Resume Length: How Long Should a Resume Be?

Resume Length: How Long Should a Resume Be?

Whether you’re writing your first “real” resume or updating the document that contains the summary of your 20+ years in the field, the very first question that may leap to your mind is, “how long should a resume be?” If you’ve only had one or two jobs, is a one-page resume OK? What happens when your experience and skills reach back for decades, and you find yourself with a five-page resume?

Believe it or not, there is a resume length that’s just right. It’s neither too long nor too short and helps recruiters understand who you are professionally and how you’ll fit right into the job!

How Long Should a Resume Be?

Instead of trying to figure out the answer to “how long should a resume be?” instead try to figure out how long your resume should be. In the end, there’s no right answer, and your resume will be as long or as short as it needs to be. However, resume length is influenced by a few factors.

We spoke with the Career Coaching team for Remote.co and FlexJobs (our sister site) to gather their expert insights about resume length. As a rule, they recommend a resume be no longer than two pages. However, there may be times when a three-page resume is better, and circumstances when a resume isn’t the right choice at all!

Two-Page Resumes: Just Right

“As a general rule,” says Betsy Andrews, “the maximum resume length is two pages.” Of course, the logical follow-up question is, why?

A ResumeGo study attempted to find the answer. They gathered recruiters, hiring managers, and other human resources professionals and had them review and compare 7,712 one- and two-page resumes. The study found that recruiters were 2.3 times more likely to prefer two-page resumes over one-page resumes.

Interestingly, it didn’t matter what level position the applicant was applying for. Whether it was an entry-level or managerial position, two-page resumes were looked upon more favorably. Specifically, the study asked the participants to review and score each resume on how well the resume summarized the candidate’s work history and credentials. And the two-page resumes were the overall winners.

What About a Three-Page Resume?

So, if two-page resumes are the “sweet spot” of resume length, what happens if you have an extensive or unusual work history that merits a three-page resume?

Once again, we consulted with the Career Coaches for their expert advice.

Tracy Capozzoli states that a three-page resume is appropriate if, “the career experience has been consistent over 25 or more years, showing continuous growth and demonstrated value or achievements, along with heavy involvement in the profession.”

And, when you’ve got a non-traditional work history, like being an academic, for example, Doug Ebertowski says that a longer resume is acceptable. But, even in those cases, he cautions, “three pages is generally the max.”

Finally, Career Development Manager Brie Reynolds advises that if your work history or achievements extend beyond two pages, consider switching from a traditional resume format to a CV-style document that places the emphasis on your accomplishments over the specifics of your work history.

Resume Length Tips and Tricks

While a two-page resume is the right resume length for most job seekers, you may feel like you’re fluffing and padding your resume just to make it two pages long. Or, it might seem like you have to cut things that you really want to include on your resume.

So, how do you make the most of those two pages without feeling like you’re faking it or sacrificing important details?

Be Concise and Clear

A resume is a summary of your work history, experiences, skills, and achievements. And, because it’s a summary, it’s meant to be brief but informative. You don’t need to go into great detail about each and every job duty you’ve had in every position you’ve ever held. But, you do need to make sure that what you include packs a powerful punch.

For example, let’s say you’re writing your resume to include your most recent account manager role. You might be tempted to include the names of every client you’re managing and to talk about every single thing you’ve done for your client. However, that’s a lot of information. Instead, focus on the large accounts with big wins.

Also, the cover letter is a great place to bring up some of these points. And, by not including every detail on your resume, you’ve now got some great examples of your accomplishments to talk about during the interview!

Limit Your Bullet Points

As a rule, you’ll summarize most of your skills and accomplishments as bullet points.

Consider limiting yourself to the top five or six points you want to showcase on your resume so recruiters can get a good idea of how you will fit into the company and the role.

Cull Your Job History

While a resume is a history of your work experience, you may not want to include every job you’ve ever held, particularly if it pushes you over two pages.

As a rule, employers are usually only interested in the last 10 to 15 years of your employment history. Anything past that, and it probably doesn’t apply to your current situation. If you don’t have 10 to 15 years of work history, then you should include all of your work history, even if it seems unrelated to the job you’re applying for. Including it can demonstrate that you’re reliable and dependable, even if doesn’t seem relevant to the job you’re applying to.

However, if every job you’ve ever held is related to the field you’re in, and those jobs show a career progression, you may want to consider including them all. Limit your bullet points to help stay at the two-page mark, or consider using a CV instead.

Quality Over Quantity Should Determine Your Resume Length

In the end, while the length of your resume can have an impact on your application, it’s not nearly as important as writing a solid resume that explains why you’re the right person for the job. Your resume can help the employer connect the dots and understand how your skills and experience make you the perfect fit for the open position.

Looking for more resume advice?

Read About Resume Tips to Help You Get Hired >

By Rachel Pelta | December 11, 2020 | Categories: Work Remotely


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