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How to Make Your Resume the Perfect Length (+To the Point)

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This post is part of a series called How to Create a Great Resume (Ultimate Guide).
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I’m not sure where or how it started, but a few years ago someone came up with the rule that a resume should only have one page. 

Applications with more than one page were either a waste of time time or doomed for failure. 

Nowadays applicants break this rule often and get away with it.

So, How Long Should a Resume Be (Really)? 

How long a resume is supposed to be is a hard question to answer. Recruiters and employers also have different preferences. No surprise there.

Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish, Author of Getting Back in the Game: How to Build Your Resume After Taking a Break, says

“If you’re a recent college graduate, then a one-page resume should be enough to describe your educational and professional history. By contrast, if you’ve worked for 15+ years, you will likely need a two-page document. My general rule of thumb is one page for each 10 years of job history."

Roy Cohen, Career Coach and Author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide says,

“Shorter is always better when it comes to resume length, but not at the expense of losing important content. How much information you include depends on your seniority level, the breadth of your experience, technical qualifications, and range of organizations you’ve worked for.”

He also agrees that recent college graduates should stick to a one-page document, as well as Wall-Street traders because they’re dealing with people with limited time and attention span.

Maureen CrawfordHentz, Talent Acquisition Manager at Osram Sylvania, hates short teaser resumes with little to no information, and a request to “call for more information.”

Recruiters, in most cases, aren’t the end-reader of a resume. They forward the resumes to hiring clients, so they also take their preferences into consideration.

how long is a resume supposed to be
Perfect resume length: how long is a resume supposed to be? (graphic source)

It looks like a better resume length guideline to follow is: your resume should be short enough that it’s not a chore to read, but long enough to include information that will entice recruiters to give you a call.

In this tutorial, we look at what components to drop from your resume and how to edit it down, so you can keep your resume length concise—just to what's needed for the job your'e applying to. We answer some common questions on resume length and give you some killer tips to work with as well.

Use the 6 Second Rule

A study revealed that recruiters only spend about six seconds on each resume. This might be the reason one-page resumes became popular.

Sure, a one page resume is quicker to read than a two-pager. But that just means it’s quicker for the recruiter to decide whether an applicant is worth calling.

A one-page resume will still get thrown in the trash if recruiters can’t find the qualifications they’re looking for. Resume length doesn’t matter if bullet points and fluff buried your skills and experience.

It’s not so much the length that matters—it’s how fast you can get the recruiter’s attention. Since you only have about six seconds, your first page—the first 1/3 of that page—has to be a show stopper—if you want the rest of your application read.

What Are the Ideal Number of Resume Pages?

Use a One-Page Resume If:

  • You’re a fresh graduate with limited experience related to your target job.
  • You’re changing careers and your previous experience isn’t relevant to your new industry.
  • You have less than 10 years of professional experience or less than four employers.

Use a Two-Page Resume If:

  • You’re a fresh graduate with several internships, summer jobs, or extra-curricular activities that may be tied to the job you’re pursuing.
  • Your job requires varying technical or industry-specific skills and qualifications that not all applicants have.
  • You have more than 10 years of professional experience in your field.
  • You’re in a senior management role with tons of responsibilities.
  • You’re in a field that requires demonstrating specialized training and achievments, like publications and licenses.

Addenda: What Is It and Who Uses It

Executive recruiters used to read three and four-page resumes. While still acceptable today, a growing trend is to send a two page resume followed by addenda.

Addendum (plural: Addenda) is a one-page document that you can send with your resume, or give during an interview. The resume contains a candidate’s main selling points, while the addendum gives a closer look at the applicant’s qualifications.

An addendum elaborates on different aspects of your professional experience, such as but not limited to:

  • Work projects or case studies
  • Technical skills
  • Software knowledge
  • Equipment operation skills
  • Classes or seminars taught
  • Training
  • Leadership experience

Separating this information into an addendum frees up space for important corporate contributions. It also gives the applicant freedom to choose which addenda to send with his application.

How to Shorten Your Resume by Tailoring It to Your Target Job

How long should your resume be? While the perfect resume length depends on your experience and the type of job you're applying to, it's helpful to keep your resume as concise and to the point as possible. Let's look at how to focus your resume by removing what's not absolutely necessary.

