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“How Long Should My Resume Be?”

11/13/12

Written by Louise Fletcher

Of all the questions we get asked, this has to be one of the most common. For some reason, resume length is one of those things lots of people have a firm opinion on, but – to be honest – few have any real basis for that opinion.

For example, there are many people who will tell you that your resume must be only one-page long. This is a myth ( as I explain here) and should be ignored! Others – generally those over 50 – will tell you that if you’re a senior executive, you need a resume that’s at least 3 pages long. This is also a myth and therefore should also be ignored.

In fact, any time you hear someone say that all resumes must be a specified length, be wary of any other advice they give on the subject of resumes or job search, because it may well be wrong!

The fact is that a good resume will be just as long as it needs to be and not one word longer. By this I mean that it will be long enough to communicate your important messages, convey your value proposition and explain to hiring managers why they should pick up the phone and call you.

For some people, especially junior employees or people who have been in one position for their whole career, this might be one page, but everyone else will struggle to cram all their experience onto one page and will have to omit important details to do so. Likewise, if you try to stretch your resume out over three pages simply because you believe that will make you look more senior, you run the risk of including so much detail that the reader will miss the important information buried in there somewhere. But if you have 30 years of senior experience and lots of board memberships, three pages may be the perfect length to tell your story.

The bottom line when it comes to resume writing is that content is king. Don’t worry about how long your resume is, or what resume structure you will use, until after you have written your first draft. As you revise that first draft, omit unnecessary details but include all the information that will show hiring managers what makes you special. Always keep in mind the question: “will this piece of information make it more likely that I get an interview?’ If the answer is ‘yes’, leave it in. If the answer is ‘no’ delete it. Once that work is done, you are finally in a position to decide what length is appropriate given the story you need to tell.

Working this way will ensure you have a resume that communicates your unique value proposition and does so in a way that’s concise and compelling. And you’ll know exactly what to say to that friend who tells you “But I heard a resume is only supposed to be one page long.”

Photo courtesy of Sterlic

2 Comments

  1. Karoline says:

    I always thought that your résumé should only be one page but I like the point you make that it will be as long as it needs to be but not one word longer. I also agree that by trying to make your résumé one page you end up cramming all the information. I know for me as a student it is easy to only write one page because I don’t have as much experience but as I gain experience I couldn’t imagine trying to fit it all in one page.

  2. Very informative post! I think that resume writing is one of the most important skills you need to have when applying for a job or an internship. It can also make or break you in the professional world. I found your post to be very helpful and liked how you cleared up the debate on how long your resume should actually be. I agree with your statement that “content is key”. Many people fill up their resumes with irrelevant information in fear that their resume will look too short, when what they really should include is only information pertaining to the position they’re applying for.

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