New job -- how long before it MUST go on the resume?

I am, or was until recently, a fairly low-level white collar worker, about 50 years old with a liberal-arts bachelor’s. My skills got outdated, perhaps, and I’ve been unemployed for nearly a year now. I’m working on a post-bachelor’s accounting certificate but it will take me a long time yet to complete.

In desperation I recently took a minimum-wage job as a deli clerk at a supermarket. My goal is to bring in a little money, and be employed, while I continue to pursue the elusive sort of job I’m used to, which is general office work or customer service, in a cubicle, with a phone and a computer. And down the road when my education is completed I want to be an accountant.

The deli job is much, much harder and more unpleasant than I had imagined, and I may or may not last very long. The money is not a survival issue just yet, but I don’t want to get into the habit of walking away from jobs because they’re unpleasant. However, at the same time, I’m thinking there is surely easier minimum-wage work to be had (one that doesn’t washing dishes, cleaning ovens and deep-fat friers, scrubbing floors, working night shifts, and carrying heavy crates around all night). I’d also like to see my family now and again. I believe I was somewhat ill-informed, or misled, about the nature of the job; for one thing I never counted on my shifts consisting mostly of hours-long hard-labor cleanup after the deli has closed. It’s basically a really, really bad job, and at minimum wage it has little to recommend it – except practicing a good work ethic by showing up when asked, doing what I’m asked as well as I can do it.

I asked a very similar question not long ago about a white-collar job lasting 4 months. I was (correctly, IMO) advised that at 4 months, the job would certainly show up in a background check. So on the resume it remains, even though I fear it looks bad to have a job that short – something obviously went wrong, and it’s not an asset to the resume.

This deli job, even less so. If I keep it for some time, I have to figure out how to frame it in the context of my whole career so it looks like a positive. But my question now is the same as before: how much time before the job HAS to go on the resume? If I walk off my shift today, of course I won’t mention the job at all unless asked. If I stay a month, two months, three … at what point does this crappy job become a permanent feature of my Official Work History for all future job applications? The answer to that question will influence how long I want to do backbreaking labor before my back actually breaks.


On a resume you don’t HAVE to put anything you don’t want. It’s just a balance of risk between having a huge gap versus a short job.

I don’t know who told you that it will show up in a typical background check because it most likely won’t, at least from the way employers seem to conduct them. Usually they just call the employers you give them; if you omit one, they won’t even know about it. There is a way to get more complete job information (I think through the SSA?) but that’s very expensive.

That said, if you are asked to provide a complete job history, obviously you shouldn’t omit it. But for a resume? Do whatever you want.

You don’t have to do a chronological resume. You might want to research a skills based resume.

I agree. On a resume, you only put relevant information on it for the job you are applying for. If you are applying for a job as a software engineer, and within the last 5 years or so you worked at the Deli counter for several months or even a year, I wouldn’t list it. The resume is a summary of experience, skills and education that pertains to the job you are applying for. Putting anything else on there that isn’t related is a distraction to recruiters and hiring managers.

At the end of the day, the OP was employed and had bills to pay just like everyone else. Or the OP simply wanted to take a break to explore other kinds of work which is perfectly valid. Some people who spend years sitting at a desk might benefit from working for a while in place where they have a deal directly with the public. Working the Deli counter would certainly do that and can be explained that way if needed. During an interview I wouldn’t bring it up unless it pertains to the job being applied for. For example, if you always did software work and this is a job doing software or contract sales, you can explain how you took a job where you were forced to deal with the public 8 hours a day to help sharpen your skills interacting with all kinds of people, not just co-workers.

There are very few “easy” minimum wage jobs out there from what I have seen. I think maybe 20 or 30 years ago things might have been different, but small businesses can’t afford any slack and large business run very lean - almost like it’s a religion.

Clearly your resume is going to highlight your accounting certificate, since that is most likely to be of value to an employer.

Are you taking classes for your certificate? If so, put that in for the gap. School when increasing skills or changing careers is going to be a better message than either unemployment or a crap job. You can mention the job during the interview if it comes up, but of course don’t complain about it. You don’t have to say it was wonderful, but figure out something you learned, especially if it would be useful for the new job.

I don’t like to see resumes with a history of lots of short term jobs. One is okay - we all make mistakes. One like yours doesn’t even count, since it is clear you would never have any intention of staying there one minute longer than necessary. So I don’t think it would hurt for you to include it, but school is better for a resume.