1. Remove Unrelated Positions From Your Resume

It’s impossible to find someone who hasn’t worked in a job they’re not proud of. Washing dishes, packing groceries, waitressing, flipping hamburgers—none of these jobs connect to whatever you’re pursuing right now. Delete them from your resume.

These jobs might have helped you pay the bills. But no hiring manager wants to hear about this part of your professional experience.

You should also delete positions no longer relevant to your professional goals. You might have started as an accountant, because that’s your college major. But if you have already switched to engineering or some other field, you shouldn’t waste space to mention your stint crunching numbers.

2. Remove Irrelevant Tasks or Accomplishments

Every job comes with a list of tasks and responsibilities, not all are worth listing in your resume. Delete everyday tasks you can’t tie to a quantifiable accomplishment or noticeable growth in your field. 

Work done with your company’s CEO, high-ranking officers, or a well-known expert in your industry is an accomplishment. Don’t delete those. You can write about this experience in two ways:

  • How working with them helped you grow in your field faster.
  • How they value your ideas and trained you to become a better leader.

3. Remove General Skills From Your Resume

General skills like researching, email management, and MS Word are only worth listing if you’re applying as an assistant, or any role where these skills are sought after.

Remove these skills and any training you did on subjects not mentioned in the specific job ad you’re applying for.

4. Remove Unrelated Community Activities

Community activities can beef up your work history if you’re changing jobs or industry. But it’s a waste of space if you’re not. Don’t include community and volunteer work unless it’s related to the job you’re applying for. Put this on your LinkedIn profile instead.

5. Delete or Shorten Long Job Duties

Sometimes explaining your role is important, especially if you have a vague job title (e.g. Executive Assistant or Graphic Designer).

Write a short description of your role instead of using several bullet points and wasting extra margin space. For example, you can elaborate on your role as a graphic designer by including this description below your job title:

“Collaborated with the product and marketing team to design packaging materials for food and house cleaning products for Brand XYZ”

That sentence describes what you design and who you work with, so you can devote your bullet points to the more impressive aspects of your design portfolio.

Want more tips to get your resume noticed?

Shorten Your Resume With Good Writing

Here's how to tighten up your resume, so you can keep it as short as possible, and the best length for your work experience and job you're applying to.

1. Simple Resume Editing Tricks

Below are several editing and writing tricks to improve the syntax and diction in your resume.

  • Avoid vague keywords like ‘creative,’ ‘customer-oriented’, or ‘performance-driven.’ These words sound good but don’t add value to your application.
  • Rewrite sentences with ‘of the’ phrase. For example, “In charge of the Food and Beverage (F&B) team” is same as “Head of Food and Beverage (F&B)”
  • Delete unnecessary ‘that’ in sentences. If you see this word on your resume, read it without the word and see if removing it doesn’t change its meaning. If it doesn’t and the sentence is grammatically correct, remove it. You’ll be surprised how often you don’t need this extra word.
  • Remove ‘very’, ‘really’ and the adverbs. Phrases with the words ‘very’ and ‘really’ can either do without those extras, or be written in a simplified form. “Executed a very successful product launch” is the same as “Executed a successful product launch.”

2. Avoid Repeating Information on Your Resume

Did you do the same tasks for multiple employers? You don’t need to mention all those tasks for every employer. Pick one task where you shined for each employer, until you've distributed all the similar tasks across your employment history. This will still demonstrate your skills, but help keep your resume length down.

For example, sales, customer service, and problem solving are common tasks for different jobs. Let's say you got a sales award or exceeded a monthly quota for one company, received praised for your customer service skills in another company, and solved a problem for one of your previous teams. Separate those three accomplishments in three work history entries on your resume. You’ll accomplish three things with this strategy: 

  • Satisfy keyword requirements of an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
  • You don’t have to come up with a way to describe each task for each item in your employment history.
  • You’ll save at least two bullet points worth of space.

3. Prioritize the First and Last Three Words of a Bullet Point

Readers remember the first three and last three words of a headline. You can also use this tip for subheadings and bullet points in your resume.

To do this, allot the first three words of the bullet to the verb, number, or keyword. Use the last three words for the accomplishment you’re trying to describe, or just minimize bullet points to six words.

