New clients often come to me to “fix up” and help them brand their existing resumes. Many have resumes that are 4 or 5, or even more pages. I counsel them that we should keep it as close to 2 pages as possible.
But, they ask me, how can we possibly distinguish my career and do me justice in 2 measly pages. Does it have to be 2 pages?
My answer? Let’s collaborate on what information really needs to be there to best position you as a good fit for your target employers and the kind of position you’re seeking, and see whether we can keep it to 2 pages. Formatting and length are driven by the content and who will be reading the resume.
For a time, I was stuck on the absolute 2-page rule. But often enough I found that to best present and market my clients’ unique value promise, content had to spill over to a third page.
Among resume length considerations:
→ How you’re using the document – A one-page, to-the-point resume may work better than a longer one. Depends on who’s receiving it. It may even be best to pare down that one-pager and create a hard-hitting short email message to capture attention, with a brief overview branding what differentiates your ROI value, and including just a few key contributions.
→ Recruiters requirements – they know what their client companies want. Some want a short and sweet document, others want your whole career history with all details. Check with your network of recruiters and adapt your resume to meet their specific requirements.
→ Recruiters and/or hiring decision makers’ own preferences – some say they want lots of background on candidates and prefer 5, 6 or more pages. Some say they’ll toss any resumes longer than 2 pages.
→ A long career with several companies and many job titles – shortcutting and eliminating positions may not be wise, and could have legal ramifications. Important qualifying achievements and contributions may be overlooked for the sake of resume length.
→ Targeting specific job opportunities – because you’ve researched to identify the requirements and challenges of your target companies, you may have a long list of critical points that need to be addressed and aligned with your qualifications and contributions.
→ The Blackberry effect – many people assessing candidates through their career documents are doing so on their PDAs . . . very small screens. Too many pages can be frustrating and turn them off entirely to you.
Think about this. Your paper or digital resume document probably won’t be your first introduction to recruiters and hiring decision makers. Because they search online to source and assess top talent, you’re likely to be found by them online before you ever send them your paper or digital resume document.
Your LinkedIn profile will probably be your first introduction to them. You may even send them a link to your profile, instead of your resume, to introduce yourself. If you fill all the space allowed in each section, as you should, your fully fleshed out LinkedIn profile could easily amount to 3 or 4 or more pages, if you dropped it into a Word or PDF document.
Whatever length your resume is, strategize the formatting with these things in mind:
→ If it’s more than one page, design the first page to stand on it’s own as your branded calling card. Subsequent pages are there to provide supporting evidence, and include earlier relevant career highlights and education/professional development. Assume that readers will go no further than your first page, because that could easily be the case.
→ If you need more than 2 pages, don’t let just a few sentences spill over to a third page. In that case, you should be able to edit the content down to 2 pages.
So, what all this boils down to . . .
- Each job seeker’s situation is unique.
- Resumes are used in different ways.
- Various things need to be stressed, highlighted, and downplayed in any given resume.
This is one reason why using resume templates or copying another person’s resume formatting (and content, of course) is not a good idea.