What is the “right” resume length? It seems as though this debate has lasted as long as the one about the chicken and the egg. To this day, I have clients and potential clients who have been indoctrinated one way or another with regard to how long their resume should be. Is a one-page resume enough? Is a two-page resume too much? Well, Let’s clear it up, shall we?
Let’s first address the absolutes: there is no specific “requirement” regarding resume length. Actually, there is no specific anything when it comes to your resume. If you simply consider the situation of this makes sense. When you seek to write a good resume, you are usually attempting to stand out from the crowd with only a few seconds to impress your reader. So, if everyone followed the same guidelines with regard to length, information inclusion, font, margins, and any other factors that can affect the resume, how could you possibly differentiate yourself? Now, Let’s Get down to real-world “brass tax”, shall we?
In actuality, the general guideline is in fact one to two pages for resume length. Again, it want to stress here the word GENERAL. Now, it is true that many hiring managers and recruiters have indicated that when they receive resumes longer than two pages, they to as them. But this is not the case for everyone. I have worked with recruiters in the past that specifically requested three pages for their clients. Recruiters can be one of your most common exceptions to the guideline because they forward your resume to their clients “pre-qualified” as a viable candidate. So instead of them wading through 150 resumes (with 75% of them being nowhere near qualified), yours might be 1 of only 10 that make it to the decision makers desk.
As certified resume writers, we are taught that a resume should be “as long as need be to be compelling”. Of course, most gifted certified resume writers will tell you that regardless of the experience level, they can work that content into two pages without losing any potency (I know I can). But there are some common sense considerations that can guide you in determining the right resume length. For example, if you are a college student with zero or little work experience, a two-page resume is usually unnecessary. After all, just how much is there to say? In many cases, when I find a client with minimal experience with a two-page resume, the main issue is usually inefficient formatting. Likewise, if you are a senior level executive with 25 years of experience, it is likely a one-page document won’t tell the story comprehensively enough.
Suffice it to say, you should never go into the writing if your resume with rules that lock you in. Every applicant and job target is different and the resume should adapt accordingly. Yes, there are guidelines, but they are the starting point.