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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 advice@jtanddale.com

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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. Write a great resume in 15 minutes!

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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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Myths vs. Fact: There are many myths floating around on the internet and throughout the job marketplace regarding the correct length of a resume and how far back a resume should go. These are all good questions and subjects to cover since there are many different approaches you must take depending on your particular background and target industry. The truth is, there are no standard rules that should be applied to the length of a resume. However, keeping the content concise and straight to the point may be a key element in the effectiveness of the document, depending on your line of work. Some job seekers will have more information than others, for example - a seasoned professional with 20 years of work history and eight different jobs held versus an entry-level college graduate with no significant achievements or experience. Obviously, there will be a distinguishable format between the two resumes. An entry-level job search campaign may be one of the examples when the rumor about a "one-page resume" would apply. Again, this is not a standard rule that one must follow. Every industry, recruiter, and employer requires varied amounts of information to be displayed on a resume. Therefore, it is important to hone in on those particular requirements to ensure you are gathering the necessary information to achieve your targeted objective. So, just to recap - how long should your resume be? Well, there is simply no definite answer to this question. So, when you are asking yourself if your resume is too long, remember, everyone's situation is different, job requirements vary, and some backgrounds are more diverse or extensive than others. Unfortunately, two myths regarding resume length continue to impact job seekers:
  • 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.
Interestingly enough, these two myths represent opposing viewpoints; however, like many myths, they each contain some truth that derives from how a resume will be screened by hiring managers. Keep in mind some companies may also first use an applicant tracking system (ATS) for screening and organizing applicants. Resume Scanning: A resume will first receive a very brief scan, often 10-20 seconds, to determine if the candidate appears to meet the major requirements. While the entire resume may be quickly scanned, utilizing a summary of qualifications with keywords and phrases based upon one's career goal and job target is advantageous. A resume that passes the initial scan will then receive greater scrutiny to determine if a candidate qualifies for an interview. Here, relevant depth and detail in the history is best since the candidate's experience, skills, and strengths - as they apply to the position - will be more thoroughly assessed.

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