The ideal length for a resume is 1 page for every 10 years of experience. Recruiters and hiring managers don’t spend much time reading through the document on their very first glance, since they usually have a large pile of candidates to evaluate. The page per 10 years rule is designed to help them quickly and efficiently read through your work experience, gaining all the important relevant information without losing interest. For this reason, shorter is almost always better.
But sometimes it’s not exactly clear how to properly cut down on your resume bullet points. All your experiences, accomplishments, and responsibilities sound important to you. As a result, figuring out which ones to put your primary focus on can be a tough task.
Here are some tips on how to optimize your resume for readability.
Stop playing with formatting
The first and most important lesson to learn from resume writing is that the more complicated your formatting becomes, the more unreadable your resume is. You may think that using two columns instead of a single page, widening your margins substantially, or using a tiny font are great ways to cut down on resume length. That only makes your reader’s job a lot more difficult.
Think of it from the reader’s perspective. You’re sorting through a large pile of 100+ resumes to find the top 20 candidates for the role. To make your life easier, you want the process to be as uniform as possible from one document to the next.
If your resume is hard to read, chances are that it’ll be impossible to focus on. Asking a hiring manager to first figure out how to read your resume before they can start evaluating your experience is a quick way to lose their interest. That is why getting creative with formatting is a dangerous game.
Too many websites and resume services offer “gorgeous templates” that will produce “stunning resumes.” The problem is that it’s not the design that will stun the hiring manager. It’s the content. And design, flair, and bad formatting distracts from that content.
Forget about fancy resume templates and go with something simple and easy to read.
Discover your relevance
When you’re applying for jobs that are a great fit for your background, relevance can be tough to determine. After all, everything you did in your career up to this point is highly relevant to how effective you’ll be at your next job. It’s a bit easier to figure out how to make your resume relevant if you’re switching careers or industries. But more likely than not, you’re going for the same type of role as your prior position.
Resist the temptation to put in every single accomplishment and responsibility you’ve ever had into bullet points. Choosing what you put in is not the easiest task in the world. Luckily, there are a few great tools you can use to make an informed and intelligent decision on what skills and accomplishments to emphasize.
First and foremost is the job description. A well-written description will give you insight into the day to day functions of the role, as well as the expectations you’ll face from management. It will give you hints as to what type of candidate the company is looking at. This information is crucial in properly catering your resume to the role.
Put it all together in a marketing document
Now that you know exactly what the company wants from the perfect candidate, it’s time to create a resume that will get them hooked. Use the responsibilities, accomplishments, and learnings from your last jobs that directly exemplify why you’d be the perfect candidate to handle the job you want. Emphasize those skills and accomplishments by listing them as the top bullets in each role. If you need to cut down on length, remove bullet points that are only peripherally related to the job description.
Remember that you can always talk about your prior experience in more depth during the job interview. Your resume is a marketing document for your skills. The best marketing gives only the most necessary information to drive excitement and desire in the consumer. Make your resume a great marketing document by heavily focusing on making it relevant to your reader. Give all the information you need to make the case for why you’re the perfect candidate, and leave the reader wanting more.
Create a master resume
An easy way to automate this process is to create an entirely separate master resume document. A master resume is your work experience in its full, unedited, uncut glory. This is not a document you’ll be sending to any employer, but it is a document that will heavily inform every resume file you send.
Within your master resume, include every single role you’ve worked in your professional career. Under each role, list every single responsibility, accomplishment, and learning. Use language from several job descriptions (from jobs that sound perfect for you!) to inform the language and wording of your bullet points. Don’t hold back. Include as much information as you can.
Then, when you start putting together an application for a new role, you can swap bullet points into and out of your resume without having to rewrite anything. You can simply copy-and-paste bullet points quickly and efficiently, allowing you to put together a stunning resume without much effort.
A short but effective resume is easy to put together if you focus on your reader. Know what they want to see out of you and focus on making your resume properly formatted for readability. Even if you don’t hear it from them, hiring managers will be relieved to see that you’re making the effort to be a relevant candidate.