How Long Should a Resume Really Be?

Some seem confused on where the old rule for a one page resume came from. It’s not hard to see why it made sense decades ago, when the way you applied for a job was very different. I even remember 15 – 20 years ago how I had applied for jobs. I’d go to the place I wanted to work, drop off a resume, and hope they called me back. When you have to carry around a few resumes it makes complete sense that you don’t want to have to staple pages together, and you want something a hiring manager can quickly read.

Applying for a job has changed dramatically with changing technology. A hiring manager rarely will print out a resume and read it. The computer has become the portal to deliver our pitch for a job, aka resume, and resume length has become less important. The ability to quickly search a resume for acronyms or key words (Ctrl +F is a beautiful thing) has now turned the average time a recruiter or hiring manager reads your resume to 6 seconds. That’s right, not 6 minutes, but just 6 seconds to determine if you’re the right fit for a job. Job descriptions are notoriously lacking in skills managers are looking for from candidates. From burdensome approvals processes to change what a Security Analyst job description might be, or cutting corners and recycling an old job description, there are many reasons what we see it not exactly what’s needed. I’ve seen the other side of the coin with resumes that are just way too long. Two, three or even four pages is fine, but if you’re hitting 5 + you may need to ask yourself do I really need all this? If you cannot condense your experience into a length that’s more easily palatable, it can frustrate hiring managers.

For some a one page resume is just fine. If you have limited experience or are just getting out of college, don’t feel the need to put in immaterial fluff. Don’t sell yourself short on extracurricular activities or internships though. Those can be difference makers in getting an interview or not. In the end, there are no hard and fast rules besides being honest and using correct grammar. Don’t feel the need to eliminate your margins and cram everything onto one page. Also, don’t use large type or double space just because you want to fill up that second page. A good rule of thumb for entry level experience or college grads is 1 – 2 pages and for more experienced professionals 2 – 4 pages.