How Long Should a Resume Be?

So you’ve sat down to write your resume. As you list your previous experiences, accomplishments, and skills, you notice the length of your resume is growing…and growing…and growing!

It’s great that you bring so much to the table— but do recruiters really need to know all of this information in the initial stages? 

It can be tempting to include everything that makes you a standout candidate, but it may not be the best way to get your skills and accomplishments noticed.

How long should a resume be?

In general, a resume should be no more than one page.

On average, recruiters only spend an average of six to seven seconds looking at resumes. They have dozens, if not hundreds, of applications to sort through, and there simply isn’t enough time to give each a thorough read.

You want your resume to showcase your career and experience highlights as succinctly as possible. You may have all of right skills, but if it’s buried in irrelevant details, your resume may end up in the wrong pile.

Think of a resume as a summary on the back of a book. It’s designed to hook the reader and get them interested— not tell the whole story. Similarly, a resume is supposed to be a brief overview of your skills and experiences that let a recruiter know whether or not you’re qualified to move on to the next step. 

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule of thumb. If a job description or recruiter asks for an expanded resume, you should include more detail to give the full picture of your experience. But, unless you are instructed to send a long-format resume, a one-pager will suffice.

How can I make the most of resume space?

One page may not seem like a lot of room to get your point across, so it’s important to use the space wisely. Here are some tips for making the most of your one page resume

1. Format it correctly.

Make the most of your space by formatting your resume in a way that puts the most important information front and center. 

Always start with your contact information. But beyond that, the best way to format your resume will depend on where you are in your career. For instance, if you’ve recently graduated from college, you’ll probably want to lead with your education and relevant coursework. If you’ve been in the workforce for three or more years, you’ll want to start with your most recent job experience. 

It’s also important to use a clean and professional format that is easy to read. Use consistent spacing, margins, and font sizes throughout your resume. Use bullet points and short paragraphs to break up large blocks of text and make your resume more scannable.

2. Include only information that is relevant to the job you are applying for.

If you’re having trouble squeezing your experience onto one page, look over each role and ask yourself, “Is this relevant to the job I’m applying for?” If the answer is no, consider cutting it.

For example, if you’re applying to a marketing position and have ten years of marketing experience at three companies, it is unnecessary to include your college job at the campus bookstore. That space would be better used elaborating on the experience that directly relates to the position you hope to land. 

Your resume is a snapshot, not an all-encompassing history.

3. Limit the amount of bullet points you include for each job experience.

Recruiters want to see more than the company you worked for and the position you held. Including bullet points that explain the responsibilities and accomplishments for each experience can help provide a look into your skills and experience. 

But it can be easy to get carried away here and create a list that is ten bullet points long. After all, it’s hard to synthesize months or years worth of work into a few sentences!

However, you should be selective with the points that you choose and, again, keep it relevant to the job you want. Three short bullet points per job experience should be enough to provide key details but not waste space.

4. Choose your font sizes wisely.

Need to squeeze just a few more lines onto one page? Look at your font size. Decreasing your font size by even a half point may give you the extra room you need. 

Be careful not to make it so small that it is impossible to read. Anything below 10 points is too small. 

5. Don’t include photos or images on your resume.

You may think that including a photo will help put a face to the name, but including a headshot on a resume is not a good idea for several reasons. For one, they take up a lot of that precious, precious space! 

Secondly, photos aren’t ATS-friendly. Applicant tracking systems, commonly referred to as ATS, help recruiters sort and track applications. These programs don’t always know how to interpret photos and can cause your resume to get overlooked.

Lastly, they provide an opportunity for unconscious bias to creep in. By not including photos, you can help the recruiter can focus on what’s important— the skills and experience you bring to the table. 

Expanding on your resume during your interview

If the recruiter determines that you have the skills and qualifications for the job, your next step will be a phone screen or an interview. 

There, you will have an opportunity to expand upon your resume. This is your chance to provide context to your experience and elaborate on what your duties and responsibilities consisted of. You can also talk about accomplishments that you didn’t have room for on paper. 

The bottom line

Crafting an effective resume is crucial in landing your dream job. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how long a resume should be, a one-page resume is the best guideline to follow. Keep in mind that recruiters have limited time to review each resume and need to quickly determine if a candidate is qualified for the job. Therefore, it’s important to make every word count and ensure that your qualifications and accomplishments are clearly and effectively communicated.