Whether you’re a 20-year professional or among the millions of recent college graduates looking to break into the workforce, the same thing stands between you and your dream job: Your resume.
No matter your experience level, your C.V. will always be key to getting an interview.
Naturally, then, your inclination will be to go on at length detailing all of your experiences and accomplishments. Not so fast.
In the past, you might have been okay to prattle on for a few pages. “However, the world we live in today is focused on speed and the ability to deliver relevant information quickly,” says Gary Taiste, director of staffing solutions at TalentBurst, Inc., which is headquartered outside Boston. “A novel of a resume will get overlooked, but a short story should capture attention and leave the reader asking for more — and possibly an interview.”
But how long, exactly, is too long these days? The answer depends in part upon where you are in your career path.
If you’re less than three years into your career…
On this, the experts we spoke to seemed to agree: “Job seekers early in their career should keep it to one page,” says Sean Pritchard, cofounder of Military Hire, a job website for military personnel and vets.
No one expects you to have a lot of experience, and in fact, it can look like you’re inflating yourself if you blow your background out too much.
Within that short length, though, your words should be carefully selected. “Hone in on the pieces that are truly relevant to the job you’re applying for,” adds Shayleen Stuto, a talent coordinator for TechnologyAdvice in Nashville.
If you’re applying for a mid-level position…
Once you’ve got more than three years’ experience under your belt, you probably have more to say, and more relevant jobs to write about. One page may not be enough to highlight your accolades, but you still don’t want to get too verbose
Generally, “mid-career professionals should aim for two pages,” Pritchard says.
Choosing your words to describe your worthiness and selecting the appropriate examples becomes more important.
Again the accomplishments you include should be relevant to the job at hand, but you should also make extra clear the business or technical impact of those achievements.
“The details help me determine whether your skills are relevant to our situation,” says Pritchard. “The impact helps me determine the amount of benefit my organization can expect from hiring you.”
Carina Chivulescu, a senior associate of human resources at The Expert Institute, says that numbers can help you strengthen your case while still allowing you to being concise: “Saying that ‘I streamlined multiple processes in my department’ is nowhere near as impressive or useful as, ‘I was able to reduce costs by 15% by streamlining multiple processes in my department,’” she says. “That’s what I’m looking for.”
If you’re applying for a senior-level position or you’re in a technical field or academia…
With decades of experience behind you, keeping your experiences to one or two pages may be difficult. So don’t short-change your accomplishment, experts say.
“Older individuals applying for senior positions may benefit from a more substantial resume,” says Chivulescu. “The same can be said of applicants for highly technical positions, where they need to outline their competency in multiple technologies, scientific methodologies, et cetera.”
Same goes for those applying for professor positions, notes, Hannah Morgan, a job search strategist based in Rochester, New York. These jobs often require a C.V. that lists every experience.
But even in these cases, you want to make your resume as concise as you can.
“The reality is that recruiters see dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes at a time so they will review any one of them in seconds,” says New York career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine. “The longer it is, the less time there is to see anything.”