How Long Is Too Long for Your Resume?

It can be hard to prioritize what to include on your resume and what to leave out. This becomes doubly difficult when no one can tell you for sure exactly how long a resume should even be. It used to be a tried-and-true rule that one page was all you had. But now? Times are changing. Here are a few tips to figure out just how long is too long for your resume.

How long is too long_In Article

Why the debate?

First of all, let us examine why there is such heated debate in the first place over whether a one-, two-, or even three-page resume is the way to go. EnhanCV points out that a few decades ago (when the “one-page resume” rule was golden), printing costs were something that most people had to consider. Now that printers themselves have gotten cheaper and access to them has broadly widened, that is not really a factor anymore. In fact, CNBC quotes a study saying hiring managers are actually more likely to choose a two-page resume over a one-page one. In other words: There is no correct answer.

The general rule

There are, however, general rules you can follow that might help make sense of it all. If you are fairly new to your career—say, four years or less—you should continue following the one-page rule. The reason is fairly straightforward: You do not have extensive experience with which to fill a multi-page resume. If you have only been in the workforce for a year or two, it will look strange to recruiters to see page upon page of experience—and may even raise a red flag you are exaggerating what experience you do have.

If you are more than three or four years into your career, it is possible you have more experience than will fit on a traditional one-page format. If that is the case, aim for no more than two pages and be sure you are keeping the skills and responsibilities you have relevant for the exact position to which you are applying.

If you are applying to a position in academia, a technical field, or another senior position, three pages are acceptable if that is what it takes to highlight your relevant experience. But even if you have decades of experience behind you, do not take that as an excuse to ramble. Be sure to keep your language as clear, concise, and results oriented as possible.

If your resume is too long, what should you do?

So, you have decided whether your ideal resume should be one, two, or three pages long. But the one you have now is…much longer than that. How do you trim it down?

The first (and easiest) step is to cut out all the “filler” words. These include “a,” “an,” “the,” “that,” etc.—any words that are not immediately needed to get your meaning across. Wherever you can, quantify your achievements. You can also remove your first job (or two), as well as educational details that do not exactly relate to the job post at hand. Finally, carefully reread the job posting and home in on the main key words the employer is looking for. Then look for ways to replace the wordier details on your resume with those key words—which tend to already be nice and succinct

The whole point of a resume is for your hard work and experience to stand out from the crowded field of applicants. It can be a fine line between highlighting your talents and overwhelming the resume reader with too many details. But with a little tweaking, it is possible to find the combination that is right for you—and your dream job.

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