How much is too much when it comes to resume length?
Can you get away with a two-page resume?
Is it okay to submit Moby Dick?
Just how long should a resume be?
Well, like Swedish furniture and Japanese haiku, you should keep your resume as minimalistic and concise as possible.
Think of it like this. Your resume is a mini skirt - it should cover all of the important bits and stop before it gets boring.
This article will help you decide how long to make your resume, and what to trim and how if necessary.
1. So, How Long Should a Resume Be?
Is it a myth that you should not make a two-page resume?
Most experts will tell you that you should keep your resume length in check. For some, it's one page to rule them all. Others say two pages are okay, especially if you are a professional with tons of experience.
Here's the thing - if you have fewer than five years of experience or are writing a student resume, stick to one page.
If the second page of your resume is less than half a page, try to cut your resume to one page.
Recruiters are busy people. Even if they do read your resume to the end, they are only looking for certain things.
First, they will scan for keyword skills from the job description.
Here is our guide on how to tailor your resume to a job description by adding keyword skills.
Next, they will look for things like achievements and personality to make sure you are going to add value to the company and fit in with their team.
So, figuring out how to make a resume is more complicated than making a list of every job you ever had.
It’s about figuring out how to select and tailor your experience to match the criteria requested by job recruiters without exceeding their attention spans.
Pro Tip: What's the difference between a CV and a resume? In the US, a curriculum vitae (CV) is a resume for people who are applying for academic or research positions. It includes extra information such as publications or lectures. That's why it is possible to write a CV that exceeds a dozen pages. But if you're not an academic, then you need to stick to a standard, short resume.
2. How to Trim Fat Without Killing Value
It’s good to start by purging yourself of all of your skills and experience.
Make a master resume. Write down everything - all jobs, skills, and achievements.
All of it.
Writing a master resume will give you an idea of what you’ve got to work with and how that information fits on the page.
Next, read the job description.
Great. Now read it again.
Part of keeping your resume length in check is carefully selecting the experience and skills from your master resume to add to your tailored resume.
That's because you're not going to put every job you ever had on your resume.
Did you babysit your cousins when you were twelve? Great. But that's not going to impress anyone, and shouldn't go on your resume. Even if you are going into childcare.
After you've written your master resume, it's time to choose a resume format for your tailored resume that will best suit your needs.
To keep a resume short, keep your formatting simple. Use simple headlines, align text to the left, and stick to one font.
One no-no is playing too much with line spacing, white space, and font size in an attempt to cram everything onto one page.
Even if you're a rocket scientist, that won't matter if the hiring manager has to squint to read about it. Don't go smaller than a ten-point font.
As you start to add information, you should keep in mind that there are no hard or fast rules about how long each section should be or what exactly to include.
You can consider adding sections that highlight your personality and achievements, such as a hobbies and interests section, but you should kill them if your resume gets too long.
One thing you no longer need to include is the phrase "references available upon request."
Hiring managers know they can request references, and losing the phrase frees up a lot of space.
Write your resume in full and tailor it. Once you finish, you can begin to make cuts to until it’s one page.
Here are three things you can do to trim your resume:
- Trim introductions (resume summaries and objectives).
- Cut extra bullet points under your experience section (six points or less).
- Kill or trim additional information (extra skills, hobbies, and achievements).
3. How to Take Your Resume From Fluffy to Fit
So, how exactly do you trim a resume?
You’ll want to make sure that every word you’ve used is absolutely necessary. For example, have you used the first person or did you lead with power verbs?
There is a difference between this:
I was responsible for managing a team of five people.
Managed a team of five people.
Try to limit your use of the phrase "responsible for" as it can stack up quickly adding bulk to your resume.
Next, cut adjectives.
For example here is how you could trim a fluffy resume summary:
Hardworking, articulate Customer Service Associate with years of experience working in the ready-to-wear women’s fashion retail industry.
Articulate Customer Service Associate with 10+ years of retail experience.
Having a strong introduction can pack a punch that other sections can’t. It isn’t worth it to sacrifice this part of your resume.
Keep adjectives from the job description and power verbs that you feel represent you the best. Kill the rest. Rephrase until you say the same things in fewer words.
Finally, work on merging text to free up space.
- Manage a team of five people.
- Responsible for running team training.
- Manage and train a team of five people.
If you’ve cut your resume to the bone and you're still struggling to get it down to one or two pages, don’t force it. A well-written resume is better than a short one.
Remember you can always refer a recruiter to your fully optimized LinkedIn profile so that they have access to a full version of your resume. You can also add links to personal websites or online portfolios in your contact information.
And don't forget to use a well-written cover letter to give the hiring manager access to details you had to leave off your resume.
Don’t try to smash all of your information onto one page if it just isn’t going to fit. You don’t want your resume to resemble a clown car.
Do try to keep your resume concise and trim so that a recruiter doesn’t feel like they’ve just picked up a copy of War and Peace.
You want your resume to be short and snappy and get to the point so you can get to your interview. Keep it short, keep it classy.