Perfecting Your Resume: How Long Is Too Long?

Whether you’re a recent college graduate in search of your first job or you’re a professional with twenty-five years of experience, the exact same thing stands between you and your dream job: your resume. No matter what your experience level or qualifications are, your resume is the key to getting your foot in the door. So it makes sense that you would want to provide as many details as possible regarding your accomplishments and experiences. However, while this might have been okay in the past, we’re now living in a world that values speed and brevity. A five-page resume will likely get overlooked, whereas a shorter, concise document is more likely to catch the reader’s attention and leave them with questions (which could lead to an interview). So, exactly how long is too long? The answer to that question depends on where you are in your career path.

If you have less than three years of experience, you’re very early in your career and should limit your resume to one page. After all, no one expects you to have a lot of experience, and a verbose resume could imply that you’re overly confident. Keep it short and select your words carefully. Consider the job you’re applying for and illustrate the skills that are most relevant for the position.

Times are changing, or more accurately, they have already changed. In an age where background checks now typically include perusing your various social media accounts, securing a great job is more about how you connect with people than what looks good on paper.

If you have more than three years of experience, you’re in the mid-level range of experience. Thus, you will likely have more to say, and a one-page resume might not allow you to sufficiently highlight your experience. Aim for two pages. Again, choose your words carefully and select examples that are relevant to the specific position you want. Additionally, illustrate how your achievements benefited or impacted the company, as these details will make your case stronger.

If you’re applying for a senior-level position or you’re in academia, it will be nearly impossible to keep your skills and accolades to one or two pages. It’s okay; there’s no need to shortchange yourself or your accomplishments. People with years of experience will benefit from a longer, more substantial resume, and the same can be said of applicants who are applying for highly technical positions where it’s necessary to outline specific competencies. While your resume can be longer in these cases, you should still do your best to be concise. After all, the reality is that recruiters see hundreds of resumes daily and spend only a few seconds reviewing each one. The longer your resume is, the less time they have to actually see anything valuable.

Let your personality do the talking

Regardless of how long you have been in the workforce, it’s empirically true that you still only get one chance to make a first impression. Your resume will either leave them wanting to know more or overwhelm prospective employers to the point that they simply don’t know what to do with you. We recommend the prior in practically any situation. Think of your resume as a first date! It’s appropriate to introduce yourself, focus on your strengths, and express your interest in potentially seeing more of each other. You don’t jump from your first dinner to the alter, so following this logic, why would you include every aspect of your professional career in your resume? Your goal is to secure an interview where you can expand on the key points you included in your resume and then let your personality and professionalism do the rest of the talking.

Bottom line: Times are changing, or more accurately, they have already changed. In an age where background checks now typically include perusing your various social media accounts, securing a great job is more about how you connect with people than what looks good on paper.