software systems (ATS).

You’re scored on the dates

The ATS scores your résumé based on how many years experience you have and then ranks it according to how well you match that criteria.

If your résumé is lucky enough to pass through the ATS (most aren’t), the human reader wants to see your career progression so that they can determine if there are any work gaps or what they would consider undesirable “movement” from one job to another.

Whether you have date-related red flags in your résumé or not, you still should make sure that you have shown your employment dates properly to avoid any potential issues.

7 tricks to ensure your employment dates score well

#1:  Show a start and end date

You must show a start date and an end date for the ATS to score your résumé.  It’s giving you points based on how many months you worked at each position. The more months of experience you have, the more points you get which can help with the ranking of your résumé.

If you worked for a company in only one calendar year, do NOT show it like this:  2016 to 2016.  That will get you no points.

The proper way to show the dates is to include both the month and the year for the start and end dates (e.g. Jan 2016 to May 2016). That way, the system will understand that you have 5 months experience (as opposed to none) and will give you the appropriate amount of points.

#2:  Use a consistent format

Whether you show the dates as all numerals (e.g. 03/2015 to 08/2017) or a word-numeral combo (e.g. Mar 2015 to Aug 2017), make sure that you stick with the same format throughout the document as not to confuse the ATS.

If you are inconsistent in any way, it looks sloppy and you will be judged as not as “detail-oriented” as you claim to be.

#3:  Be really clear

I prefer writing out the dates in long form (e.g. March 2012 to December 2017).  I find it easier to read rather than trying to figure out what the months are and then compute the date ranges.

Recruiters and hiring managers generally don’t like it when the dates are shown as only years. For example 2012 to 2017 could be over 4 years (Dec 2012 to Jan 2017) OR almost 6 years (Jan 2012 to Dec 2017) depending on what the months are.

If you have a strong, seamless work history, I recommend showing both the months and years to be as clear and transparent as possible.

#4:  Be accurate

Ensure that all of the employment dates you show are as accurate as possible. That also means not ever fudging employment dates.

I know it’s tempting to make your work trajectory read as seamless as possible by deleting a job or two and then altering dates, but these tricks can come to bite you in the ass sooner than later. Don’t do it.

When the employer conducts a background check, they will verify the dates you show on your documents and Linkedin with what you and your past employers have told them.  If there’s a discrepancy with dates or things don’t “add up”, you might not get the job.

#5:  Be consistent

All of your employment dates on your résumé should match the dates in your Linkedin profile and all other career marketing documents.

If employers and recruiters find inconsistencies with this important information they might decide to not move forward with your application.

#6:  Use reverse chronological order

Always list your jobs in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent position and working your way back.

If you have an extensive work history, you don’t necessarily have to show every single job. The general rule of thumb is the last 10 to 15 years but that will vary depending on the situation and strategy.

#7:  Minimize work gaps and movement

There are ways to handle the issue of work gaps and what would be considered too much movement from one position to the next.

It’s not about lying or fudging anything but more about how you show the dates that can minimize their negative impact.

For instance, it might be better for you to show your employment from November 2015 to January 2016 as just the years – 2015 to 2016.  The first example (month + year) is clearly only 2 months while showing just the years could be perceived as almost 2 years.

However, if you worked those two months in one calendar year such as from October 2015 to December 2015, you have to show the months with the years because showing only the years (2015 to 2015) will not score anything by the ATS.

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I draw from over 15 years recruitment, career/job search coaching, and sales/marketing experience to help all kinds of jobseekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired for their dream job.

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