How long should a resume be?

1 October 2018 Reading Time: 8 minutes

Resume length is one of the great mysteries of the job application process. Should it always be one page? What if you have a lot experience and need more space to describe it? If you’ve been working for 25+ years, is three pages okay? It doesn’t help that you can find arguments for just about any length online if you look hard enough.

Fortunately, instead of just throwing opinions around, we’ve analyzed the resumes of real users hired at Spotify, Booking.com, Verizon Digitial Media Services, Amazon, Intercom, and more to bring you the answers you’re looking for.

Why are there so many opinions about resume length?

The hiring landscape has changed considerably in recent years. Not even 20 years ago, keeping your resume length down to one page was both a strategic and cost-effective move (i.e., cutting down on printing costs). Today, these worries are less pronounced. So why do people still argue for a one-page resume?

In a word: relevance.

Every resume has an audience. But not everyone in the audience will have the same opinion. When it comes down to it, there’s no one answer. There are recruiter who will follow the one-page resume rule to the letter, and others that think the rule is useless. To help overcome this difficulty, it’s best to research the hiring practices of the organisation you’re applying to and see the common traits associated with page lengths are.

When do I consider one page, two page, and 3+ page resumes?

One Page Resume:

  • Your experience isn’t relevant for a specific industry
  • You only have experience in one or two companies
  • You have less than 10 years of experience
  • You work in an oversaturated market (IE a recruiter is unlikely to take the time to read more than a page)
  • You want to cut down on paper use
  • One-page resumes are preferred by your recruiter
  • You want to ensure the recruiter sees everything
  • This is your first job or internship
  • Your focus is on your skills and not on previous experience
  • You’re making a career change that requires robust industry knowledge

Two Page Resume:

  • You have robust technical knowledge
  • You want to balance your experience and culture fit
  • You’ve made a significant impact in your previous role
  • You have experience the company isn’t aware they need
  • You have both extensive work and volunteer experience
  • You have multiple relevant educations
  • You’re applying for a mid-level position
  • Certain sections are required on your resume

Three+ Page Resume:

  • You’re applying to an Industry specific (academia etc.,) role
  • You’re an executive / high-seniority
  • You’re using a portfolio style
  • You’re certain that the recruiter wants the amount of detail you can provide in this many pages

How do I decide on resume length?

Your resume needs to answer four simple questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What experience do you bring?
  • Why are you motivated for this position?
  • How will you make an impact in your role?

 

These four questions keeps the recruiter’s perspective in mind. In answering who you are, the recruiter has someone to pair your experience with. More than that, they learn about your personality and potential culture fit. Showing your motivation for your role ensures the recruiter can see you’re not just looking for any job, you want this one. Perhaps most importantly, your potential impact is what will entice the recruiter most as it directly relates to their performance and business goals. To do this, always remember to quantify past experience.

Case Study: Gal’s One Page Resume

With over a decade of experience, Gal was searching for a new job in business development. From starting his own company to leading software solutions all the way to speaking three languages, you could say he was spoiled for choice. Most people would say that 10+ years of experience = two pages. But, Gal took a different approach. In one page, he successfully told the recruiter who he was, why he was motivated for this job, the experience he’d bring, and how he would make an impact.

Enhancv How long should a resume be? How long should a resume be

Why was one page the right choice?

Catching attention

Gal had all the experience in the world, but his aim wasn’t listing everything he’d done – his aim was to catch the recruiter’s attention. Recruiters can look at resumes for less than 6 seconds. Having a long, drawn-out resume might be the difference between the ‘No’ and the ‘Maybe’ pile for a recruiter quickly skimming resumes. Gal’s one-pager gives a quick, non-exhaustive record of his work history and talents. He knew once he secured an interview he could get the job. Catching the attention of the recruiter with a succinct resume was therefore very important.

Tip: You can include a short bio on the top of your resume in a bold color to quickly catch the recruiter’s attention and save space.

Staying concise

There was no need to include multiple pages as Gal’s descriptions were concise and to-the-point. He went into detail on his most recent job and kept other relevant experience down to two bullet points. His industry expertise was conveyed quickly using one-word visuals too. Business development is rooted in your ability to communicate and do so as effectively as possible. Gal knew recruiters would be looking for a short few words on how he has led previous businesses to success.

Tip: Describing your previous experience with one-two bullet points will allow you to focus on your key achievements and save space.

Case Study: Daniel’s Two Page Customer Support Resume

Daniel had been involved in remote work for over two years. Two years of experience doesn’t sound like a lot, but the huge impact he’s had during that time leaves him with a lot to say. The nature of his work requires more detail on who he is and his ability to fit company culture despite distance. It was also necessary to explain the reasons why he’s gravitated towards remote working too. His less than 10 years of experience would typically lead us to a one-page resume, but in this case, two pages were needed.

