How long and detailed should I make my resume?
When it comes to resume length, less is usually more — but not always.
Take the one-page resume, for years the standard for young job seekers. There’s good reason that college career counselors have strongly advised their charges to keep things short. The two or three internships and summer jobs, academic and extracurricular honors that 21- and 22-year-olds accumulate can usually be fitted onto one sheet. More than that might even suggest fluffing or fabrication.
Perhaps your college counselor has told you, with good reason, that recruiters take just 2 ½ to 20 seconds to skim a resume. Recruiters have too many applicants to spend more time, which means the second resume page probably isn’t read, or even much of the first — particularly if it’s crammed with information in a type size no larger than directions on a baby aspirin bottle. Some industries, including accounting and financial services, seem to prefer brevity, says Linda Peacock-Landrum, director of career services at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
What to do in two
Still, two-page resumes are no longer a no-no.
If you’ve had a rich working and academic life, don’t hold back just to save space. Letting people know about your stand-out internships and jobs in crisp summaries is the whole idea, even if it requires more room than career coaches advised in the 1980s. “If they have a significant amount of internships, two pages can be fine,” says Peacock-Landrum.
Wendy Enelow, the author of the book “Cover Letter Magic,” says: “Your resume should be long enough to highlight your relevant skills, education and experience in a concise yet complete manner.”
But two pages should be two pages — not one full page with a few lines on the second sheet. I like white space as much as the next person. Along with headlines and graphics, it makes a document more reader-friendly. I don’t have problems with a second page that’s a few lines shy of a page. A number of resume experts say that a document that fills at least roughly two-thirds of a sheet is fine.
But the resume with a mostly bare second page suggests that someone hasn’t spent enough time editing or is trying to pad the document to impress the reader. Instead, what it says is that that person can’t communicate effectively or isn’t well-organized — not the image you’re eager to portray. The prescription for resume bleed is simple: Find a red pen and cut it down to a page.
Get help with your resume
Can’t bear the idea of losing your well-chosen words? Acquaintances with English degrees may be especially valuable. Many resume services will also do revisions for significantly less than the price of creating a resume from scratch. Remember, summoning your inner E.B. White usually renders any piece of writing more readable.
One more bit of advice: Computers make it easy to change type size. Don’t tinker to achieve a desired length. Stay between 9- and 12-point font and you’ll be fine. Less than that and you should send along a magnifying glass.
The multiple resume approach
Now, while it would be odd to build a one-page resume into a full-blown two-pager, it’s not unusual to craft multiple resumes, each of slightly different length. Resumes are increasingly customized by position. Indeed, the most eager job candidates are quick to tailor their education and work history to specific openings.
Good resumes demonstrate good judgment. What better shows your good judgment than a resume that highlights the precise skills and experience that relate to that job?
Let your properly sized resume land an interview. Then you can tell the recruiter more.
Los Angeles-based James Peter Rubin has written about employment and management issues for many publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Economist.