“How long should my resume be?” is probably the most frequently asked question I ever hear, and there is no “rule” when it comes to resumes. Everyone’s situation is different, thus the appropriate length will vary from person to person. The widespread guideline in today’s job market is to keep your resume to two pages or less – and I agree (in most scenarios).
The first question you need to ask yourself is if your document is a resume or a curriculum vitae, more commonly known as a CV. CVs are typically quite long since they include a lot of information that is typically absent from a standard resume. We’ll assume for the sake of this blog post that you have a resume, not a CV.
Now that we’ve established that you have a resume (not a CV), there are more questions to be asked. Are you a recent graduate starting a new career? Have you been in your career for 30+ years, and are seeking a lateral move? Or have you been working for decades in the same field, but you are trying to get into a new field? These questions will determine the length of your resume.
1) If you are a recent graduate, there is a good chance you’ve had several entry-level jobs which are irrelevant to your new career. For instance, if you’ve been a server and a cashier, but you just graduated with a B.S. in Biology, your experience is irrelevant. In this case, do not exceed one page on your resume. Why? Employers want to see what skills and experiences are relevant to them. Do not make them read through two pages of info about serving food, or processing transactions. They will put your resume in the trash can. Look into using a functional resume.
2) Let’s say you have been in the same career for 30+ years. How long should your resume be? I recommend two pages or less. Why? If you’ve been doing the same thing for several years, there is no point in repeating the same job information over and over again. Highlight your most recent job(s) and include only employer names, job titles, and dates for your older jobs. Most employers do not care about employment that is 10+ years old, but including the information listed above will at least show them that you’ve had success in the industry for several years without making them read 3-4 pages of the exact same information. Avoid repetition.
3) What if you’ve been doing the same thing for several years, but want to transition into a new field? For instance, if you’ve been selling cars for 20 years, but you want to transition into an office job, the bulk of your experience will be irrelevant. I recommend using a one page functional resume to show employers your transferable skills. Why? This will show them you have the skillset for the job without boring them with multiple pages of irrelevant car sales responsibilities.
In summary, there is no straightforward answer to how long your resume should be. As a general guideline (not a rule), keep it to two pages or less, but everyone’s situation is different. Use however much space you need to inform employers about your relevant skills and experience, but be as concise as possible.
By Drew Roark