How Long Should A Resume Be?

By Maddie Lloyd - Apr. 18, 2021

Find a Job You Really Want In

One of the most commonly asked questions about job applications is “how long should my resume be?”

We’re frequently told that a one-page resume is ideal, and for a large percentage of job-seekers, that’s the case. But it’s becoming more and more acceptable to send longer resumes when the situation calls for it.

There’s no one-size-fits-all standard for resume lengths, and how long your resume should be depends on several factors, like your experience, industry, education and training, number of employers, and your list of accomplishments – among others.

Here’s everything you need to know to write a resume that perfectly fits your needs.

How to Decide How Long Your Resume Should Be

  • Your resume is a tool for you to market yourself to employers. Keep it concise and focused on your main selling points. Eliminate unnecessary details that don’t market you for your current career goals.

  • Every part of your resume should sell your strengths and qualifications to potential employers.

  • Hiring managers see hundreds, even thousands, of resumes — they’re probably not going to thoroughly read yours before throwing you into the “maybe” pile or the “trash” pile. Try to make sure that your strongest selling points can be seen by skimming through your resume.

  • Make sure everything on your resume is relevant to the job you’re applying for. Don’t brag about your career as soccer captain for your high school team if you’re applying for an accounting position. Carefully read through the requirements for the job you’re applying for, and adjust your resume to that specific job listing.

Make It One Page If…

  • You’re an entry-level candidate or are new to the workforce. With less than five years of work history, you probably don’t need any more than one page for your resume. Even if you have a lot of part-time or seasonal jobs that extend past five years, it’s best to leave off those experiences in place of more substantial, relevant experience — especially if it means bringing your resume down to one page.

    When you get to the 5-9 years of experience level, it gets a bit trickier. It’s up to you to decide if the earlier experience in your career is worth pushing your resume to the two-page mark.

  • You’re transitioning to a new field or industry. When making a significant career change, it’s likely that a lot of your experience doesn’t line up perfectly well with the responsibilities of the new job. In these cases, it’s better to emphasize your relevant skills and experiences while leaving off details that don’t relate to the job you’re applying for.

  • You’re searching for an internship. Internships are usually for those just getting started in their careers or entering new field. Hiring managers and recruiters don’t expect you to have a wealth of professional experience, because you probably wouldn’t be applying for an internship if you did.

    Keep your resume short and to the point when applying to internships.

  • You’re a recent graduate. College graduates likely have a few part-time or summer jobs and maybe an internship under their belt. You might also have some relevant coursework to include.

    But beyond that, your lack of real-world experience means your resume shouldn’t be any longer than one page. Anything longer will almost definitely be filled with unnecessary fluff.

    The only exception to this is if you’re a student applying for graduate or research programs. In that case, you’ll want to devote a lot of space to relevant research, coursework, publications, merit scholarships, etc., which may very well bring you to two pages.

If you’re a recent college graduate, eliminate any references to high school, including awards, scholarships, and extracurricular activities. Yes, your commitment to selling chocolate bars for your school’s Art Club made a profound impact on everyone at the time, but it doesn’t matter here.

Employers want to read about your internships, jobs, and the on-campus activities you participated in while enrolled in school.

If you’ve been in the working world for a few years and you’re looking to change industries, it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and get rid of your list of college activities and internships.

There are exceptions to this rule, however. For instance, if you took a job after graduation that had nothing to do with your degree, it would make more sense to list relevant internships you participated in while in school. Remember to tailor your resume so that it relates to your job goals and the position you’re applying for.

Make It Two Pages If…

  • You have ten or more years of experience related to the job you’re applying for.

  • Your industry requires technical skills, and your resume requires space to list your technical knowledge and experience.

  • You’re a mid-level candidate (about five-ten years of relevant work experience). This gives you space to include your related work history and experience, while still making your resume readable.

