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How Long Should a Resume Be?

Did you know that the average recruiter spends six seconds reviewing your resume?

Therefore, as a job seeker, it’s important to master writing the perfect resume if you want to get hired. So the truth is, building your resume carefully is essential and can be the decision-maker for your next job.

But, if you’re like the majority of job seekers and often find yourself ignored and overlooked when applying for jobs, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, I’ll reveal the answer to the question… How Long Should a Resume Be? In doing so, you’ll boost your chances in the candidate market.

how long should a resume be

Does The Length Of Your Resume Matter?

It might be a surprise to you, but it really does matter how long your resume is. Despite having tons of work experience and adequate skills that fit the criteria, the length of your resume remains a crucial part of the hiring process.

At first glance, if the recruiter notices that your resume is longer than the acceptable amount, then guess what? Your resume will be put at the back of the pile and probably never looked at again. So, here’s what to do to avoid being in last place.

how long should resume be

How Long Should A Resume Be?

The preferred length of a resume should be two pages. According to a Reed Survey, over 90% of recruiters agreed that the ideal resume should be two pages long. Otherwise, recruiters will soon lose interest and move on quickly.

Let’s face it, if you were in their shoes would you take twenty minutes reading a four-page resume over and over? I don’t think so either. So, keep it short, snappy, and simple.

Can Your Resume Be Shorter Than Two Pages?

Yes. There are some exceptions to having a shorter resume. For example, if you have limited work experience because you are a recent graduate, or you’re still studying and haven’t held down a long-term permanent role. For entry-level roles, it’s also common to have a one-page CV because you’re just starting in the industry or developing your career.

Does The Two Page Resume Rule Apply To All?

Not exactly. You might be wondering, what happens if you are an expert in your field and you’ve spent over twenty years in the same industry working for multiple companies. Then the two-page rule might be a difficult guideline to follow. Two pages of condensed information about a whole lifetime of jobs can be tricky.

Although, you must always try and integrate this rule. Attempt to cut down your resume to two pages long, despite how long you’ve spent in a career or how many jobs you’ve had. If you are struggling to shorten your resume to two pages, then think about what you could erase or change. Ask yourself, ‘is all this information absolutely necessary? And, check to see if you have repeated information.

What Other Factors Contribute to the Length of a Resume?

The structure of your resume is the backbone. It not only should read sufficiently, but it should leave an unremitting impression which gives the recruiter a feeling of wanting to contact you immediately. See it as an opportunity to entice the recruiter to move forward with your application. Be persuasive and use the correct language.

Here are some points to consider…

Why Is Your Resume So Long?

Sometimes identifying why your resume is so long can help you shorten and improve it. If you’re wondering why your resume is too long, then it is worth considering why. It mostly depends on your personal work experiences, and it could be that:

  • You’ve worked multiple jobs in different industries.
  • Have had one career but worked for multiple companies.
  • You’ve changed jobs and careers often.
  • Have been promoted and climbed the career ladder.

All of the above reasons are not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just not ideal if you want to keep your resume to the recommended two pages. Remember, you’re more likely to be shortlisted and have your resume read if it’s not cluttered and crowded. In 2018, recruiters from the ‘Eye Tracking Study’ also claimed to skip resumes that had crowded information and had a poor layout.

Advice On Shortening Your Resume

So, here are some tips and tricks to help you brush up on your resume. It takes less time than you think, and you can visit free online resume builders to do all of the work for you too.

Use A Resume Builder

Resume builders are effective ways to create a professional and standardized look for your resume. Some websites also incorporate an Application Tracking System (ATS). When building your resumes, they ensure that it is more scannable and easier to manage.

Just simply input your details, work experience, skills, and education into the appropriate sections. Then a resume builder will prompt you on what to include and offer tips to alter your writing style. Then they’ll do the rest of the work for you. Search Resume Genius or Resume Maker to get started with ease.

how long should your resume be

Look And Read The Part

Remember, the appearance of your resume is a crucial deciding factor in getting hired. You not only have to play the part during the interview process, but you have to write the part too. So make sure it’s up to scratch.

Here’s how…

Highlight the Key Areas

Make sure you summarise how your work experience matches the job you’re applying for. It’s no use having conflicting jobs that are in different industries if you don’t bother to relate them. You have to demonstrate to the recruiter that you have gained transferable skills from these jobs and how they relate to your prospective role. It’s key to match the job criteria with your experience.

Keep It Simple

Don’t use too many keywords or fancy terminology in your resume. It’s common to overuse words to sound more prestigious, but remember, the suitability of your role is not determined by the use of your lexical resource (see what I did there?).

Recruiters can see past your attempts of compensating for lack of experience with the way you present your resume. Just keep it simple; there’s no need to pretend to be over-qualified, and using overcomplicated language can be off-putting. The experience and suitability should speak for themselves.

Remove Outdated Work Experience

According to a study, recruiters recommend that you remove any work experience that is over 15 years old. Any work later than this may no longer serve a relevant purpose. It’s good to keep your resume as focused as possible, especially if your work experience dates back to 20 years ago and is completely irrelevant to the role you’re applying to.

Make It Relevant

It’s understandable that if you’re a job seeker with vast work experience, then it can be a challenge to shrink everything into two pages. It can be hard to dismiss some job positions and avoid using them on your resume- but, likely, your recruiter won’t need to know about them.

Save yourself the extra hassle of pinpointing absolutely everything down and instead make it pertinent. Otherwise, recruiters will have a difficult time thinking you’re suitable.

Don’t Rewrite One Resume

Every time you apply for a job, make sure your resume is specifically tailored to the role. Therefore, it’s a great idea to write multiple resumes that you can briefly edit as you go along.

