How Long Should My Resume Be?

Tradition says one page for every ten years of experience and never more than two pages, but are old rules still relevant in the world of recruiting today?

We see resumes from professionals at all levels squeeze miniscule fonts between absurdly small margins, even leave off important information – all in an attempt to restrict their resume to those traditional one or two pages. They don’t realize they are struggling to live by a rule established in the 1970’s that has little relevance to the modern world of work.

The increasing complexity of work

Since those days, technology has increased the complexity of all jobs, requiring more space to explain experience and contributions, even when a resume is properly focused. At the same time, the average resume writer still believes that recruiters yearn to know everything about him since kindergarten, so we end up with visually inaccessible resumes.

should my resume be one page

And this leads to those miniscule fonts and our next problem …

Reading resumes is a mind-numbing experience and recruiters just won’t read tiny little fonts or struggle through resumes that are stuffed with superlatives and irrelevant experience. They only look at resumes when a specific job exists, and accordingly read with a narrow focus: Can this person do the job I need to fill right now?

So, how long should my resume be?

I spoke to Olga Ocon, a respected Silicon Valley headhunter about this issue; her take was that she wouldn’t pay much attention to an engineer with ten years’ experience and a two-page resume.

She explained that anyone who could get ten years of technology experience onto two pages had either been sitting on their thumbs, didn’t understand what they were doing or couldn’t communicate. She makes a point: If the resume is focused then length should not be a negative factor.

How important is length?

It isn’t the length of the resume that is so frustrating to recruiters; it’s the writer’s lack of focus on a specific job. When a resume is packed with information relevant to the deliverables of a specific job, the content becomes absorbing.

Imagine you are reading such a resume. Turning the first page you mutter, “OMG this one could fit,” and this feeling grows throughout the second page. Are you then going to turn to a third page and declare that you couldn’t possibly interview someone who has a three page resume, someone who broke a rule established for the dark ages of technology?

Given that a resume is focused on the job’s deliverables, its length will be determined by the complexity of the story that it needs to tell. Sometimes it will exceed two pages, and even more the higher a person climbs.

If the focus of the resume is clear, length is not an issue. In fact when resumes need to be data-dense to be found in resume databases that can hold over a quarter of a billion resumes, focus and depth lead to increased discoverability.

If your resume isn’t getting a response you are better advised to consider whether it is too short rather than too long.

For more targeted advice on creating an impactful resume that will get you hired, check out Knock Em Dead Resumes or consider letting our professional resume writing service write a custom document for you.