Let’s take the example of Jane from above. She now has about 10 years of professional experience, including working at an ad agency, followed by a few years as a brand manager, then leading an in-house marketing team. Now she’s applying to a position as a creative director for an agency. Each of her three previous roles is relevant and going to have some weighty experiences and distinct accomplishments she can dig into. Maybe she’s also served on a board or done some volunteer work in her community. When you add her academic background to this list, it’s clear that one page won’t do her justice.
How Long Should Your Resume Actually Be? Here’s an Easy Guide to Follow
Between my experience as a career coach and running a college career services department, this is a question I’ve heard a lot. And as a recruiter, I’ve seen resumes that run the gamut in terms of scope—from a simple Word document with just a few lines to a full-on multimedia package including video and audio.
Many people will say that a resume ought to be a single page—that this is an incontrovertible fact of resume writing. But the reality is more nuanced than that. There’s no single correct answer because it’s entirely dependent upon your experience, background, and the types of roles you’re applying for right now.
It’s a dated myth that you have to stick to one page no matter how many years of experience you have or what the situation is. Conversely, there’s absolutely no reason you need a resume that is pages upon pages long, detailing every single experience you’ve ever had. Like a lot of things, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
When should your resume be one page?
Why your resume should be one page
Your resume can safely stick to one page if that is all you need to market yourself. One page resumes can be scanned over quickly by the human eye, so a one-page resume could appeal to in-person scenarios like job fairs and networking events.
If you have a two-page resume with no work experience, it probably contains filler words and information that isn’t relevant to your current job application. Cut your resume down to one page by tailoring your resume to your relevant experience.
If you’re making a career change, your past experience is unlikely to be fully relevant to the new job target. Try to lead with your transferable skills and abilities if you’re in this position, rather than experience. A functional resume format may be better for you.
The same goes for recent grads. Odds are that you don’t have two pages of relevant experience. However, some graduates have multiple internships, volunteer work, on-campus activities, or publications that belong on a resume. If you just graduated, read more about how to search for a job as a recent graduate.
How to make your resume fit the appropriate page length
In order to help you meet these resume-length tips, limit the amount of experience you include to the last 15 years and tailor your resume to a 15-year window. Employers care most about the recent work you’ve been doing and how it ties back to their role’s requirements, so place the emphasis of your resume on your current and relevant experience.
Include a “Career Note” in a senior-level resume
This format gives you some flexibility, as you may decide to summarize a few very similar roles into a short blurb to keep your resume length under two pages. For instance, you may say that your earlier experience includes “. executive assistant work for companies including Company A, Company B, and Company C.” If you worked with some name-drop worthy clients, you have the ability to work those details into a blurb like this as well. However, the rule of thumb is to keep this note short and sweet, so eliminate unnecessary details such as employment dates.
Create an “Earlier Work History” section for a senior-level resume
If you have 20+ years of experience or changed jobs frequently at the beginning of your career, you may need more than a one-liner to cover the work experience. An alternative is to add an “Earlier Career History” section at the bottom of your professional experience that lists the job title, company name, and location of each role.
Experiment with different format techniques to meet the appropriate resume length
There are a number of additional resume-length tips and tricks professional resume writers use to help their clients meet these length restrictions. If you’re having trouble making your resume fit within a specific number of pages, try messing with the font size, the spacing between paragraphs, and the margins. When experimenting with different design elements, make sure it’s still easy for a reader to quickly scan the resume and identify the most important selling points.
Font Size: Depending on the font style you choose, you can usually shrink its size down to 10 or 10.5 points without turning your resume into a frustrating eye chart for the reader. Headers can similarly be reduced to 13 or 15 points without looking bad.
Font Styles: Fonts such as Calibri, Calibri Light, Trebuchet MS, and Arial Narrow tend to take up less space than Times New Roman, Verdana, and Arial. By switching your resume over to a different font, you may be able to gain the extra space you need.
Spacing and Margins: Experiment with the overall spacing of your resume. You can decrease the margins of your resume down to 0.5 of an inch and reduce the spacing between different sections of your resume by 0.5 to 1 point without losing the document’s white space.
Eliminations: If you’re still listing your references or a note such as “References available upon request” at the bottom of your document, it’s time to stop. This information is unnecessary and taking up precious resume real estate. Similarly, there’s no need to list your street address at the top of your resume. If you’re searching for a position in your current location and want employers to know you’re a local candidate, include your city and state. However, leave your street address off to protect yourself from potential identity theft and free up another line of text.