Have you ever wondered, how long is too long for a resume? You’re not the only one. There’s always been some confusion around this topic. Today, career experts J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten clear things up. Dear J.T. and Dale, How long is too long for a resume? I remember being told that my resume should be one page. Recently, my employer was hiring and we were getting 2-3 page resumes. One person even had a section with her personal information: kids, hobbies. What are the rules? - Shilo According to O’Donnell, the meat of the issue is that there are no rules when it comes to resumes, which is why everyone is confused and on different pages when it comes to content, length, formatting, and so on. She recommended that your resume be no longer than 1-2 pages. Studies show that recruiters spend about six seconds scanning a resume, so you want to make sure you’re making it easy for them to find the right information as quickly as possible. So, there are two things you should do when writing a resume. First, simplify the text. Don’t try to fit in too much, and don’t worry about including irrelevant experience. In the end, that’s not what recruiters are looking for when they read your resume. They’re looking for specific information about you that proves you can do the job they’re looking to fill. “Stick to the facts,” said O’Donnell. “Get rid of all of that flowery language.” Second, make sure the font is at least 11 point. If you make it too small in an effort to fit as much as you can on a page, it’s going to be hard to read and difficult for the recruiter to find what he or she is looking for within that six second period. “Do your best to simplify and think about that reader,” O’Donnell said. “Less is more.” However, Dauten suggested that there’s no harm in having a longer resume (2-3 pages). Dauten argued that including hobbies on your resume, which can make it longer than it needs to be, might actually help to strike up conversation and connection during an interview. “I don’t see that it hurts anything [to have a longer resume],” said Dauten. “And maybe you have a chance to make that personal connection.” Unfortunately, there's no solid answer to "How long is too long for a resume?" However, in the end, it’s all about the content and how you present it to the recruiter or employer. Are you making it easy for the reader to find what he or she is looking for? Want to ask J.T. & Dale a question? Email your question to email@example.com
Today’s job applicants have a major challenge – finding the right balance for their resume. Going too long on a resume you lose the hiring manager’s attention. Going too short on the resume you end up not hitting enough keywords and terms to match what the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is looking for to secure a good ranking. So, what are today’s job applicants to do? Related: How To Quantify Your Accomplishments On A Resume Find answers to address resume length here. There’s two ways to go about the situation:
1. Make Two Versions of Your ResumeWhat the human reviewer looks for on the resume will be different from what the ATS looks for. By preparing two different versions of your resume, you can customize information to the particular audience. Resume for the Human Reviewer
- When you are sending your resume directly to an individual you may have already spoken to or to someone you know who will personally review it, customize your resume so there is succinct information about your experience and accomplishments. This will allow the individual to assess how well you did the job and where your expertise lies. They will not care so much for specific information defining your role and responsibility on the job because it is generally understood what an Accountant does, what someone working the IT Helpdesk does, what a Web Designer does, etc.
- Focus your resume content on highlighting how you used your experience and skills on the job and what you achieved with it. For more tips on customizing the resume for the human reviewer, read: “How To Customize Your Resume” and “How To Create A Resume With Impact: Duties Vs. Results.”
- When you are sending in your resume online through a job board, LinkedIn or company web site, there’s a high chance your resume will be submitted to the ATS to be filtered and ranked. In this instance, it’s okay for your resume to run longer as the software will look for roles and responsibilities in order to rank your skill level. The ATS is looking for matches in job title, job description and responsibilities, and other keywords and terms relevant to the job and industry.
2. Follow the Harvard Format for Highlighting Your Roles, Responsibilities, and AchievementsIf you don’t want to maintain two versions of your resume, the simple answer is to write your resume using the Harvard format. The Harvard format is used under the Work Experience section of your resume to appeal to the human reviewer and the ATS. It cover both roles and responsibilities as well as your accomplishments on the job in a succinct manner. To apply the Harvard format to your resume, describe your roles and responsibilities in paragraph form. Follow the section up with bullet points detailing your accomplishments. Give your bullet points impact by indicating the challenge, what action you took, and the results you produced. You also want to prioritize your bullet points by importance. For more tips on using bullets on the resume, read: “6 Tips For Using Bullet Points On Your Resume.” Finding the right balance on the resume to meet both what the human reviewer is looking for and what the ATS is looking for is a challenge every job seeker faces today. There’s really no way in telling every time which employer is going through resumes manually and who’s relying on the ATS. To ensure your resume doesn’t get dismissed, apply the tips above. And remember, resume length should not be something to worry about if the content you are providing is relevant. This post was originally published at an earlier date.
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About the authorDon Goodman’s firm was rated as the #1 Resume Writing Service in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Don is a triple-certified, nationally recognized Expert Resume Writer, Career Management Coach and Job Search Strategist who has helped thousands of people secure their next job. Check out his Resume Writing Service. Get a Free Resume Evaluation or call him at 800.909.0109 for more information. Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here. Photo Credit: Shutterstock
I recently came across a resume that listed a summer cashier position in 1976 as part of a person’s “professional experience.” RELATED: Need to write a resume? Watch these tutorials! While it may seem a little strange or ridiculous to include an irrelevant position from over 25 years ago, I can tell you it’s actually not that uncommon to come across something like this. A lot of people think they literally need to include everything they’ve ever been involved with on their resumes, and I can assure you not only do you not have to follow suit, you also don’t really need to go back any longer than 10 years. The main goal of your resume should be to impress the reader with the specific qualifications and experiences that make you fit to be hired for a desired position. That being said, the reader is most interested in what you have done recently, not in what you did over 10 years ago. The bulk of your resume should be devoted to the last few years of your working history – this is what potential employers want to know about. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably held a number of jobs over time if you include the part-time and casual positions. If you wrote a little bit about each one of these, your resume would probably near the four page mark in experience alone. Considering it shouldn’t be longer than two pages, this is far from ideal. When it comes to listing your professional experiences, stick to the most recent and relevant positions. There is no need to include everything, and writing about too much will sometimes blur your positions together and detract from your real qualifications. Unless you’ve held the same position for over 10 years, there is really no reason to go back any longer than this, and employers don’t even expect to go back that far on your resume anyway. If you do have quite an extensive work history of relevant positions, focus on the most recent ones and then simply list the earlier positions under a new category for “previous or other employment.” Just remember there is such a thing as “too much” on a resume. Focus on what the hiring manager wants to see, not on how much information you can cram onto it.
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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- Myth 1: A resume should never be more than one page or it will not be read by busy HR professionals and managers.
- Myth 2: Some believe a lengthy resume (more than 2 or 3 pages) is required to adequately describe a candidate's background.