How to Determine If Your Resume Is the Right Length

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It’s hard to know how long to make your resume because there isn’t one “right length.” It depends on your circumstances and the job. In general, resumes for jobs in the private sector should never exceed two pages, but those for government jobs can be as long as seven pages. 

Let’s take a look at how you can determine if your resume is the right length. Do you need help with expanding or condensing it? Contact a resume expert for help.

When a one-page resume is acceptable 

For the longest time, the belief was that your resume could only be one page long. It didn’t matter how many years of experience you had—it had to fit onto one page. This often resulted in leaving out information essential to the recruiter’s hiring decision and rendered applicants unable to present their best selves to the employer. 

Today, your resume can exceed one page, but there are times when a one-page resume is acceptable and even recommended, such as when you’re applying for an entry-level position. Don’t cut out pertinent information to keep the length to one page, but don’t add fluff to make your resume longer, either. 

If you’re a recent college graduate, you may struggle to compile more than one page worth of information, especially if you didn’t participate in many career-related activities while in college. Don’t worry—simply include what you were involved in. If you can fit all your relevant information on one page, then go with a one-pager. Don’t include high school awards to stretch your resume: Since you’ve already graduated from college, their mention may indicate to the recruiter that you don’t have better achievements to showcase. 

Other reasons to submit a shorter resume include being new to the workforce or changing careers. Refrain from filling your resume with information that doesn’t help your cause—every word on the page should be there for a reason. If irrelevant work history is unnecessarily lengthening your resume, you can delete it. It’s better to have a shorter resume with essential information than a longer one with irrelevant information. 

The standard: Two-page resume

The standard resume length is two pages. That’s what hiring managers usually look for. If you submit more than that, they may not be happy, and your resume could end up in the trash bin. 

If you’ve been in the workforce for any amount of time, you should have no problem filling two pages with information that highlights your skills and experience. In fact, it might be more of a challenge to condense everything you want to share into just two pages. 

Also, today’s recruiters don’t want a description of your responsibilities at previous jobs but an account of what you accomplished there. This means that your work experience section will probably be longer than in the past, but this is essential information that proves your qualifications. 

Sticking to the standard two-pager

Don’t ignore the two-page standard and go filling several pages with all your impressive work achievements—if you defy convention, you may give the impression that you’re incapable of writing concisely or filtering information appropriately, not to mention that you may come across as conceited. Therefore, make sure you stick to the two-page standard.

If you have many years of employment, you might not need to list your oldest experience. In general, hiring managers only care about your most recent jobs. However, that doesn’t mean you have to leave out your previous work experience altogether. If you exclude just a couple of jobs, you could add a “Career Note” section where you list your positions at different companies with a brief, one-line description. You could also include an “Earlier Work History” section that contains only positions and places of employment (in case you’ve left out more than two jobs). It’s okay to completely omit some jobs if you don’t have room—you should evaluate all the information and prioritize the best, most important pieces.

Another way to stick to the standard page length is to play with the formatting a little. You shouldn’t go overboard with this, but there is some wiggle room. You can use a 10-pt font, but don’t go any smaller than that. You can also choose a naturally smaller font, such as Calibri or Arial Narrow. Just stay with standard fonts that can be read by any operating system and word processor. 

Finally, if your resume is still too long, it’s time to eliminate some content. Look for anything you can cut out, paying special attention to where you can reduce the number of lines in a paragraph. See if you can find ways to convey the same information in fewer words. Also, look for space wasters such as “References available upon request”—recruiters will ask for references if they need them. Get rid of anything that unnecessarily takes up space!

When your resume can be longer than two pages

In rare cases, it may be appropriate to submit a resume longer than two pages. If, for example, you’re applying for a government job, your resume could be up to seven pages long. The government has far more requirements than private sector employers, so don’t fret about the length of your federal resume. Don’t try to squeeze all that information into two pages—it won’t work. Hiring managers know that, so you won’t be docked points.

Another exception is an application for a job in academia or the sciences. In these cases, your resume could be ten pages or longer. There’s no limit when it comes to academic resumes because these institutions want to see you have what it takes to deliver impressive results.  Carefully read the requirements in the job description and include all relevant information in your resume—don’t worry about length unless you’re being unnecessarily verbose. 

The length of your resume plays an essential role in the hiring process. Most recruiters spend mere seconds scanning each submission, and if you give them too much information right off the bat, they won’t take the time to read it through. Following the two-page standard will help keep your resume concise and easy to read. Need help getting it right? Consult a resume expert to ensure the best result!

Improve Your Resume or CV