In my work as a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), the single biggest question I get from clients is: how long should my resume be, really? The Internet is filled with conflicting advice on this issue, so it’s not surprising that jobseekers frequently feel insecure about it. After all, a resume that’s too long will make a reader’s eyes glaze over (not the best first impression). But on the other hand, a needlessly abbreviated document means less chances of a particular accomplishment nabbing a reader’s interest…and more rejections. Is there a middle ground?
Here’s one principle all jobseekers need to keep in mind when developing a resume (or hiring a professional to develop one for them): your resume needs to attract and sustain a reader’s interest throughout its length. A 1-page resume can fail just as easily as a 2 or 3-page document if the language is weak and the structure cluttered. With that in mind, here are some general rules with regards to length that should work for you:
PROFESSIONAL LEVEL: Beginner or New Graduate
RECOMMENDATION: A 1-Page Resume
Don’t feel the need to bulk up your resume if you don’t have much of a work history: recruiters and hiring agents prize clarity and succinctness. Instead, identify those areas in which you particularly excel and:
-Develop a brief opening paragraph that focuses on SOFT SKILLS such as communication abilities, effectively managing multiple project demands, and negotiating agreements.
-If you’ve recently obtained a degree, then you should most probably include an "Education" section BEFORE getting into the work history.
-Keep the work history section limited to 2-3 lines (in paragraph form) describing unique responsibilities, followed by a "Key Accomplishments" section (if relevant) listing any successes you’re particularly proud of.
PROFESSIONAL LEVEL: Experienced
RECOMMENDATION: A 2-Page Resume
If you’ve been working for 5 or more years, then a 2-page resume is probably your best bet. This length strikes the perfect balance between being concise and allowing your professional accomplishments to shine.
-Keep the opening paragraph as TARGETED as possible towards the kind of job you’re seeking. Really highlight in-demand skills that are requested time and time again in job postings, and make sure they’re expanded upon within the work history section.
-When listing accomplishments for particular jobs, it’s important to use specific metrics wherever possible. This instantly increases the overall impact of the document and can make a significant difference in terms of the number of interviews you receive when submitting.
-Be sure to include any courses, training or certifications that might be pertinent at the tail end of the resume. You can change the "Education" section to read as "Education & Advanced Training" and insert them there.
PROFESSIONAL LEVEL: Expert
RECOMMENDATION: A 2 or 3-Page Resume
It’s important for high-level professionals to realize that a resume should never attempt to encapsulate absolutely everything you’ve done. It should serve as a TEASER for your candidacy, highlighting just enough relevant accomplishments to pique a reader’s interest and have them call you in for an interview. With that in mind, a 2-page resume is almost always the best solution UNLESS you have a body of work that can truly sustain interest for 3 pages.
-The opening paragraph needs to highlight leadership capabilities regardless of industry. If you’ve published in prestigious magazines or have master-level professional certifications, mention them here.
-Precise targeting is necessary within the work history section. Don’t make the mistake of thinking all jobs deserve the same amount of space within the resume. Keep the focus tight on relevant jobs, particularly those held within the past 10-12 years.
I hope these suggestions prove helpful to you. Should you have specific questions about your job search documents, please don’t hesitate to reach out!