Career advice writers love to debate resume length. Despite years and years of discussion, there exists no dominating rule for how long and descriptive your resume should be. Some say you should keep your resume to a page for every 10 years of experience. Others say that you shouldn’t care about resume length at all.
It’s one of those cases where Google doesn’t have the answer.
Well, we’re here to tell you that a single standard for resume length doesn’t and shouldn’t exist. It all depends. Instead, there are a few heuristics and guidelines you can look to when crafting the perfect resume. Here are ways you can navigate the bumpy resume length issue:
Shorter is better – to a point
When a recruiter or hiring manager reads your resume for the first time, they only skim it. They’re checking your job titles to see if they match the role you’re applying for and glancing through your skillset. This person is reading a stack of sometimes over a hundred resumes. That first read-through is meant to narrow the pile down based on first glance, picking the most apparently qualified for further evaluation.
For that reason, shorter resumes are usually better. The faster a reader can get through your resume and find the relevant information, the better, so try to keep it to a single page if you have less than 10 years of experience.
However, if you have a complicated background or a lot of experience, follow the page-per-10-years rule. Never constrain your length if it’s preventing you from including parts of your resume that could get you the job.
Keep it short by keeping it relevant
You should be catering your resume to each job you apply to -- it’s an unbreakable job search rule. Write up a long-form and short-form version of each job listed in your resume. Then, analyze which parts of your work experience best fit the job description. You can swap long and short versions on the fly, picking your spots based on relevance to the skillset required by the specific job you’re applying for.
For example, maybe two of your last three jobs were in sales, and one was in customer success. If you’re applying for another customer facing job, emphasize the customer success role with more detailed bullet points. Keep the other two positions brief, emphasizing the parts of them that will help you succeed in this particular job.
Not only is this useful to keep your resume from running too long, you’ll also come across as a candidate who truly understands the requirements of each job you’re applying to and knows how to make a resume directly relevant to the reader.
Just remember not to create a time gap by removing jobs altogether. Even if you reduce a role to a single bullet point, it’s better than creating a gap in your work experience that you otherwise wouldn’t need to explain.
Keep context in mind
As with many job search rules, the rules on resume length can be broken. It all depends on the context and circumstances of your career and the jobs you apply to.
Some young professionals go through three or four jobs in their first few years out of college, while others stay at the same job for five or more years. Some industries require certain materials or information in a resume that completely break the norms of a “standard” document.
Judge your situation and the job you’re applying to and make appropriate decisions to send out the best possible application. Cut out things that seem extraneous to the role you’re seeking and place emphasis on the things that will get you through the door.
For example, if you’re a recent grad but have a few years of experience across a job or two and several internships, consider shortening or cutting out college extracurricular activities and simplifying your education section. What you did in college and what GPA you graduated with matters less the further you progress in your career. You can always use that information in an interview to talk up your leadership skills and proactive involvement.
Think about your resume like a website
The best websites use big, bold words that are super relevant to what you’re looking for to draw you in. They hook you with their value proposition and get you to click to find out more about a particular item or service. Further pages that you click through have more information, specifics and particulars, and require careful reading. At your own pace, you find out the information you need to know.
Think of your resume the same way. Simplify your wording, focus on the relevant details, and give a reader enough to go on that they’ll want to learn more. They’ll read each bullet point after you hook them in with their first skim. They’ll ask you questions or have you in an for an interview to dig deeper.
Whether it’s over email or in person, you’ll then engage in a conversation that lets you open up on the details, the projects you couldn’t mention, and the passion you can’t exactly put into words. That resume, much like the front page of a website, is all about the hook.
Your resume is your first line of self-advertising. Spend enough time making sure it’s easily consumed and you’ll get folks through the funnel and yourself further into the interview process.
Job search rules aren’t designed to be immutable – instead, they’re guidelines for best practices that apply to the average job seeker. If you’re not an average job seeker, then go right ahead and break the rules that don’t apply!