Do you fret about your executive resume length?
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 typically advise that we should keep it to around 2-3 pages.
But, they ask me,
How can we possibly distinguish my career and do me justice in 2 measly pages. Does it have to be that short?
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 2-3 pages.
The thinking on length has evolved, but it’s always a topic debated among career professionals. 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. In some cases, to a fourth page.
Executive resume length and formatting should be driven by the content that needs to be there to market the candidate’s value, and by who will be reading the resume.
Things to consider with executive resume length
How you’re using the document
A one-page, to-the-point resume may be just the thing. 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, and including just a few key contributions.
These professionals 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 history
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.
Phones and email
Many people assessing candidates through their career documents are doing so on very small screens. Too many pages, and too much information in general, can be frustrating and turn them off entirely to you.
Resumes aren’t the only thing anymore
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 LinkedIn 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 the executive resume length, follow this strategy
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. But if those 2 pages will be crammed with too much info, and too little white space, go to 3 pages. Make adjustments so that the third page has more than only a few sentences.
Here’s 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.
- Always keep in mind who will be reading your resume and assessing you through it.
- Consult with an expert to help you sort it all out.