One of the most common questions posed to professional resume writers is “How long should my resume be?” The answer to that question is “As long as it needs to be”. For years and years, there was a rule that resumes should not be over one page in length. That worked just fine when career paths were predictable, usually within one industry, and may have involved one to two employers. Career paths are different now and employers are looking for different qualities and experiences. To effectively market the potential of job seekers, it is usually necessary to go beyond the old “one page rule”.
A general rule of thumb for a modern resume length is two pages, but that is not set in concrete. There are instances where the job seeker has special experience or skills that require a slightly longer resume. In some cases, a page and a half will suffice to cover the material needed to position a job seeker as the best candidate. For entry-level job seekers, a one-page resume is probably the right choice unless there are extenuating circumstances such as extensive, target-related volunteer experience.
Many job seekers who write their own resumes make the mistake of using large words and complex sentences to express simple ideas. This is a writing habit that was learned during high school and freshman college composition courses – the more words the better. Essays had to be a certain length and students who wrote reams on a subject tended to get higher marks. Job seekers who attempt to write their own resumes feel it is necessary for the verbiage to be flowery and obtuse in order to give the impression of intelligence or status.
On a resume, succinctness wins points. Use of powerful but simple words is key. Getting the point across in a direct way rather than through use of Faulkner-like phrasing is most effective. A resume gets approximately 45 seconds of attention before the hiring manager decides to accept or reject the candidate into the hiring process. Long, flowery sentences are resume-killers in that short period of time.
One page? Two pages? The length should be sufficient to achieve the goal of positioning the candidate in the best light without over-doing it with detail. It’s a delicate tight rope that professional resume writers walk every day. Knowing what to include, what to leave out, and how to powerfully represent in words what needs to be in the resume is the job of the professional resume writer. One or two pages is not the issue; crafting a great resume is.