How long should a resume / CV be?

resume length

How long do you think my professional resume should be? I think mine is too long as it runs into 3 pages, but I can’t squeeze in all the details I want to, so what should I do?

I’ve received quite a few of these questions over the years, namely how long should a resume / CV be and my response, no matter what part of the world you belong to, is as follows:

There is no such thing as a right or wrong length, just the right or wrong content.

I’ve seen 1-page resumes (generally written by professionals) that are brilliant. I’ve also seen 10- page CV’s from the academic sector that are also awesome.  What they all have in common is the following:

  • Outstanding visual presentation, including consistent design treatments and original templates, (not a generic template everybody else is using on the planet – think MS Word Templates).
  • The right content, including:
    • A resume that focuses on the exact needs of the audience, namely employer or recruiter;
    • A focus on skills that match the job requirements;
    • A huge focus on accomplishments that highlights that the person has the ability to deliver;
    • Content that is totally relevant to the job (no padding, irrelevant information, or work histories that go back to the year dot).

On the other hand, I’ve seen lots of terrible resumes / CV’s that meet these so called rules on length, whose only redeeming feature is that they would make a great paper dart for the office.

Unless the employer specifically asks for a 1 page resume, a 2 page resume and so on, don’t worry about the archaic rules that you find online, telling you that your resume should only be of a certain length.  This includes career sites from the US, where the trend for very short resumes is prevalent.

Instead focus on addressing the employer needs.

Your resume will be quickly glossed over, but it won’t be ignored, because it ran into a third page. However it will be ignored, regardless of length if you don’t get the employer’s attention quickly, by packaging information in such a way that explains what you can DELIVER.

Ask yourself:
    • What are the problems that the employer needs to solve?  Depending on the employer, they need staff to make money, save money, save time, make work easier, solve a specific problem, ensure that they are more competitive, fulfill a statutory obligation, expand the business and gain and retain more customers.
    • How do you personally deliver this through your experience, knowledge and the skills you bring to the table?
    • Is the information you are including relevant to the position and is it something that a potential employer would be interested in. For example, a long list of hobbies is probably irrelevant, so is that First Aid Certificate, if going for a position as a Software Engineer.
    • Have you deleted all concepts that repeat themselves? For example, if you have the same duties over and over again for each employer you worked for, how useful is this content in reality?
    • Is that older work history really relevant to this employer? Remember, your resume isn’t your biography and it is unnecessary to include work history from 10 years ago, if it is not relevant to the position.

If you are addressing the specific employer’s needs, not including irrelevant information and demonstrating how you are going to solve their problems, then make your resume as long as it needs to be.  If that is 4-pages, it is 4 pages. If it is 1-page, it is 1-page and if you are an academic and it runs into 20 pages or more – make it 20 pages.

Deliver the goods and demonstrate your VALUE to the employer and resume/ CV length is not an issue.

NOTE: The average length of a resume I professionally prepare generally are 2 to 4 pages and an academic CV are about 6 pages, including a list of publications. This length is generally more than adequate, even at the very senior executive level.

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