Enhancv How long should a resume be? How long should a resume be

Enhancv How long should a resume be? How long should a resume be

Why was a two-page resume the right choice?

Showing you who he is

Recruiters are interested in culture fit to identify whether employees’ practices and passions align with the employer’s goals. Daniel opens his resume with a short summary of his career, and later goes on to provide useful links where the recruiter can learn more about him (e.g., his website). Using a two-page resume, he didn’t have to worry whether including these details would detract from his previous experience.

Tip: You can use a Most Proud of Section with Enhancv to highlight aspects of your personality and your career experience all-in-one on your resume.

Describing technical knowledge

Working in technical support and engineering obviously requires a certain level of technical expertise. Recruiters need to clearly see the extent of Daniel’s knowledge on his resume. This means exploring the projects he’s worked on and the technologies he has experience with. He dedicates just under two full pages explaining these and highlights his own projects under a Projects section. This shows the extent of Daniel’s knowledge along with his initiative and ability.

Tip: You can utilise Enhancv’s Technologies Section to briefly mention all of the softwares and tech languages you have used before.

Case Study: Mia’s Three Page Research Assistant Resume

Mia has been working in immunology for many years. From her undergraduate work to her current postdoctoral work, her drive to make a difference in the world has produced publications, presentations, and awards. In her pursuit of postdoctoral research, demonstrating her expertise in the field is an absolute must. There are also certain expectations of an academic resume – be to the point, have the correct style, and streamline your design. In order to produce a resume to satisfy these conditions, as well as discuss her previous work, a three page resume was needed.

Enhancv How long should a resume be? How long should a resume be

Enhancv How long should a resume be? How long should a resume be

Enhancv How long should a resume be? How long should a resume be

Why was a three-page resume the right choice?

Readable format

Keeping a consistent format meant defined margins, bold headings, and simple design. Mia spaced her experience across the three pages to keep from overpacking text in one area while also facilitating detailed discussion where necessary. There’s little room to cut down on details in a resume for postdoctoral research – every author, every long word, every reference is needed. Restricting her resume to one-two pages would have required leaving off key works.

Tip: Enhancv’s Single Column template design gives your resume a clean-cut and sleek finish.

Industry expertise

Discussing your expertise in immunology isn’t something that happens in a few bullet points. Most publication titles alone are over 10 words long – you can’t just shorten them down. This doesn’t mean that Mia was frivolous in her space-usage, however. Her research has been grouped into eras (Undergrad / PhD) with the main points discussed. Mia keeps things short-and-sweet, but she has a lot to mention. Applying for a postdoc, it’s better to give them everything.

Tip: You can include an industry experience section on an Enhancv resume that gives a quick visual indicator of all your key industry-specific abilities.

How do I shorten my resume length?

To learn how to shorten your resume to one-page, check out our one-page resume guide. Some key tips include:

  • Grouping your early career into one section
  • Focusing your previous experience with one-two bullet points
  • Using a short bio in lieu of a personal summary
  • Using a Most Proud Of section to intertwine achievements with culture fit
  • …and more

A good question to ask yourself when reducing your resume length is, will this significantly affect my chances of getting an interview if it were omitted? If the answer is no, you can remove it.

Why does resume length matter to a recruiter?

Resume length is the difference between an experienced candidate, and an irrelevant candidate. If the resume is too long, it’s a waste of time to go through. If a resume is too short, they won’t get an overview of your suitability for the position. It’s good practice to scope out the hiring preferences of the company you are applying to. This will allow you to tailor your resume to the known preferences of your recruiter to give you the best chance of getting noticed and called for an interview.

How long should a resume be?

The reality is there is no one perfect answer. There are too many factors to be considered to allow for a simple determination. There are nonetheless some strategies to help you in making the decision.

Before submitting your resume, take a look at this checklist.

  • I’ve looked at the typical traits of a one page, two page, and three + page resume
  • I’ve answered the who, why, what, and how questions of a resume
  • I’ve ensured all of my experience is specific, relevant, and measured
  • I’ve determined the significance of each item included on my resume and believe removing any section would negatively affect my chances of being hired
  • I’ve consulted other successful resumes to see how others have crafted their resumes for inspiration
  • I’ve used Enhancv’s builder to present all of this information in a sleek way and have capitalised on their unique sections to stand out

If you’ve followed these steps, chances are you have the perfect resume length for you. As we’ve learned from Gal’s case study, sometimes rules-of-thumb do not fit your situation. Daniel’s story shows us that sticking to one page isn’t always an advantage, and Mia shows us that in some cases, the recommended length is the best length. The decision is up to you.

Eric D. Halsey

A writer with a passionate belief in the power of peer to peer learning and storytelling to change lives. Wants nothing more than to spend a day cooking, reading books, playing board games, and discussing history and politics with friends. Also always up for an adventure!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *