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How Long Should A Resume Be?

Resume Length and Detail Matters

How long should a short story be, or an essay? I had an English professor tell me that the expectation for a paper's length in his class was as long as a piece of endless string. I didn't understand at first. He was trying to get across that a paper should be as long as it needs to be to prove a point.

If you ask anyone how long a résumé should be, however, just about everyone will tell you one page, maybe two if you have a lot of experience. (The one page rule doesn't hold true for some types of academic or technical positions, but it applies in just about every other case.)

The one page limit is ideal for a good reason. Human resources managers don't want their jobs to be any harder than necessary. To go through 100 resumes requires a hirer to read 100 pages. If the standard resume were two pages, they'd have to read 200 pages. You can see why they request one page resumes.

Write the Optimal Resume

Resume Shortening Tips

Writing a shorter resume while still displaying all your skills can be challenging. The can be achieved by following a few rules.  Summarize your experience, such as stating "over thirty years experience in accounting", in your cover letter, rather than listing out individual positions from twenty years ago. Drop past employers or education that doesn't apply to the position you're hoping to get.

For instance, if you're applying for a software development position, and you have relevant work experience, you can take the fact that you worked fast food in high school off your resume.

Limit descriptions of your duties. As long as your job title is fairly common, you may be able to get away with no description at all. While it's nice to list accomplishments, to show why you might be the best paralegal this side of the Pecos, if you're cramped for space, you may need to settle for just being a paralegal.

Offer to bring in references or a portfolio separately. Let your potential employer ask for more information if he or she wants it.

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Resume Lengthening Tips

But there are some situations where one page just won't get across the point that you're the best candidate for the job. Sometimes you need a little more room to demonstrate your expertise.

Before you decide to break the one page rule, consider the fact that most HR personnel admit to deciding on a candidate during the first page of their résumé and never glance at a second or third.

Some will even remove a resume from consideration if it seems too lengthy or difficult to read. All that said, if you have enough great experience, education and other factors to consider, go for it! Plenty of job seekers turn in two page resumes, sometimes even three.

If you're writing a multi-page resume, make sure you aren't simply taking a few lines on to the next page. Fill as much of that additional page as possible, even if you have to add back in information you eliminated to tighten up your résumé. Don't inflate it, of course, but you may have the time to explain your achievements and experiences in a little more detail.