What is the Ideal Resume Length?

By Joe Stein

This is one of the more interesting arguments in the job search world, as there are typically two very distinct points of view.  On one end, you have the “less is more” folks who like to edit their resume down to one page in the belief that a Recruiter will not read more than that.  On the far end, is the belief that one should never take the chance of taking out something that may be relevant to that Hiring Manager, so editing is done very sparingly.  The reality is that the best strategy is usually something in between these two schools of thought.

Let’s take an unbiased view of each point of view:

 -  One Page – “Less Is More”

Pro:
 -  Easy to Quickly Review – It is true that the first time out a Recruiter may only give a resume a cursory review before determining if it is “out” or put aside for further review.  An advocate of a shorter resume generally believes you are writing the document for the reader, not as a biography for yourself.
 -  Nothing is Lost on Later Pages - A one page document places everything immediately in front of the Recruiter in order to make that initial decision. There is no pertinent information found on a page two or beyond that may never get looked at.
 -  Eliminates Filler – The thought is that for many once you go beyond page one, you are just adding non-value added material.  A one-page document is much more focused and better tells the story of your career and why you should be interviewed.  Adding filler may cause a Recruiter to draw a false conclusion that you are overqualified for the position.

Con:
 -  Leave Something Out – If you do connect with a Recruiter who is very thorough and reads resumes from start to finish, you may leave something out that they are truly interested in.
 -  May Appear Under-qualified – This can be especially true if you leave information out, but just on the surface your document also can pale in comparison - especially with the 2-3 page documents of your competition.
 -  An Overdone Page – Sometimes, in a one-page document, the Job Seeker actually has more than that much information jammed into it, leading to a document that is hard to read.
 -  Multiple Page – “Leave It In”

Pro:
 -  Need Space for Experience – For some job seekers, due to the length of their careers or the level of their accomplishments, multiple pages are required to capture the information.  If you have been in a leadership role for 10 or more years with a couple of different employers, it is quite challenging to write a resume in less than two pages.
 -  Competitive Market – For people in the “leave it in” category, the competitive market leads a person to include all relevant information in case any of it is relevant to the Recruiter.  The idea is any piece of content may be enough to provide a competitive advantage.
 -  More Aesthetically Pleasing – A one-page document can often look crammed and not appealing.  A longer document provides a little more room for white space, a larger font, and bullet points.

Con:
 -  Arrogance – If the multiple pages are not warranted from your experience, you may come across as pretentious.   A seasoned Recruiter will see right through your attempt to pad your resume.
 -  Wordiness – The longer the resume, the much more likely you are to see lines of narrative information in paragraph form.  This format rarely works as well as bullet points, since it is much less reader friendly.
 -  Lack of Focus – A longer resume (especially when it is 3 or more pages) may lead someone to think you lack the ability to focus and edit your document.  The conclusion may be that you lack the depth to truly know what is important.
 -  Date Yourself – A key is to not go back so far in your experience that you begin to date yourself.  It is generally accepted that 15-20 years of work experience is all your resume needs to go back.  If you have a job from 30 years ago on page 3, then you may want to begin editing.

My conclusion is that there is not one way that fits all job seekers.  For someone just out of school or seeking an entry-level or hourly type of role, a one-page document works well.  Anything beyond that may make you seem overqualified or arrogant.  If you are a seasoned professional seeking a management type of role, a multi-page document would be expected.  The key is to make sure whatever you do that you are adding relevant and meaningful information.  Choose the resume format and length that works best for you, without worrying about any mysterious unwritten requirements.

As always, best of luck in your job search!