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career, job search, resumes

How long should your resume be?

The question posed above never seems to go away. I still get people asking if a two-page resume is acceptable. Overall, I think it matters less if you have a 1 page vs. 2 page resume as most resumes are read electronically. Further, most applicant tracking systems will strip out any formatting/page breaks (and in fact in some cases will make a mess of resumes that have special formatting when they are uploaded).

However, this doesn’t grant you carte blanche to dump everything into a 2 page generic resume and hit ‘apply now’. Doing so forces the recruiter/hiring manager to wade through a bunch of irrelevant text to find the reasons you might be a good fit for a job–and/or search for a couple of keywords. From a recruiter’s perspective, it sucks to read through a resume and think, “I’m pretty sure that this person has what we’re looking for…but this resume makes it difficult to say”. More often than not, a resume that is overly long and filled with irrelevant information will result in you being rejected from consideration.

When the question in the title is put to me, I usually answer with a series of questions:

  • How many years of relevant work experience do you have?
  • How much education have you completed?
  • What kind of relevant professional activities are you actively involved with?
  • What kind of relevant projects or other achievements can you detail?

If the answer to question 1 is, “10 or more years of relevant work experience”, then it’s possible you have enough to justify a two page resume. However, that shouldn’t be the only determining factor. You need to pull the specific experience/skills/achievements/professional engagements together that present you as the best possible candidate for this job.

Is that two pages of content? Does page 1 spill over onto page 2? Fine. But again, a resume should never be a career memoir. Just because you interned for Microsoft in college 15 years ago doesn’t make that relevant to the accounting position you’re applying to now (unless that accounting position is with Microsoft, of course!).

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “How long should your resume be?

  1. However long LinkedIn makes it when I click “save my profile as a PDF”

    Sent from my iPhone

    Posted by Jeremy Langhans | July 29, 2013, 8:52 am
    • That’s a good point, Jer–more and more people are just using their LinkedIn profiles as a resume. In some ways it is a better snapshot of one’s career, but isn’t as likely to be as targeted.

      Posted by Jon J-B | July 29, 2013, 8:59 am

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