How Long Should a Resume Really Be?

Writing Resume

The concept of the one page resume has been around for as long as I can remember, but the idea has a hard time fading away. It’s not hard to see why it made sense decades ago, when the way you applied for a job was very different. I remember 20 years ago how I had applied for jobs. I’d go to the place I wanted to work, drop off a resume, and hope they called me back. When you carry around a few resumes it makes complete sense that you don’t want pages stapled together and there’s always a chance a page will rip off being shuffled between manilla folders and filing cabinets. You also wanted something a hiring manager can quickly read if the first time they saw it was when they sat down to interview you.

Applying for a job has changed dramatically with evolving technology. A hiring manager rarely will print out a resume and read it. Computers have become the portal to deliver our pitch for a job, aka your resume, and resume length has become less important. The ability to quickly search a resume for acronyms or key words (Ctrl +F is a beautiful thing) has now turned the average time a recruiter or hiring manager reads your resume to 7 seconds. That’s right, not 7 minutes, but just 7 seconds to determine if you’re the right fit for a job. Job descriptions are notoriously lacking in skills managers are looking for from candidates. From burdensome approval processes to change job descriptions, or cutting corners and recycling an old job description, there are many reasons what we see it not exactly what’s needed. Don’t cut out a few bullet points to get to one page when those responsibilities might be what the hiring manager is looking for. I’ve seen the other side of the coin with resumes that are way too long as well. Two or three pages is fine, but if your resume is 4 + pages you may need to ask yourself, do I really need all this? If you cannot condense your experience into a length that’s more easily degestible, it can frustrate hiring managers and will be looked at as a flaw.

For some a one page resume is fine. If you have limited experience or are just getting out of college, don’t feel the need to add immaterial fluff. Don’t sell yourself short on extracurricular activities or internships either. Those can be difference makers in getting an interview or not. In the end, there are no hard and fast rules besides being honest and using correct grammar. Don’t feel the need to eliminate your margins and cram everything onto one page. Also, don’t use large type or double space because you want to fill up that second page. A good rule of thumb for entry level experience or college grads is 1 – 2 pages and for more experienced professionals 2 – 4 pages.