Does Resume Length Matter With ATS?

A frequently discussed resume question between resume writers, recruiters, and applicants is the question of the influence of Applicant Tracking Systems (“ATS”) on the appropriate length of a resume. Resume: Why You Shouldn't Write A 'One-Size-Fits-All' Resume Back in ancient history (anyone remember the 90s?), the vast majority of resumes were submitted on paper via snail mail and/or fax. Pre-screening of resumes those days was performed by a real human being that physically touched, handled, and actually “scanned” the documents with his/her eyes. That meant a lot of work for HR. Just imagine having to sift through 200 or 300 applications. The rule of thumb in those days for job hunters was thus to not “aggravate” or “bother” the pre-screening human being with overly long resumes that might have meant a quick toss to the “no” pile. As a consequence, job hunters were advised to limit their resumes to one or two pages.


The Influence Of The ATS

Today, HR does not have to bother with manually screening of the first round of resumes. That job is done for 80% of all open positions by ATS software. But what does that mean for you job hunters? Does the old rule of thumb to limit your resume to one or two pages still apply? As far as the ATS is concerned, the answer is easy: it does not. ATS does not generally get aggravated because a resume might seem long. Quite the contrary, recent industry studies suggest that longer resumes tend to perform better in ATS rankings. Why? Because it is easier to reach the required keyword density with a longer document. But be aware: just because you decide to submit your long resume version that includes any certification and internship you ever did 15 or 20 years ago, does not equate to a better ATS ranking. No, ATS are smart enough to scan and rank the density of content relevant keywords. So, more does not necessarily mean better.

The Process Is Twofold

You should also bear in mind that passing the ATS is only the first step in the process of netting an interview. After the ATS have filtered down the amount of applicants to maybe 10 or 20, an actual person will start reading these resumes. And that actual person might not be too amused to see that your document takes more than twice the time to read than some of the other resumes. And bam – your resume goes straight to the “no” pile (just like in the 90s; just at a later stage). And that’s where I usually leave the discussion to the academics about what the adequate resume length might be is in this time of ATS. They will be discussing it over and over with no “right” or “wrong” solution. No benefit for you as the job hunter. The real important take-away for you as the job hunter here is: your resume has to equally please the computer and the human eye.

Consequence

As the job hunter, you have to please the ATS first. So, if you have enough relevant (!) content then don’t feel bound to leave information off just to keep your resume to two pages. However, bear in mind that this does not give you a free ticket to ramble on and on just because the computer does not care. You still want to please the human reader as well. So, two or three pages? Whatever you feel better suits the needs of the ATS AND the human reader.

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About the author

Tim Windhof is a published and enthusiastic Resume Writer and Career Coach who is fascinated by helping people take their careers to the next level. Tim is a resume expert and educator for the American Writers and Artists, Inc. and their Resume Writer Training program. Tim has written interview-yielding resumes for clients from the US, Canada, India, Australia, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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