The choice to make your resume one or two pages can be a difficult one, and it depends on how much experience and information you have to brag about that relates to the job you’re applying for. If you write out your resume and it only takes up a small portion of the second page, either find a way to shorten it to one page or add more information to make it at least a full page and a half.

Make sure to lead your resume with a summary of your work experiences so that your key qualifications and selling points are at the forefront of your resume. Your goal is for employers to be able to immediately see your value and want to hang onto your resume. Make your resume something that employers want to hang on the office refrigerator.

Limit the experience you include to the last 15 years — this means excluding your precious college graduation and certification dates that fall outside of this window. Employers are interested in your recent work experience and how it relates to their job requirements.

If you held only one or two positions outside of the 15-year window, or if you’ve held a few very similar roles, you can provide a summarized career note that details these previous jobs and titles. Here’s an example:

Earlier experience includes work as Executive Assistant for Carolina Solar Services and as Office Assistant for Baker Renewable Energy.
Additional details available upon request.

If you worked with some name-drop-worthy organizations or clients, this is the perfect way to fit them into your resume, but make sure to keep this blurb short and sweet and leave out details like employment dates and locations.

Make It Three or More Pages If…

  • You’re a senior-level manager or an executive.

  • You have a record of leadership roles and accomplishments.

  • You’re in an academic or scientific field and have a list of publications, licenses, patents, professional courses, or public speaking engagements.

Based on the requirements of the position, job seekers who have a resume that is three pages (or longer) can decide whether to send the full document or just the first two pages to potential employers.

When you’re reaching this level of resume length, it’s probably best to use a curriculum vitae (CV) instead. The format of a CV is conducive to a comprehensive story of your professional life, so you’re allowed to make it just about as long as you want.

Hiring managers and recruiters are busy people who don’t spend a whole lot of time looking at each individual resume. Anything longer than two pages isn’t going to get the attention it deserves, so whether you have 15 years of experience or 30, keep your resume to two pages maximum in almost all cases.

Making Your Resume Fit

If you’re trying to make your information and experience fit into one or two pages, there are several ways to adjust your resume and give everything room to fit.

  • Fonts. Some fonts are bigger than others. For example, Times New Roman is smaller than Arial. Make sure to choose a font that is easy to read, try to stick to basic fonts like Arial, Verdana, Calibri, or Times New Roman.

  • Font size. If you’re using a 12-point font, try switching to a 10 or 11-point font. If your headings are big, try making them a little (or maybe a lot) smaller, while still making them slightly larger than the body of your resume.

  • Font styles. Bold words take up more space than italicized words. If need be, try changing any words in bold to italics.

  • Spacing and margins. Experiment with different spacing styles for your resume. You can decrease your margins to 0.5 of an inch to allow yourself more room.

    Spacing can make all the difference in your resume — if your resume uses double spaces, try to reduce it to single spacing. When experimenting with spacing and margins, make sure that it’s still easy to read and that the most important details are easy to spot.

  • White space. Be sure to leave enough white space on each page, but not too much. Try to fill at least three-quarters of each page with relevant information. Your resume should look neat, clear, and easy to read.

Eliminate Unnecessary Information

When making your resume fit a one or two-page standard, consider eliminating other information, like a reference section or a note such as “References Available Upon Request.” This is unnecessary and only takes up prime real estate.

There’s also really no need to include your street address at the top of your resume. If you’re applying for a local position and want the employers to know that you’re in the area, you can just include your city and state.

Leaving off your street address will also help protect you from identity theft.

Final Thoughts

Remember to keep the information you include relevant to the job you’re applying for. If need be, go back and tailor your resume so it fits the needs of another job you’re applying to.

Make sure that your resume fits your experience. If you’ve only been on the job market for 5 years or if you’ve recently graduated from college, there’s no need to have a three-page resume.

Now that you have all the information you need on how to write a resume that fits your needs, get out there and write a resume good enough to get into the National Gallery of Perfect Resumes! Does that even exist? Well, if not — write one that’s good enough to land you a job.

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Author

Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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