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Resume Length

Learn about the importance of resume length in creating an effective resume.

The Eternal Question: Resume Length

by Kevin Donlin

After "What does a Scotsman wear under his kilt?" the second most-asked question in the English-speaking world could be "How long should my resume be -- one page or two?"

It's a question I'm asked almost daily by clients and prospects. At the risk of sounding coy, my answer is this: Your resume should be as long as it needs to be ... and no longer.

There's no law against two-page resumes, especially for folks with 10 or more years of experience, or those in highly technical careers. I've done two-page resumes for recent college grads who had to list computer languages, certifications and other details.

But if your resume is two pages long, it must be compelling to read. Remember: the purpose of your resume is to get an interview, not to tell your life story.

Put your most important selling points near the top of page one. Depending on your field, those points might include your degree, certifications and work experience. Summarize where possible and remember that you can always elaborate during a job interview.

A one-page resume works for most people and it's the length I usually aim for when writing for clients. I'd say 65-75% of my resumes are one page long.

If you have trouble getting your resume down to one page, there are lots of ways to make room for more information. You can:

  • Reduce the size of your name and address at the top of the resume.
  • Decrease the font size for your body copy from 12 to 11 points.
  • Reduce your top and bottom margins (but try not to go any smaller than 0.5").
  • Reduce the size of your headings.

Keep your resume lean and mean using the "So, what" test. After reading each sentence in your resume, ask yourself: "So, what?" Is that last sentence compelling, or fluff? If the words don't move you, rewrite or remove them. Then ask yourself: "So, what?" again.

So, don't get your kilt in a twist. Follow these tips and you'll write a resume that works, whether it's one page or two.

Best of luck to you!

Kevin Donlin owns and operates Guaranteed Resumes. Since 1995, he has provided resumes, cover letters and online job-search assistance to clients. This article and hundreds like it on topics ranging from networking to resume writing to finding internships also appear in The Last Job Search Guide You'll Ever Need, a self-help job guide.