Examples:

  • Optimized pay-per-click campaign in collaboration with the marketing team to increase product sales by 30%
  • 20% reduction of expenses after creating a new administrative budget

4. Remove First and Third Person Nouns

Since it’s your resume, recruiters assume you’re the doer of the actions in it, so there’s no need to write “I” or “me.” Instead of writing “I designed website themes for hotels” it’s just “Designed website themes for hotels.”

5. Replace Vague Words With Specifics

Replace vague phrases like “assisted in,” “helped with,” and “responsible for” with descriptive verbs or adjectives. Sometimes the resulting phrase will be longer, sometimes it will be shorter, but at least it’s not dead weight in your application.

Examples:

  • “Helped animators create a TV commercial” is vague compared to “Sourced high-quality images for a TV commercial”
  • “Assisted resident patients in performing simple every day tasks” is better changed to “Aided elderly patients in cleaning their apartment”
  • “Responsible for securing funding for a charity event” is shorter if you change it to “Raised $80,000 for a charity event”

6. Save Your Lines

If your resume was originally two pages, there’s a huge chance you can save space and shorten your resume page length by paying attention to items that warrant their own line or page break.

For example, does your course or major deserve a separate line?

UCLA                                                     2010

Bachelor of Arts in English

Can’t you just write it like this?

BA English, UCLA                             2010

You can also apply this to your address, phone, and email, so instead of taking up two to three lines, it could all be in one line:

Main St, Chicago | joedesignlogos@gmail.com | 312-845-1298

Even if it’s all bundled up together, there’s still enough space to make it readable and add your LinkedIn profile URL.

Resume Sections to Cut or Edit to Save Space

You can shorten your resume length by removing unnecessary sections and fluff, such as: 

1. Hobbies

Employers don’t care about what you do outside of work, unless those activities are useful to your job. Remove unrelated hobbies and interests to make room for information that will increase your value as a candidate.

2. References

Recruiters already know that you’ll give them a list of references if they ask.

3. Work History

Delete employment history older than 10 years. If it’s related to your target job, list the company and job title only.

If you’ve been with the same company more than 10 years, list the company once then cite the different job titles you’ve held over the years. Don’t list the jobs as separate work entries because it’s a waste of space, and it robs you of the opportunity to show your career progression.

4. Photos

Delete your picture on your resume to avoid discrimination and ageism. Even if you look good on a photo, there’s still a risk someone might find it unprofessional. If nothing else, you’re looking for a job—not a date.

5. Last Page With Only a Few Lines

Is the second page of your resume barely reaching half of the page? That’s a sign you’ve over-fluffed the previous page. Condense your writing and remove unnecessary information on the first page, so it doesn’t look like you’re trying hard to beef up your qualifications.

6. Education Details and Memberships

“Remove details of your GPA, coursework, school location, club information and other school organizations.This extra information is no longer used to gauge your qualifications after you have several years of employment under your belt,” suggests Michelle Riklan, Executive Resume Writer and Managing Director at Riklan Resources.

This also applies to professional organizations and affiliations, especially if you’re no longer an active member and if the membership isn’t relevant to your job.

7. Outdated Technical Skills

Rothbauer-Wanish, says, “I once advised a client to delete an entire technical skills section focused on old technology, such as Windows 95, Microsoft Works, and Internet Explorer on his resume. This information took up space and gave the impression that he’s out of touch with current technology.”

More Helpful Resume Resources

Jump into our multiple part series: How to Create a Great Resume (Ultimate Guide). Or, begin with these tutorials on how to properly structure and make a great resume:

You can also grab a professional resume template from GraphicRiver, which will help you make a resume with a great design quickly. Here are resources to help with that: 

Experiment to See What Works

You don’t have a crystal ball to tell you what the ideal resume length is for a particular recruiter or employer. There's no way to know for sure how long your resume be. So the next best thing you can do is experiment to see what works.

Create a one page resume summarizing all your relevant experience and accomplishment, a synopsis of your professional history if you will. 

Send the regular, two-page resume first. Then if you don’t get a response after a few weeks, try sending a one-page resume to see if they prefer a condensed application.

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