In the age of remote work and social distancing, job seekers need to step up their game to impress employers. Following some of the highest unemployment rates on record throughout 2020, there are now signs of recovery, with some sectors experiencing explosive growth and engaging in mass hiring. 

But for many, finding steady employment remains elusive. If you’re among those who are coming across listings that they have the qualifications for but aren’t getting called up for interviews, you’re probably not nailing your resume. 

In these instances, one of the most important questions is, how long should a resume be? The answer depends on a variety of factors, including your chosen career and your level of experience. For example, if you’ve just graduated from university and only ever held one or two jobs, then less is more.  

We’ll walk you through some of the general guidelines, common concerns, misconceptions, and good and bad examples in the following article. Of course, we’ll focus on the number of pages, as the length of a resume.

Keeping It Short and Sweet

Regardless of whether you're searching for an office job or leaning towards the growling list of remote work options, you’ll have to spend some time polishing up your job application and resume. The objective is to come up with a killer resume that stands out because recruiters are flooded with an average of 250 applications per job opening. But don’t let any of this discourage you.  

The best way to set yourself up for job-seeking success is to grab the attention of the hiring manager. And the best way to do that is by figuring out how long a resume should be. When it comes to the number of pages, you’ve probably heard a lot about the advantages of a one-page resume. While this isn’t a rule set in stone, you should definitely avoid artificial extensions and adding information that isn’t relevant to your work experience or education. 

Most recruiters spend less than one minute skimming through individual job applications, and as such, the info included has to be both relevant and impressive. It has to prove you’re qualified for the job and market your skills effectively.  

So how long is too long for a resume? The answer depends on individual circumstances, but the ideal word count range is between 450 and 600 for those just starting out. This limited range requires job applicants to be concise. Ideally, the information should be presented in bullet-points. Here are a few other useful tips:

1. Make sure to include your more recent work experience, and don’t bother with jobs that you had more than 15 years ago. Also, there’s no need to mention your college internship if you graduated in the 90s, as many things have changed since then.

But this approach isn’t applicable when it comes to education; make sure to list all your degrees, regardless of when you got them. 

2. Even though there is no official resume page limit, don’t list ALL the jobs you’ve ever had. Focus on those that are relevant to the line of work you’re currently pursuing. For example, if you’re applying for a position in digital marketing, there’s no need to mention your side gig as a dog sitter.

3. Get rid of graphics, logos, and artistic headers unless you’re trying to get a job as a graphic designer. They can take up too much space and sometimes come off as unprofessional or even childish. That said there are some careers that require you to include a resume photo. But if you aren’t trying to become an actor or a model, adding pictures can hurt your chances of getting hired. So how long should a resume be when you exclude the distracting imagery? For most recruiters, the best resumes focus on your achievements, skills, and experience in one to three pages.

4. Adjusting your resume’s formatting can be a game-changer. Lots of people use the wrong margins. Appropriate margins for a resume are anywhere between 0.5, 0.75, or 1 inch, and the font size should be 11-pt to 12-pt for normal text and 14-pt to 16-pt for headers and section titles. 

5. Reduce the number of bullet points for better control over resume length. Also, make sure that each bullet point doesn’t have more than two lines so that the resume doesn’t appear cumbersome. 

6. If nothing helps and you still have to shorten it, get rid of the “references” and “hobbies” sections. The first one should be included in a separate document and submitted upon request. The latter can be displayed on your Linkedin account, and employers who check your social media accounts can easily find it.

When should a resume be one page long?

The ability to clearly communicate your most relevant experience is a crucial part of the job hunt. This is where one-page resumes come in. Lots of online resume templates offer a single page where you can cram all your skills and experience. Of course, this isn’t suitable if you’re an expert in a particular field with decades of work experience. But for many others, blending quality and readability into a one-page resume can improve their chances of getting hired. 

This resume size is perfect for students, new graduates, and those who have less than ten years of experience. Also, people who are changing industries and are trying their hand at a new career can exclude information about their previous experience that’s not relevant for the new line of work, thus limiting their resume to one page.

Simply put, the objective behind a one-page resume is to get to the point quickly and enable recruits to scan the information in mere seconds. If you’re unsure how to create one, don’t hesitate to employ a resume builder. There are numerous free and paid online software to help you out with this task. 

So, does a resume have to be one page? The simple answer is no. There are cases where it can and should be longer.

Resumes That Are Two Pages Long

Even though a well-tailored one-page resume helps you stand out, two pages are more appropriate for certain applicants. The extra space allows you to write an engaging resume objective right underneath your name, with one or two sentences explaining your career goals and reasons for applying for the vacancy. Also, you’ll get some extra space to show off your relevant skills and perhaps convince the hiring manager to give you an interview.

So, how long should a resume be for applicants with more than ten years of experience? We suggest a two-page document where you can highlight your extensive experience, key projects, or achievements relevant to the line of work you’re applying for. But be sure to avoid unrelated jobs, volunteering duties, or hobbies, all of which are a big turn-off for some employers. 

It goes without saying that highly skilled applicants who have been working for more than a decade might have a hard time boiling down all their achievements, education milestones, or certifications into a few short lines. 

But two pages are the ideal resume length if you’re trying to grab the attention of the hiring manager. On the other hand, if you’re having a hard time communicating why you’re the best fit for the job and feel like you’re deleting relevant information, there are instances when a resume can be longer.

Three Pages or More: When to Go for it?

First of all, remember that you’re supposed to write a resume, not memoirs, so act accordingly. Multiple-page resumes come off as pretentious and are too lengthy for recruiters with busy schedules. Job applicants can avoid having their resume spill over into three pages by cutting out the fluff, irrelevant information, unnecessary bullet points, references, or hobbies. Just remember that hiring managers are looking for quality and not quantity. 

However, there are cases when writing your resume on three or even more pages is justified. If you’re a professional applying for academic, research, and science job positions, you’ll have to showcase your educational background, a complete list of published works and studies, speaking engagements, and courses. The same goes for job applicants in the medical field, especially those with many years of experience. 

A resume page limit can also be extended for high-level or senior-level executives seeking a federal job or those applying for a position in a complex, technical field. For example, if you have experience in project management, you’ll have to include project highlights, case studies, and lists of your technical skills. In that case, three (or more) pages are perfectly acceptable.

Lastly, applying for a job position outside of the US may require you to adhere to an entirely different set of standards when presenting your professional achievements. While resumes are widely accepted in the US and Canada, job applicants in Europe, India, Africa, and most Asian countries usually submit CVs. 

When it comes to a resume, the number of pages usually ranges between one and three. A CV, on the other hand, is two pages or longer and covers your academic and work achievements, publications, projects, as well as information like marital status, volunteer work, and references. The CV is almost never one page long, which means you should include all your skills and achievements in at least two pages.  

Bottom Line

An entry-level graduate and an experienced senior executive aren’t all that different when it comes to the job hunt. They both want a career that centers on well-paying and engaging jobs, which guarantee some semblance of financial security while also offering a dose of excitement and adventure. However, the length of their resume differs depending on the position they’re seeking and their years of experience. 

Applicants who are entering the job market need to include the most relevant information on one page. If you have more than ten years of experience, you’ll probably need two pages. Academic, technical, and federal jobs require more information, including the applicant’s expertise and lists of publications. In these cases, the resume should be three or more pages. 

That said, the resume page length should always come second to the quality of the content. There’s no rule set in stone regarding the number of pages, but employers value brief, precise, and relevant information.