How Long Should Your Resume Be?
You’ve sat down to compile your resume and put all your experience and accomplishments on paper. Now you’re sitting with a document that’s four pages long, and you have a sense that this is somewhat problematic.
You’re not wrong. In an age of tiny attention spans, it’s vital that you don’t overwhelm hiring managers with information. As Maxine Martens, CEO of boutique search firm Martens & Heads!, says, “People don’t read; they scan.” As a result, your resume needs to be compact and well organized enough to catch the eye of a recruiter.
So, it’s important to be succinct, but how long is too long? While conventional wisdom once dictated that resumes shouldn’t be over one page long, there’s little consensus today on the matter. “There is no rule regarding resume length,” says Debra Wheatman, professional resume writer and career coach, and president of Careers Done Write. “It really just depends on the person and what they’ve done in their career.”
Having said that, there are guidelines you can follow, many of which are based on how long you’ve been in the workforce. We explore these guiding principles below.
Resume length by career level
Entry-level job seekers
Martens asserts that new grads and entry-level candidates should keep their resumes to a single page, and Wheatman tends to agree.
“If you’re an entry-level job seeker, you don’t have enough experience to warrant a two-page resume,” she says. “If you’re already spilling over one page at this point, what is your resume going to look like when you have 20 years of experience? It’ll be a booklet by then.”
So if you’re a new grad and you’re sitting with two or three pages, take the time to shorten your resume — even if (and in fact, especially if) you’re in a rush to secure a job. Consider removing your hobbies section, and condense lengthy paragraphs into bullet points (just don’t make your font size so small that recruiters can’t read your text).
By the same token, your resume shouldn’t be too short either. “It would just look odd if your resume is shorter than a page,” says Wheatman. It also implies that you don’t have much to say about yourself and your fit for the job. “You should be able to come up with extra content — details on extracurricular activities, or something else that showcases your talents,” Wheatman adds.
Adding real substance is not always easy. If you’re having difficulty beefing your resume up — or cutting it down, for that matter — you might want to work off one of our resume templates to make sure you’re including everything you should (and nothing more).
What if you’ve been working for several years? Should you still stick to one page? While Martens says yes, mid-career job seekers shouldn’t submit resumes that exceed a page, Wheatman argues that if you have around 10 years of experience, you’re probably more likely looking at two pages.
“The reason for this is, you don’t want to cut yourself off midway,” she explains. “If you’ve done a fair amount, a page just often isn’t enough. You want to solidify in the mind of whoever’s reviewing your resume that you’re the right person for the role, and you want to provide something that highlights your best achievements — sometimes you need more room to do that.”
At the end of the day, don’t sacrifice quality content that sells you well just to force your credentials to fit on one page.
If you’re applying for an executive position, and you have decades of accomplishments and diverse positions behind you, Martens and Wheatman agree that you can confidently extend your resume to over two pages. Wheatman suggests that three might even be acceptable. She says, “There are people who have done a tremendous amount of work, and in those cases, it’s definitely fine to write more than two pages.”
Wheatmen also recalls the story of a client of hers who had a very robust profile and therefore needed a slightly longer resume to do justice to her impressive experience. “There were things about her background that were really compelling, and quite honestly, the whole picture needed to be presented,” Wheatman explains. “So, her resume was three pages, and she’s received a lot of positive feedback from some very big companies.”
Be aware that writing about positions from decades ago could do you a disservice, however. “Even though it’s illegal, the problem of ageism still exists in recruitment,” Wheatman warns. “If you want to be seen as an appealing candidate who’s at the top of their game in their career, it’s probably not a good idea to go back to 1985 in your resume.”
3 key resume length considerations
Brevity always wins
Whether you’re a new grad, a mid-career candidate or a senior manager, you should never write more than is necessary in your resume. The key is to present your information as concisely as possible, and condense content sufficiently, while still conveying the main messages.
“The principle of K.I.S.S. — keep it simple, stupid — still reigns in the business world at all levels,” says Martens, stressing that job seekers should be careful about including anything that’s superfluous. “The goal is to write just enough to get people to speak to you, and then you can dazzle.”
Different industries have different standards
When thinking about how long your resume should be, it’s worth considering conventions in your field of work. As Wheatman notes, lengthier resumes are more acceptable — or are even expected — in certain industries
“If you’re applying for a job in academia and you don’t have a very long resume, hiring managers will wonder what you’ve done with your life,” she says. They tend to want to see a comprehensive list of books and articles you’ve published, research you’ve conducted, conferences you’ve attended, awards you’ve won, and courses you’ve taken.
“The same goes for positions in hard technology, and governmental roles,” adds Wheatman. Government resumes tend to be quite lengthy as job seekers have to respond to a specific set of requirements and include a high level of detail.
Similarly, there are certain sectors that value concision more than others. “Shorter resumes are definitely more standard in the finance industry,” Wheatman explains. “Here, brevity is king.”
If you’re not entirely sure what the resume length etiquette is in your particular field, do some research — speak to colleagues who’ve recently applied for positions, or even reach out to the hiring manager at your target company to ask for their input on the matter.
It’s all about relevance
As a general rule, recruiters will be willing to read a resume that’s longer than one page if, and only if, all the content is relevant and directly relates to the position at hand. If you’ve written two pages, but every word is pertinent, then you’ve justified using that amount of space to tell your story. If, however, you’ve repeated yourself or included unnecessary content, you have some shortening to do.
Wheatman suggests that you ask yourself the question, “So what?” at the end of every line in your resume, and remove information if you can’t make a compelling argument for its inclusion. “If a point is not really that big of a deal and doesn’t set you apart, then you should probably get rid of it.”
If you’re eager to secure employment quickly, make use of our free resume builder to swiftly compile a document that hits the mark on content, style and length. Resume-Now also offers a range of tools that will help you master the resume and accelerate time-to-hire.