With time, you should be able to shorten it too. You’ll learn what parts to cut out and the areas that are unnecessary or serve no purpose. Moreover, having different resumes can save you from rewriting one each time. Instead, just make sure you change your summary or objective and keep it relevant to the job listing.

Using multiple resumes can save you time and effort compared to re-writing one resume and editing it every time.

Use a Cover Letter

Instead of struggling to include too much information about your career and experience, create a cover letter. This can help you outline and explain to the recruiter why you match the job description.

A cover letter is an effective way to elaborate without extending your resume. This is an ideal time to highlight your past achievements and your suitability for the role. The cover letter is an opportunity to sell yourself just as much as your resume.

Don’t Describe Your Roles

This is a common mistake for most resume writers. There is a tendency to describe exactly what you did in your previous roles, what the company is about, and what was expected of you.

Instead, narrow down this section by demonstrating using ‘action words’ and focus on how your work experience developed your skills and ensures you are more accomplished for the role you’re applying to. Give examples and offer a more practical insight into your previous work instead of being descriptive.

Would Your Resume Pass the 6-Second-Rule?

After the popular ‘6 Second Resume Rule’ study was conducted, it was found that it had taken just a mere six seconds for recruiters to scan resumes before deciding whether to keep or drop a candidate.

To give you some indication of the process, you can try the 6 Second Resume Challenge yourself at home, which could give you some insight into how the process of scanning resumes feels. Think about what you’d do and why, and this may inspire you to write your resume differently, too.

how long should resume be

The Main Points from the Study

Following the 2018 Eye Tracking study, recruiters highlighted various suggestions that are still relevant to the regular applicant today. Make a note of these aspects and use them to improve your resume.

Structure and Layout

Visually, if first impressions count, then make sure your resume looks pleasing. If your layout looks uneven and unstructured, then it’s likely to disappoint the recruiter and distract them from reading the rest.

To make things easier, opt for a resume builder and use a standardized template to help outline the main sections to use. Make sure you use a readable black font that is a size 12. Don’t change the layout; keep all of the titles the same and keep the design consistent. Bold your job titles and headings throughout to catch the recruiter’s attention.

Avoid Too Much Information

Avoid filling all of the white space on your page with text. It’s acceptable to have some gaps on the page and leave some space. It may look more professional to have a minimalistic look, and aim to write around 600 words for your resume and try to keep it to two pages. Don’t clutter, repeat information, and keep it concise.

Highlight the Relevant Job First

Think about it… Even if you had worked in a job that was five years ago – put this at the top of your resume if it matches your job description. Recruiters would like to see suitability, so emphasize the experience you’ve had and make sure they spot this at the top of your resume. Highlight exactly what skills you have that make you a top candidate, and demonstrate how you developed the required skills to succeed.

How Good Is Your Resume?

If you’re in two minds whether your resume is passable or needs improvement- then there are many websites offering free services to review your resume. This service is quick and easy and only takes up to five minutes to scan and give feedback.

Check out websites such as Free Resume Checker to enhance your potential and make some critical improvements instantly.

Is Your Resume Getting Attention?

Chances are, if you’re reading this, then your resume is not getting the attention you hoped for. If you find yourself running out of luck and getting no emails or calls back from recruiters, then it may be an obvious hint that something isn’t working. Change your style, research new techniques, use a resume builder and keep re-writing your resume until it’s picture-perfect.

Improve It

The job hunt can be a frustrating and tiring process for most – but having no recruiters contact you after a while may indicate that your resume needs to be improved. Especially if you have adequate experience and skills for the role.

Despite the competitive job market and applying alongside hundreds of other candidates – you must ensure that you improve your resume to the very best standard it can be.

Create Your Resume And Online Profile Here!

Our website boasts endless articles and guidance on the matter! So, for perfecting your LinkedIn Profile, check out my Best Linkedin Profile Tips, my How To Upload A Resume On LinkedIn or my Best Linkedin Recommendation Examples, and my How to Use LinkedIn To Find A Job to start you off with.

Furthermore, we also have our How To Message A Recruiter On LinkedIn, which is very informative, our Best Linked Headlines Examples For Job Seekers, or our how to send LinkedIn Cold Messages, our LinkedIn Summary Examples For Job Seekers, and most importantly, How To Let Recruiters Know You’re Open On LinkedIn in 2022.

Following that, we found some outstanding online handbooks such as the LinkedIn Profile Optimization For Dummies, and CVs, Resumes, and LinkedIn: A Guide to Professional English, along with Marketing Yourself in the Age of Digital: CVs, Applications, Interviews, Social Media, LinkedIn, and finally the English for Academic CVs, Resumes, and Online Profiles, all available today.

Final Thoughts

It’s a tough job market out there, and as they say, “where there is a will, there is a way.” So, just keep at it, and don’t become discouraged by the process. The more you try and make changes to your resume and apply for roles then, the more possibilities you have of getting shortlisted.

Just remember to refer to the advice listed in this guide to improve your resume’s potential.

The bottom line is… less is more!

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About Wendy Young

Wendy runs an employment agency with her husband, Ian, in Rochester, New York.

She loves nothing more than hosting a good dinner party and spends weeks intricately planning her next 'event.' She often uses these to introduce clients to potential employers in a relaxed, informal fashion. The food must be delicious, the cocktails and wine must be a perfect match, and the decor needs to impress without being over the top. With all that going on, it's amazing that she gets any time to write about her thoughts on securing the dream job.

They live on the outskirts of New York with their poodle, Princess.

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