Is My Resume Too Long?

by Leslie Toth, MBA, CPRW, PHR, SHRM-CP

Resume Length

How long should my resume be? This is one of the most common questions in the job-search world. The answer, it depends on many factors including years of experience, number of jobs, and resume layout. Not too long ago job seekers were told that a resume should not exceed one page. Those who broke the golden rule were destined for the circular file. The only rule in resume writing these days is that a resume needs to be relevant. This holds true whether the candidate is just out of school or has worked for 20+ years. Resumes also need to be concise and tailored to that specific job.

Human Resources Managers won’t read a full bulleted list of duties with everything a job seeker has done on every job. They are looking for information that supports why your background is applicable to the particular job/ company. So, the job seeker’s task is to make the information easily available.

A couple facts to keep in mind when deciding on resume length:

  • Your resume is a career marketing tool, not an autobiography. Aim to keep your resume concise and focused on your value proposition and key selling points. Let go of past experiences that don’t market you for your current goal. Every word in the resume should sell your credentials and value to a potential employer. But also make sure to leave something to talk about in the interview.

  • It is common for Human Resource professionals to sort through hundreds, or even thousands of resumes to fill one position. Resumes are often given a cursory glance before deciding if the applicant deserves to be added to the maybe pile. While your resume will probably get a more thorough look if you are called for a job interview, ensure that your strongest selling points (value proposition) are immediately visible to make that first cut.

Professional Summary

Include a brief opening summary at the top of your resume. This is your value proposition statement; it tells the reader what you bring to the table, and why they should hire you. It is critical that this information stands out.

Keywords

Many companies are now using Applicant Tracking Systems to scan resumes. These systems are searching for very specific keywords which come from the job description. If these keywords are not found, the resume may never be seen by a human being. Many systems now rank resumes by the number of keywords in them. Make sure you are also using exact keywords and key phrases from the job description on your resume. Use these keywords to describe your work experience.

1-Page Resume

Resumes for new college grads and entry-level candidates are often one page. In most cases these candidates do not have enough relevant experience to justify more than one page. But of course there are always exceptions to the rule. Some new grads do have more experience coming from internships, summer jobs, extracurricular activities, leadership activities, and sports that may justify a two-page resume. If you fall into the college student/ new grad/ entry-level group and are tempted to extend your resume to two pages, just be sure you have enough relevant content to justify that second page.

2-Page Resume

This format is probably best for most job-seekers. Anyone with more than 5 years of experience is probably going to want a two-page resume; as long as the content is relevant to the position they are applying for. As you evolve in your career, there is no need to list absolutely everything you have ever done, or every position you have ever held. Learn to recognize when compromising the quantity of your experiences will impact the quality of your resume. As long as you have enough relevant experience, training and education related to the position you are applying for then by all means go for it! Just make sure you have enough to fill two pages.

3-Page Resume

Many executives believe that three and even four page resumes are acceptable. The trend today is to get away from the lengthy executive resumes, but instead provide a concise two-page resume with a supplemental third page that can optionally be submitted with the resume.

Ok, so What Do I Include on My LinkedIn Profile?

Your LinkedIn profile should include all of the information in your résumé as well as additional materials, such as community service activities, coursework, skills, volunteer experience, and hobbies. You can also include causes that you care about, professional development activities, and professional affiliations. This is a good place to go beyond your professional self to show what you do outside of work; just don’t get too personal.

In today’s job market, the “send a general one-page resume to everyone” approach does not work. Each resume needs to be relevant to the job for which you are applying. This means extra work on the part of the job-seeker to ensure the right information is there. It’s no longer a question of “should my resume be one page?” but, “is my resume relevant to the position?”

If you are still torn about resume length, consider contacting a qualified resume writer for an expert consultation.

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