How long should your resume be? A lot of job seekers get confused by unspoken resume length rules. Do you need to cram everything into a single page, or can you have a two-page resume? Are three pages still OK?
The answers depend on quite a few factors:
- Experienced executives often have resumes of three pages or more.
- Junior candidates typically have one-page resumes.
- Professionals usually use two-page resumes.
- Yet, seniority alone does not determine resume length.
Your industry, the role you’re applying for, and the complexity of your professional experience need to be taken into account, too.
The Best Rule Of Thumb For Correct Resume Length.
Don’t worry about hitting the ideal resume length. Instead, focus on showcasing the most recent 15 years of your work history.
For instance, if you are going for an upper-level management position, you certainly do not need to include your time in the sales department 20 years ago when you first got out of college.
Conversely, if you’re a recent grad, you don’t need to pad out your resume with bloat to make it span multiple pages.
Hiring managers and recruiters have limited time, so they will not read through pages of bloat, hoping that something jumps out at them. They will skim through the first few sections and, if the fluff-to-substance ratio is too high, they’ll stop reading.
Should You Have A One-Page Resume?
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to squeeze 15 or more years of work experience into a one-page resume.
Doing so will hurt your chances of getting an interview.
A one-page resume should only be used by:
- Junior Candidates with less than 7 years of experience.
- Professionals with 1 role under their belt.
- Graduates who are applying for their first job.
If you fall into one of these categories, aim to have a one-page resume. Everybody else will benefit from a multi-page resume.
Remember to focus on quality over quantity.
A single page doesn’t give you much room to move, so make sure that every word serves a purpose. Include only the most relevant information and leave out anything that does not directly support your application.
Should You Have A Two-Page Resume?
If you’re a mid-level professional or a junior manager with relatively uncomplicated work history, a two-page resume is your best bet.
Think of it this way – when you aim for two pages, you’re only left with about half of that by the time you provide your contact details, outline your key skills, describe your education and write the all-important profile.
- The remaining page is your playground.
It’s just enough toom to describe your mandates, responsibilities and achievements for about three roles, which is what I’d expect you to have under your belt by this stage of your career.
|Resume Length||Seniority Level (Approximate)|
|Two-Page Resume||Professional, Junior Manager|
|Three-Page Resume||Senior Manager, Executive, Highly Technical Professional|
|Four-Page Resume||Senior Executive, Highly Technical Professional|
Should You Have A Three-Page Resume?
A three-page resume is usually a fit for:
- Senior-level managers and executives with a deep track record of success in leading and transforming teams.
- Candidates in academic or scientific fields with a list of publications, speaking engagements, courses, licenses, or patents.
- Applicants for sensitive government roles (usually at the federal level) that require a demonstration of competencies.
- Professionals with a hard-edged technical or project management background who need to provide case studies, project outcomes, and deep dive into technical nuance.
Most people who have held positions with significant responsibility will need a three-page resume.
Should You Have A Four-Page Resume?
Four-page resumes are usually only used to showcase the careers of senior executives.
If you’re tempted to make your resume this long, ask yourself whether you’re not making the mistake of prioritising quantity over quality.
What To Do If Your Resume Is Too Long.
1. Regain Focus.
Your resume should be clear and concise, highlighting only the experiences and skills that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for.
In these cases, we recommend going back to the drawing board and deciding what role type you want to target. If you decide on more than one role, create a resume for each.
2. Triage Your Experience.
Do you have a decent amount of work experience under your belt? Are you refusing to cull it because you don’t want any of it “to go to waste”?
- This is a common problem in resumes of high-achieving middle and senior managers with complicated backgrounds.
They have done a lot of stuff (usually across 6-8 roles), and they want to present it all as a laundry list.
Unfortunately, they sell themselves short because not everything they’ve done is relevant to their target role.
My advice is to be ruthless. If something isn’t relevant, pull out aspects of it that are – and highlight only them. If you can’t pull anything out, delete it altogether.
3. Do Not Shrink The Font.
Many people use tiny fonts, thinking it will make their resume seem shorter. This is counterproductive because it makes your resume more difficult to read.
