When it comes to the length of your resume, more isn't always better — even if you have a long and accomplished career history.
Each week, TopResume's career advice expert, Amanda Augustine, tackles your questions live on Facebook. We'll be republishing those answers here. A certified professional career coach (CPCC) and resume writer (CPRW), Amanda has been helping professionals improve their careers for over 10 years.
In this Q&A, Amanda helps make sense of how long is too long for a resume, and what you should keep — and omit — from your resume if you're an older professional.
No one wants to read through a 3-page resume any more!
Can I use a 1-page resume for networking? I was thinking of having a 1-page resume to circulate to unsolicited contacts to spark the conversation.
If you are newer to the workforce, I would always use a one-page resume. If you have enough information that warrants a second page, you should go for it — but you shouldn't force it either. The same thing applies to a three-page resume; I recommend a two-page resume over three pages, unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Even in a quick glance — the less than 10 seconds a recruiter spends looking at your resume — the top third of your resume needs to set the stage for everything else. That's what needs to catch the reader's eye.
You need to have your name, your contact information, your professional title, and a short professional summary — that really is the elevator pitch of the rest of your resume. Make sure to incorporate your strengths and skills so that they have a high-level understanding of what you're about from the get-go, with your most recent experience on that front page as well.
Overall, I think professionals are trending towards two pages instead of one because a two-page resume gives recruiters what they want to see.
TopResume did a study about a year ago where we looked at self-written, DIY resumes vs. professionally written resumes. As part of the study, we asked recruiters different questions to understand what they liked better in terms of resumes, and more importantly why. What's the difference?
The professional resumes looked and read more polished, leaving recruiters feeling more confident in presenting these candidates to their hiring managers. We also asked “What do you think this person is worth in the job market?”, and professionally written resumes were valued about seven percent higher than those that were self-written.
Any one can make sure their resume is typo-free or grammatically correct, but we found the big differences between a professionally written resume and a DIY resume were that:
A professionally written resume presents a compelling career narrative. Your resume tells a story — how do you weave a story that shows that you did this and that, and that's why you're now qualified and would make a good candidate for this type of role?
Quantifying your achievements allows you to showcase the value you could bring to a company or role. So providing context: You didn't just do X,Y, & Z. What was some of the output? How did you improve efficiency? How did you make them more money? What did you do that benefited the organization? If you missed a day of work, what wouldn't get done because you weren't there?
Q: How do you articulate your 20 years of experience on your resume?
You only want to focus on the most recent 15 years, and the amount of detail you include for each role decreases as you go back in your career. The reality is employers are going to say, “That's great what you did 10 years ago, but what have you done recently that's relevant to what I'm hiring for?”
That's great what you did 10 years ago, but what have you done recently that's relevant to what I'm hiring for?
For someone who has a lot of experience, what I typically recommend is: In addition to having your professional summary and areas of expertise, include a career highlights section on the first page. A highlights section is three or five bullets long and shows off the headliners from your 20 year career.
Not sure how to do this? You can see how a career highlights section is formatted here in my article about ways to improve your senior-level resume.
Include anything that is highly brag worthy, as well as very relevant to what you're pursuing today, so that if the role does fall towards the bottom of page two, it's getting a nod on the first page. Remember to look at each role and curate the information you're providing based on what your current goal is.
How do you articulate additional duties on a resume?
A resume is not your transcript from school where every single detail of everything you've done in every job you've ever held is included. Instead, a resume is a marketing document. You get to curate the content you provide, which means determining what details you want to share and what details you want to downplay or omit because they aren't relevant to the role you're after.
While you may have had many responsibilities in your role, you want to summarize the responsibilities that are relevant to the role you are pursuing. When it comes to resume writing, we have soft guidelines about what this means. We can only work with the information we are given, so things get tweaked depending on what we have to work with.
In an ideal world, assuming you're not fresh out of school or entry level, for each job role we like to provide:
The job title
The company name, and perhaps a little bit of information about the company to give the reader context, especially if many of the employers on your resume are not self explanatory or well known
How long have you worked there, start date to end date
A short paragraph, maybe three to five lines, to describe your relevant roles and responsibilities
We then save your bullet points for your bragging points. How did you help the company? How did you contribute? How can you show you're an achiever vs. a doer?
Some people say, “Well I had a “doer” job.” Ignore those words — those are just labels. Instead, it's about how you show that you were good at what you did.
It could be that you were given the best shifts, had to train the new hires, or were asked to let the new hires shadow you. It could also be you were promoted, had a title change, or were given a bigger budget. These are all things that show you were excellent at your job — and a recruiter wants to see if you were good at your previous and current jobs; these are the bragging points they are looking for.
If you need to include jobs that aren't necessarily relevant, but would leave a hole if not included, you still want to mention it. While you shouldn't omit it entirely, don't give it a lot of space on your resume.
Looking to update your resume — but don't know where to start? Use our free resume review as a guide.