How Long Should A Resume Be These Days?

There is still a lot of confusion regarding the length of a resume. Some people say their resume should be one page, others say their resume should not be more than two pages, and still others say it should be very succinct. Related: 3 Tips To Get Your Resume In The ‘Yes’ Pile Well, the rules for resume length have changed dramatically. Here’s why. Fifteen years ago, a resume had an Objective followed by a list of your jobs and duties. So, an accounting manager would state that they worked for GE posting journal entries, overseeing accounts receivable, and managing the month-end close. The strategy here was that, if an employer thought you had the right background, they would invite you in for an interview to see what you have actually accomplished in that role. That changed about eight years ago to a greater focus on demonstrated skills and accomplishment. Essentially, employers were saying, “I know what an accountant does, just tell me whether you were any good doing it." So, resumes shifted their emphasis to skills and accomplishments over roles and responsibilities. The accounting manager resume would now show how you shortened the month-end closing cycle and reduced outstanding accounts receivable. This made a lot of sense and helped managers identify the top performers. But all that has changed with the proliferation of the Applicant Tracking Systems, the software that many companies are now using to read and rank resumes. When you apply through job boards or a company website, chances are good that your resume is going into an Applicant Tracking System. Although managers still want to see accomplishments, the software will rank your resume on roles and responsibility keywords. That means today’s resumes need details of the tasks you did as well as highlighting the results you delivered. The result is that the resume is getting longer and denser. If you do not list the duties and tasks you were responsible for, the Applicant Tracking Systems will give you a low ranking and your resume will not even be seen. For example, I recently spoke to a Fortune 500 executive and he said that when he is looking for talent, HR just gives him a list of the top 20 ranked resumes out of the 400 received. That means that over 380 resumes were never even glanced at by the hiring manager! It also means that, if you do not list the roles and responsibilities you performed for each job, a human will not see your resume (even if you are the greatest performer in that role). Bottom line – you now have to impress the computer and the human reviewer, meaning your resume just got longer and denser. The next time you show your resume to someone and they say it should be shorter or it is too long, then ask them what their strategy is to get through the Applicant Tracking System. If they look at you confused, then you should get another opinion.


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