How Long Should My Resume Be?

By: Ian Christie


The first and most important rule in resume length is that your resume should be as long as it needs to be to best showcase and market your skills for your target positions, but no longer.

Of course, different countries and industries have different standards. For the Canadian and US market, 1, 2, or 3 pages is standard, although there are some industry exceptions.

I am sure that some readers may still be confused. Okay, 1-3 pages, I get that. But, which?

Go back to my opening rule. What length is best suited to the amount, breadth and type of experience you possess? If you are just entering the workforce, you will be at 1-2 pages. No longer. If you have several years of experience under your belt, but have held one job during that time, your resume could be shorter than someone with several jobs.

Second, the nature of your job will help determine how many words to use. There are some professions where not a lot of words are needed or expected. In the world of finance, for example, wordiness is not a virtue and 1-page resumes, maximum 2, are the norm. In the academic world, your resume better be around 5 pages to showcase your papers and research. In the business world, at the mid-career level, which you appear to be, 2-3 pages will normally be what you will be aiming for.

When writing resumes for my clients, I find that the question of length is usually solved when you target your messaging. The third rule is to let your focus and strategy dictate your message. Most people write their resume first, and then try and figure out what kind of job they are looking for. Instead, figure out what you want. Then, figure out why you are a good, if not great candidate for this kind of job. Then, turn your resume into a document that sells this. This will mean omitting some information and emphasizing other information.

The fourth rule is to format for readability and professionalisms first, length second. You can tweak formatting a bit, but avoid overt tricks to shrink or expand your resume. For example, you could make the margins 1” vs. 1.25”. On font, you will hear different things, but my opinion is that font size of 11 is the most professional. I find that 9 and 10 are too small and will increase the impression that your resume is too difficult to read to bother (some font types might be better than others at the size of 10). On the other hand, size 12 and over, in my opinion, is too big. Big fonts in resumes (other than for headings), again in my opinion, don’t give a serious impression. Of course, these issues are less relevant when cutting and pasting or building your resume on online job boards.

No one was ever hired because they had the right resume length. The degree of professionalism will add to or subtract from your candidacy. A too lengthy resume could easily send a message that you are unfocussed. A professional, polished and on-target resume will increase your chances of getting read and considered. Most important, of course, is how effectively your resume markets you as either someone who can do the job being hired for, or someone worth meeting because of your background.

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Ian Christie runs a leading career coaching and career management service. His career advice is published on Monster.com and other sites regularily. Visit www.boldcareer.com”>BoldCareer for resume writing, job search and career management services.

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