Use a font that is easy to read and makes good use of white space.
4. Bullet Points Are Your Friend.
Bullet points are a great tool for creating white space, and reducing the number of words in your resume.
Go through your resume and search for opportunities to convert lengthy sentences into snappy bullet points.
5. Kill The Fluff.
Most resumes are drowning in meaningless buzzwords and cliches. I bet that you can reduce the current draft of your resume by 100 words if you go on a hunt for phrases like:
- Extensive experience
- Team player
- Highly effective
Your resume must contain selling points (aka points of differentiation), not meaningless bloat.
6. Group Your Experience.
If you’ve held a number of roles with the same employer, don’t repeat the company information for each one. Instead, show company information only once and list each role underneath in a separate subheading.
(Related: How To Write A Killer Resume Headline).
What To Do If Your Resume Is Too Short.
Shorter resumes are better, so before you start lengthening yours, ask yourself – are you solving a real problem or an imaginary one?
As we’ve discussed, many candidates are expected to submit a resume that’s between one and two pages in length.
If you feel that it’s not sufficient, here are some steps you can take to make yours longer.
1. Flesh Out Your Achievements.
There is a big difference between making your achievements more fluffy (aka padding them with generic nonsense) and fleshing them out.
You can add one to two lines per achievement by using the ARTA or STAR method to provide deep insight into the commercial impacts of your work. (How to write resume achievements).
2. Add Volunteering Experience.
Unpaid work that you’ve done for charities, animal shelters, soup kitchens, and non-profit organisations can be included in your resume.
3. Use Bullet Points.
Bullet points are an excellent way to fill space on a resume, as each one takes up an entire line. Don’t get carried away, however.
Executives can have as many as 10 bullet points per role, but most of us mortals should stick to 4-6 bullet points.
|Resume Length: Too Long||Resume Length: Too Short|
|Regain Focus||Flesh Out Your Achievements|
|Triage Your Experience||Add Volunteering Experience|
|Do Not Shrink The Font||Use Bullet Points|
|Bullet Points Are Your Friend|
|Kill The Fluff|
|Group Your Experience|
Why Do Most Job Seekers Have Terrible Resumes?
Resume length is not as important as its content.
A hiring manager will forgive you for not sticking to the one-page or the two-page limit. Yet, they’ll immediately disqualify you if you pack your resume with fluff rather than relevant experience.
1. Don’t Borrow From The Job Description
Cannibalising words and phrases from a job description may seem like a good idea. Still, it will only result in a generic and uninspiring resume that sells you short – because most job descriptions are written by office juniors using generic templates.
Use the job description to understand what the company is looking for, but don’t use it as “inspiration” for your resume.
2. Don’t List Tasks.
It can be tempting to start listing everything you’ve done at work. You end up with a list of tasks like “managed people”, “answered phone calls” or “made coffee”.
Anybody can do these things.
Instead of listing your duties on your resume, focus on your accomplishments and their impact on the organisation. Ask yourself:
- Did I help the company grow?
- Did I help the company save money?
- What other (commercially meaningful) needles did I move?
3. Include Only Relevant Experience.
If you don’t know your main selling points, you’ll be tempted to include everything, hoping that something will stand out to a hiring manager.
This, by the way, is the main reason resumes get too long.
The first step in fixing this type of bloat is reassessing your direction. Are you clear on your target role? You may have drifted off course and are trying to target too many roles with a single resume.
Once you’ve narrowed your focus to a single role, identify 3-5 main competencies crucial for success in this role, demonstrate that you possess the relevant experience, and offer proof. You’ve guessed it, this means backing up your claims with achievements.
4. Don’t Cut Corners.
Those offer you a good starting point but cannot effectively showcase your relevant skills and professional experience. Resume writing is not a one-size-fits-all exercise that a robot can do. Use one of my resume writing guides to make sure your resume is not only beautiful but also packs a punch:
I hope that this article helped you get your resume length right. Let me know how you compete against other job seekers in the market!