Tidy Up Your Resume: Tips for Streamlining Your Career Progression

by Kimberly Sarmiento | May 6, 2017

Streamline Resume
The standard length for a US resume is one to two pages.

This is a resume writing best practice for several reasons. It’s almost common knowledge now that hiring managers tend to skim a resume rather than read it in detail. The longer the resume, the more likely the reader is to skip over important information or skip over your document altogether. Additionally, longer resumes tend to convey more negative things than positive. Consider:

  1. A resume that dates back too far can make an applicant look older or automatically convince the hiring manager that you will want more money than they want to pay.
  2. A resume with too many listings can make it appear as if you can’t hold a job. This might cause the hiring manager to question why you move around so much. In particular, if you need to list more than two employers for a single year, it can leave a negative impression.
  3. A resume that focuses on repetitive job listings because of short-term or contract employment can lose a reader’s interest and they might not take note of your significant accomplishments as a result.

Therefore, it is best that you streamline your resume as much as possible. Consider the following tips for making the most out of those two pages of career history:

Use Only Years

Even though many online job applications will request detailed dates of employment (including day, month, or both along with the year), it is best to use only years for your resume. Using only years will allow you to leave temporary employment off your resume and cover other small job gaps that would appear if you include months.

It is understandable if you don’t leave one job and immediately start another. A job search can take several months. Some people even use being downsized as an opportunity to spend time with family or take a vacation they couldn’t go on while working. There is just no reason to advertise that you were unemployed for an extended period of time. So just go ahead and use only years for when you started and ended your employment.

Leave Off Short-Term Employment

Sometimes a job doesn’t work out. Maybe it wasn’t a good fit. Perhaps the company was sold and restructured right after you were hired. Maybe you were recruited to a more ideal position just a few months after you started a new role. Or perhaps you took the role knowing it would be short-term.

No matter what, if you held the job for only a few months and it doesn’t add anything to your resume, go ahead and leave it off. Since you need to limit your resume to two pages and want to avoid the perception of job hoping, omitting short-term employment can help you achieve those goals. The only reason to make an exception is if you accomplished something significant at that job that can’t be covered with any other role.

Clump Contract Jobs Together

In order to avoid the appearance of job hoping, you may want to consider grouping contract roles or freelance employment together on your resume. If you can group three or more together under a title such as “Contract Project Manager” or “Contract Business Consultant” that can save space and give the appearance that you were working in one capacity for several years instead of several months.

Leveraging this strategy can be particularly useful when you have performed similar duties in multiple contract roles. That way, instead of being repetitive on your resume, you can list all those job duties under one position. Then you can list special achievements by company name.

Summarize Experience Older than 15 Years

Generally speaking, hiring managers are only interested in your last 10 to 15 years of experience. If you are a senior-level manager or executive, your experience probably far exceeds that range. Still, there are times when people don’t want to completely omit their earlier experience. In those cases, summarizing your work in a career note can be effective. When doing so, you can include a highlight or two, but go ahead and leave out years, using only your title and company name.

Example:

Career Note: Prior experience includes Senior Finance Manager for Company X, overseeing P&L for $2M in revenue, and Senior Accountant/Consultant for Company Y and the Big 4 Firm XYZ.

Final Note

While the phrase “less is more” can certainly be applied to resume writing, it can also be carried too far. I’ve seen resumes where the person stripped out so much of their professional experience that it looked like they were a recent graduate instead of a Senior-Level Manager. A resume needs to strike the delicate balance of being brief and impactful while still giving the applicant the weight of experience the job demands. One good guide is to keep the word count to 700 - 800 words. That should allow you to make a positive impression on the reader without bogging them down in too much detail.

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