How Long Should a Resume Be? The Key Things to Know


The above is a cartoon picture of three different resumes.

How Long Should a Resume Be? The Key Things to Know

Is it time to write or refresh your resume? Job hunting is stressful enough, but doing the work before you can even start reaching out to employers is a whole other level. 

Writing your resume is the first step toward getting your new job, but how are you supposed to do it? How long should a resume be, and how much space should each section take up?

We're here to offer up some advice so you can start crafting a resume that's sure to impress your future employers. Keep reading and take notes to learn all about creating a resume that "wows."

How Many Pages Should a Resume Be?

Some people think that a longer resume is a better resume. After all, isn't it better to show off every single thing that you've ever done that could possibly be considered impressive? 

Think again.

Remember that employers, hiring managers, and HR staff read through thousands of resumes if their business is big enough. You should also keep in mind that many resumes don't even go to human readers, at least not right away.

Businesses with online application systems often have programs in place that skim your resume, looking for certain qualities that will allow it to pass onto the next stage of decision-making. 

In other words, a long resume wastes your time and the time of the potential employer. You want to write a smart resume, not a long one. 

So instead of writing a small novel about why you're the best fit for the job, keep your resume to one page (or two if you need to stretch it). A curriculum vitae is more likely to reach two or three pages while a standard resume is more likely to be one. 

What Sections Should Be In a Resume?

So what are you including in this resume anyway? 

Not all resumes are going to include the same sections. Someone who's going into the arts or academic world may include publications or a reference to a portfolio, while others may include volunteer experience or special certificates. 

In general, though, you want to include your contact information, relevant work experience, education or academic experience, and a few "extras" like skills, qualifications, a statement of purpose, or achievements. 

Make sure that you pick the right sections for you. Contact information, work experience, and school are almost always important while the others rotate depending on the employer and the field that you're looking to enter. 

How Long Should a Resume Be: By Section 

To keep it simple know that your contact section should be simple and easy to read. This is the shortest section and there's no need for you to go into any kind of detail.

For most jobs, you need your name (first and last), phone number, and email address. Some may also ask for your Skype (or another online chat program) information, and many jobs (even remote jobs) still ask for your physical address. 

If you don't have a street address, talk to a job placement guide about how you can work around this. It's usually enough to include your city and your state. Beyond this, though, your other sections have to be more lengthy. How can you determine which things to leave in and what to cut out?

This is a basic guide for how long each section can be. 

Experience

Your work experience might be lengthy, but make sure that you don't go overboard. Remember, the key here is "relevant" experience. While you can stretch many jobs to seem relevant, don't include everything. 

You also want to avoid including every job you've ever done. It might make you seem like you spend a lot of time jumping from job to job which could be a red flag to your employer. 

The most recent and relevant three jobs will often suffice, though if you have more that fits exactly into the mold of the new potential job, you can include more. 

Underneath each job, you want to write a brief job description. Some people prefer a single sentence while others prefer a short bulleted list. List tasks that you were responsible for that would relate to the new job. It's helpful to talk to a professional resume editor that can help you come up with tasks that you may not have thought of. 

For example, if you interned as a teaching assistant but you want to work a managerial job, you can talk about teaching and being responsible for a group of people. 

Academics 

Your education section will look different depending on how much education you've gone through. 

Some people have everything from high school through post-graduate degrees. Others have a high school diploma or GED. If your new job doesn't require a specific amount of education, this doesn't matter. 

Keep this section short and sweet. If your college or post-grad focus is relevant to the job, consider making a few small points talking about what you focused on. Otherwise, list schools, dates, and degrees and move on. 

Skills and "Other"

These extra sections are tricky, and sometimes you can combine them.

Skills and qualifications are often better expressed in a cover letter, but that doesn't mean that there's no room for them here. 

When it comes to the skills section, don't go overboard. List your top five that are relevant to the career. Look carefully at the job posting and match the skills and qualifications where you can. This helps you get through automated readers. 

If you choose to include a statement of purpose, make it no longer than a paragraph. Again, for most jobs, this is better left for the cover letter. 

It's helpful to pick two "extras" and have them take up equal space at the bottom of your resume underneath academics and job experience. Remember, you don't want to go onto that second page unless you have to 

Are You Ready to Write Your Resume?

This is stressful, but try to relax. Once you know the answer to "how long should a resume be?" it feels like putting together a puzzle with the information that you have on hand. 

If you know that you want a one-page resume, it gives you a framework for how much you should limit your content. It's easier to be specific and to include only the most important things!

Are you ready to go on the job hunt? We want to help. Check out our job board to find employers who are excited to meet people just like you.