Imagine you are a hiring manager weeding your way through applicants for a job listing. Each day, you find yourself deluged with another hefty batch of resumes from would-be employees. In many instances, a quick glance is all it takes to tell you whether that person should be offered an interview or not. But within that stack, you come across a number of resumes which are simply too long to be sized up with just a look. They run three, four, even five pages. You find yourself turned off by those applicants before you’ve even had a chance to review their qualifications.
Just how long should a resume be anyway? While the answer varies from candidate to candidate, there are some general rules of thumb. Rarely is it acceptable to submit a resume longer than two pages. If you have exceeded two pages, it’s time to take a second look with an eye toward trimming your resume back.
Here are some tips:
- Be Concise – Your resume is not an autobiography. It’s not even intended to reflect everything you’ve ever accomplished. You need not include every job you’ve held and every skill you’ve acquired. Think of it as a snapshot. If the employer wants to see more, they can ask for your entire portfolio.
- Be Current – A long career full of accomplishments is certainly impressive, but when it comes to writing a resume, it’s often best to leave off your oldest roles. Most employers won’t care what you did 20 years ago. And while blatant age discrimination may be illegal, pointing out that you entered the workforce before many of today’s college grads were even born only draws attention to the fact that you are rapidly approaching retirement.
- Be Specific – Too many people attempt to write a “one-size-fits-all” resume. This is a big mistake. Rather than trying to make your resume fit any position, you should instead customize it for the specific job you are seeking. Identify your target audience and the target position to help you decide what skills and experience to highlight. Then set out to summarize the most applicable items, usually in bullet point format.
- Be Choosey – As recently as the 1980s, it wasn’t unusual to see a resume that included such details as marital status, church membership, and community activities. These days, it’s widely accepted that such details fall into the category of too much information. For the most part, it’s best to leave them off. If you feel civic involvement adds something to your story – demonstrating how you used your professional qualifications to benefit the community, for example – you may wish to include that on your resume. Proceed with caution, however, as highlighting any activities that point to involvement with specific religious, political, or radical groups may be ill-advised.