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How long should my resume be?

When you're putting a resume together, the question of length almost always enters into it.  There are a variety of sources you can go to for that answer, but often they haven't been "in the trenches" to see what actually works.  Because of this, myths like "the one page resume" keep circulating.  This has led to many people under serving themselves by creating short resumes that leave out much of the info hiring managers are looking for.

So how long should a resume be?  Unfortunately, there is no pat answer.  It depends on the length of your career, what your responsibilities have been, and what details hiring managers are looking for.  The goal is a resume that tells the story of your resume in a way to be of interest to both a technical audience and a layman in Human Resources. 

So, the big question isn't how long it should be, but how can it effectively tell that story.  To do this, certain elements must be present:

  • A goal/summary that frames everything that follows
  • A job history with a clear progression
  • Clear details about your responsibilities and skill set
  • Professional accomplishments
  • Educational background

If your resume is missing any of these elements, you need to go back and get them in.  When it's all put together, have a colleague or friend with a similar background read it.  Make sure it makes sense to them.  Then bring it to a non-technical acquaintance and see if it makes sense to them as well.  Ask questions about certain areas to make sure it's telling the story you want it to.  These questions will also help you get past the "it looks fine" feedback you'll often from people who just want to make you happy.

So now you have a resume that reads well to both audiences, but you're still jittery about the length.  As a general rule, someone early in their career should keep it to a couple of pages and a senior level person should put the limit at around four.  These aren't hard and fast rules, though.  Five or six page resumes have worked because for that person, they told the story they needed to.  Tell your story first and worry about length second.


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