The Length of a Resume Does NOT Matter

The Length of a Resume Does NOT Matter

I repeat, the length of a resume does NOT matter.

I write this because I am tired of reading blog postings on the subject and receiving resumes from candidates who have been told it is a capital offense for a resume to be longer than one or two pages. Style over substance? Unbelievable!

Let's take a couple of examples:

Young woman. Five years work experience. One-page resume. I called her up. The conversation went something like this. “Thanks for sending me your resume." “You're welcome." “Who was it that told you a resume should only be one-page long?" “My friend." “Get a new friend." “Why and how did you know?" “You sent me a resume with quarter inch margins, written in 6-point font. I can't print it because the margins are too narrow; my printer requires at least half inch margins. And the print is too small for me to read. It's a PDF file so I can't make the changes myself. Send me a proper resume, one-inch margins, 12-point font. And, how do I know? Because it's my job to know." She sent me an excellent three-page resume!

(Here's the funny thing. I am an “Ambassador" with the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. Recently we had an event at Microsoft in mid-town Manhattan. One of the guests was an HR director, recently laid off. We started talking about resumes and she told me about a resume she received from a woman, one-page, quarter in margins, 6-point font. If I remember correctly, she said she did not even bother to contact her...)

Two candidates. Both applied through me for a Systems Administrator position. It was a seven-page resume vs. a one-page resume. There was nothing that could be removed from the seven-pager without diminishing quality and content. The one-pager was a solid resume showing ten years' experience. The seven-pager won. Why? Because the seven-pager had seven times more quality than the one-pager. And believe me, my client had no problem reading about what the candidate had done at Microsoft, Cisco, IBM...

Let's consider some of the claims that are made in support of the one- or two-page resume limit:

People don't read. It's a good thing nobody told J.K. Rowling! People read. HR professionals read. Hiring managers read. Business owners read. Children read – even if it's not homework. We love to read. But it has to be quality.

Resume recipients are tired. Absolutely! For every job opening they can receive hundreds of applications, meaning resumes. And they are boring. They are awful. They are one, two or three pages in length – and sometimes more. And they are absolutely what you, as a candidate, hope for. The resume recipient spends five to ten seconds, I repeat, SECONDS, glancing at those tributes to irrelevancy and then, like an oasis in the desert, your resume appears. Have you thanked professional resume writers for setting the bar so low?

I was looking to fill a position and must have received fifty unsolicited resumes. (That's when I decided to stop listing active searches on my website!) They all began the same way, with a dishonest “Objective," “I wish to utilize my education and work experience to… " Please! An honest “Objective" would read: “To get the job for which I am applying." Now THAT'S a candidate I would want to meet!

Next came the “Executive Summary" consisting of self-praise without any hard facts. It would make any mother proud to learn that her child had become a “consummate professional," “trust worthy," a “team player," someone who “exceeds expectations." But it means nothing to me. I don't care what a candidate thinks of herself; I care what she has actually done.

Then, as my eyes start to tear from staring at the computer reading dribble, it appears. Your resume! The five-page resume of my dreams. And I click “print." Why? Because, you understand me. You know I'm tired and bored and just want the facts. You make my job easy. You know that your job search is about me, not you. You have to meet my needs; I don't have to meet yours. You're incidental to the process. I'm a recruiter. I have to make my client happy. If you want to make me happy, let me make my client happy. And what makes my client happy? A candidate who gets to the point and does not waste time.

It all comes down to differentiation. And you're lucky. Be grateful for the resume writers who insist on keeping resumes to a page. Someone else is paying them to make you look good!

So how do you look good? Get rid of the Objective and Summary statements. They're nonsense. Start with a heading, “Selected Accomplishments," followed by four to six bullet points that highlight objective, verifiable achievements that you have had that speak to the position for which you are applying. The tired, bored resume recipient will, in five seconds, know what you have to offer. Then they will check to see if you meet the minimum qualifications for the job (years experience, education, certifications) and whether or not you are a “jumper" or keep your jobs for a good length of time. If you pass that test, you can expect your phone to ring.

I think it was Corey Harlock who told me on my radio show the one question everyone should ask before hiring a resume writer or career counselor is, “Have you ever hired anyone?" Great question. Ask it! For the record, I have. (For the record, it's important because persons who have not actually hired anyone have an academic approach to resume writers, while we have a practical approach.)

Bruce A. Hurwitz, Ph.D., President and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, Ltd., has been an executive recruiter and career counselor since 2003. CAREEREALISM users are eligible for a half-price discount on his course, How to Conduct an Effective Job Search. When prompted enter Coupon Code CR201101.

Measuring tape image from Shutterstock

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