How long should a resume be? What’s the ideal resume length in 2021? It’s worth your time deciding how many pages to use. Note that it’s your time we’re talking about. Don’t listen to people who say your resume must be 1, 2, 3, or 5 pages long. Choose the number of pages that work best for this stage of your career. Below, we’ll tell you how to do that, and then we’ll give you 10 actions to make things fit perfectly.
How Long Should a Resume Be?
Make your resume show a top-level view of your capabilities and achievements. Aim to entice the reader into wanting more information, so avoid three main pitfalls.
- Make your resume too short and skimpy, and you’ll appear to be a lightweight.
- Make it too long, and the reader will stop because they’ll feel overwhelmed.
- Pack in dense paragraphs to get a 1 or 2-page result, and scanning becomes impossible.
To choose the number of pages for your resume, use a three-step process.
- Decide what the reader wants to see on your resume. Work this out from the job spec or ad.
- List out your key skills, experience, qualifications, and achievements that match.
- Bearing in mind the pitfalls, make the length of your resume right for what you need to show.
There is no hard and fast rule because hiring managers just want information fast. The number of pages is secondary, but they do have expectations based on practicality. For example, readers would rather see a two-page, well laid-out, easy to skim resume. A crushed-in one-page block of turgid text or a strung-out six-pager would be bad.
Use a one-page resume format if
- You’re a school-leaver or recent graduate. At this stage of your career, you only have so much you can say. Recruiters and hiring managers know this, so deliver what they expect.
- You only have a few years of experience. Don’t pad things out for the sake of it; keep things tight.
- You want a calling-card resume. If you’re cold-calling companies, keep things short and simple. Aim to highlight your value through relevant key competencies.
- You’re trying to change your career. Focus on skills, competencies, and relevant achievements instead of past irrelevant experiences.
- You’ve had a career break. There’s a reason for that break, so be open and direct to boost your honesty and confidence.
Use a two-page resume format if
- You have more than 5 years or so of experience. List roles throughout your whole career and prove relevant capabilities in progressive steps.
- You’re a manager or senior role-holder. For each role, set the context, show the scope of responsibility, and highlight achievements. That calls for more space that no reader will ever begrudge.
Use a three+ page resume format if
- You need to prove your achievements. This is typical for scientists, academics, professional engineers, and healthcare professionals. To prove credibility, show the detail of your professional work.
- You work in the government sector. Bureaucracy dictates you provide a mountain of exacting detail from your career history. Page numbers go through the roof, and no one worries.
- You want to list extra points. Use the third page to summarize clients, assignments, projects, and professional training courses. Simple bulleted lists look much better than yet more blocks of text.
10 positive actions that make a difference
Once you’ve reviewed your content, you may well find it runs to three or more pages. In those circumstances, can a resume be 2 pages? Yes, but you need to do some work on it. If you follow these actions, your resume will be both more scannable and more readable.
- Bump information to a cover letter, but keep points short, sharp, and focussed. This article will help you write a great cover letter.
- Write less for older roles. For each role before your current one, a short paragraph and 3 to 5 bullet points will work well.
- Write even less for much older roles. Cut the number of lines and bullets down as you work backward. Sometimes, one-liners rock on older roles.
- Concentrate on achievements. Readers like results, not endless lists of responsibilities they could guess.
- Use a professional template. An extra side column helps to condense information down and focus attention. Choose a template style that’s right for you and check out our wide range of professional templates.
- Quantify things. Numbers and percentages show scale and context. They take less space than explanatory words.
- Cut irrelevant history down. Sometimes you’re obsessed with an old experience or achievement. Ask yourself, “Does it add value to prospects of winning this next job?”
- Lose the references. They’re irrelevant at this stage. If an employer wants references later, they’ll ask.
- Remove personal details. Age, marital status, address, health information, and names of children should all go.
- Delete interests. Reading, socializing, and hiking add nothing unless you organized a national club conference.
If you’re still struggling to cut back and still wondering, “Can a resume be 2 pages?” then you need to dig even deeper. For inspiration, here are some extra things to consider.
5 secret things professional resume writers do
- Follow best practices. If you’re still struggling to focus your resume and make things fit, here are 20 tips to help you write a great resume.
- Cut the early years completely. Un-dating your qualifications and not listing the first several roles held saves space. It can also remove 10 years from your age.
- Use formatting to create space. Changing the font, font size, line spacing, and margins can all reduce the length of your resume. Adjusting the titling, letter spacing, and paragraph spacing can also make a difference.
- Use a professional resume writer’s skills. They have the advantage of knowing what employers want to see and offer several benefits.
Don’t get stressed about the choice
Our starting question was – How long should a resume be? In summary, when applying for roles in the corporate world, a two-page resume is the default choice. In the academic, government, and scientific sectors, a 3+ page resume will work best. Just remember, there are several good reasons to pitch in with a one-page resume, as shown above.
It’s acceptable to break the rules but be sure you’re making a positive choice when doing so. Always remember, if you meet expectations, you absolutely cannot go wrong.