You are not required to include every single work experience on a resume. If you did, it would be so long and irrelevant as to be of no value to prospective employers. Omitting things on a resume is acceptable. The flip side of this is to never leave any job experience that lasted beyond the probationary period (usually considered to be 90 days) off when completing an application, because those jobs are more to show up on a background check. You can be fired for falsifying (and omitting may be seen as falsifying) an application.

The good part is that you generally don’t have to complete an application until after you receive an offer, and background checks (because of the cost of conducting them) are seldom done until after a hire offer has been made. So you have the entire interview process to discuss what you were doing in terms of retraining yourself for a better job while still needing a modest income to tide you over. Put in that light, it will not hurt you, only help you. When I am looking to hire someone who has been unemployed for a while, I want to know what that individual did while they were between jobs. Someone who is retraining, working part-time or temporary jobs, etc., is likely a go-getter and has the type of mental resources that allow them to cope with change. And change in the modern workplace is a constant. I am reluctant to hire someone who has done nothing while unemployed. Why should I think they will show any initiative or enthusiasm for my job if I hire them?

As others are saying, you don’t have to put the deli job on your resume. You don’t have to put anything on your resume but if it leaves an obvious gap you might get asked about it. If you are asked just say you were working outside the industry for a while or something like that. You could tell them you wanted to work in a deli for a while to see what it was like. You might find that they’re interested in what you did there.

I’m sure it shows up on your permanent record along with those absences you had in high school when you were cutting class, right next to all of your visits to the pediatrician as a kid.

I guit without notice at the end of my fourth shift. It got worse – they cut the closing crew from 3 to 2 people, and I got assigned to it permanently. After hours of washing dishes and scrubbing deep-friers, ovens, and floors, I again worked till 1:30 this morning. Before hobbling home I let the other worker know I won’t be back, so that’s that.

It was an experiment that failed, not too big of a deal I don’t think. I feel very confident that I can find another minimum wage job that doesn’t have hard physical labor. Sears is hiring retail sales right now, and after what I’ve done at the deli, that doesn’t sound unpleasant to me at all.

Yes, this is the concern. But if 90 days is a general rule for including a job on an application, it seems I’m in the clear on omitting it. Even if the applications says “List EVERY job” I intend to leave this one off. I feel the risk of being caught out is worth it to avoid the clear negative of including the diplomatic version of “I walked off a job after 4 days with no notice (even though it was because it sucked really bad).”

Back to the drawing board.

Some jobs you don’t have to put on a resume. I know people that take Christmas work from late Nov to early Jan. You could put his on your resume, but it’s not really necessary unless somehow it would help your future prospects.

I deal with getting people work, it’s usually getting people off public AID, so a lot of it is low entry work but since the Great Recession, I have seen degreed people as well.

Though it’s hard to remember when YOU are out of work, remember YOU are also offering a service to the employer. If an employer is going to say, “I love this candidate, oh but he worked too many short term jobs,” without giving you a chance to explain, more likely than not, it’s going to be a reflection of the work ethic of management.

Do you really want to work for an employer that’s going to write people off that easy? Again, it’s hard to say when you really need work, but remember the door does swing both ways, and it’s now starting to swing back to them employee, a bit anyway.

It won’t go on the resume, but I was gratified anyway to speak yesterday with the manager who hired me, who was very gracious and understanding about the whole thing. She called it a “good termination” because I left within 30 days, and even said, incredibly, that I would get a good reference, though I won’t be asking for one.

So that’s that. Thanks, all.

Why don’t you appky with a temp agency. They have lots of office jobs, many of which aren’t difficult and pay far above minimum wage. You may even get to update some of those outdated skills

Thanks, GB. Yes, that’s probably the next step. I can type like crazy, I can spell and proofread, I’m an advanced Excel user, and I know some accounting, so what am I doing minimum-wage physical labor for?

The deli thing was kind of a crazy experiment. I also didn’t mention it was made much more attractive than it otherwise would have been, by the fact that the store is just a few blocks away. I will trade surprisingly large amounts of money in exchange for a very easy commute at this point.

The problem with chronological resumes is that:
they are often a red flag for a sketchy work history
they can be confusing
employers are still going to look for your sequence of jobs and how long you were at each.

I don’t use one, but it can be an advantage with a job history like mine where I’ve worked a number of management level jobs with various consulting firms, tech startups and independent contract work. It can often be difficult to determine from my work history what (if anything) I actually do.
Personally, I would say 3-6 months before the new job goes on your resume. After that it becomes a question of explaining a gap vs explaining a job.

But also keep in mind that as a hiring manager for office workers, I don’t really care about your stint in a deli one way or another. I mean it’s a great talking point to show that you are doing more than nothing while looking for a job in your field. But I don’t think it really helps or hurts one way or the other.