As a marketing tool, your resume needs to be effective, which is a lot to ask from a couple of pieces of paper. It needs to include enough about you to prove that you’re qualified for the job you’re applying for, without overwhelming the reader. How long your resume should be relates to how far back your resume should go.
The length in question relates to the number of pages. Your resume length can vary based on factors such as your experience, your field, and the job you’re applying for. So, how long should a resume be?
This article will guide you through several examples, exceptions, and the keys to success that our team of professional resume writers use to get the correct number of pages for a resume. Here are the topics that this post will cover:
When should your resume be one page?
When should your resume be two pages?
When should your resume be three pages–or more?
10 tips on how to get your resume to the right length
“The one-page resume standard is no longer applicable in today’s job market,” says Jennifer Johnson, a professional resume writer and veteran recruiter. She has spent more than 10 years hiring and developing talent for Fortune 500 companies.
“The strategic goal should focus on keyword optimization, meaning the resume should have a strong mix of skills and terms that support their qualifications. For many job seekers, limiting themselves to one page can mean omitting important keywords, causing their resume to fail ATS scans, and therefore lose out on important job opportunities.”
Confused? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! By the end of this article, you’ll have a clearer idea of how long a resume should be and exactly what those pages should include.
When should your resume be one page?
You should limit your resume to one page if:
You’re writing your first resume–congratulations!
Your industry or job target recommends a single page
You’ve just graduated from college
Why your resume should be one page
Your resume can be one page if that’s all you require to market yourself. One-page resumes can be scanned quickly by the human eye, so they are very convenient for in-person scenarios like job fairs and networking events.
If you have a two-page resume with no work experience, it’ll most likely contain filler words and information that isn’t relevant to the job application. Reduce your resume to one page by tailoring your resume to your relevant experience.
If you’re making a career change, your past experience is unlikely to be relevant to the new job. In this scenario, lead with your transferable skills rather than experience. A functional resume format may be better for you.
The same goes for recent grads. Odds are that you don’t have two pages of relevant experience. However, some graduates have multiple internships, volunteer work, on-campus activities, or publications that belong on a resume. If you’ve just graduated, read more about how to search for a job as a recent graduate.
When should your resume be two pages?
The optimum length for a resume in 2023 is two pages in order to fit in all your keywords, work history, experience, and skills.
Here are some situations that indicate you should use a two-page resume:
You’re not an entry-level candidate
You have enough relevant skills, experience, and keywords to fill at least a page and a half
You’re submitting a resume online
You’re handing a resume to a hiring manager
If you’re concerned that a two-page resume will slow down a hiring manager during their six-second resume test, remember that this “six-second” figure comes from a review after an ATS scan has determined your fit for the position. If you’re able to get through the ATS, one study suggests that when time constraints aren’t an issue, recruiters are 2.3 times more likely to prefer a two-page resume.
Why your resume should be two pages
Your resume will most likely need two pages to show career progression. If you have more than 10 years of experience, you’ll also want your resume to include a professional summary and a career highlights section. These are both excellent opportunities to fit in more keywords.
When should your resume be three pages?
Your resume should rarely be three pages or more. Most of the information for a three-page resume is better suited for an academic CV or on a LinkedIn profile.
“Though we generally advise against a resume length beyond two pages, sometimes it’s necessary,” says Jennifer. “Some professions and industries have a different set of standards when it comes to resumes and therefore require more information.”
Why your resume should be three pages
You could have more than two pages if you’re a high-level or senior-level executive, or established in a very complex, technical field. For example, a scientist may need more than two pages to showcase background, education, published work, and studies. An executive resume usually shows a clear progression of responsibility and job titles with many related experiences.
Your professional document can be three pages if you’re writing a Curriculum Vitae (CV). This is more common when applying for jobs outside of the USA. In the US and Canada, there are some other industries that use CVs, such as academia and medical.
Federal resumes also follow a different format, and can easily be three pages or more.
For most job searches, you should focus on your most recent 10 to 15 years of experience.
“Consider utilizing your LinkedIn profile to fit the relevant work experience that’s important, but not strictly necessary on your resume,” suggests Caitlin, a ZipJob career expert and certified professional resume writer (CPRW).
“Most hiring managers will look at a LinkedIn profile before they call you for an interview, so it’s another chance for you to prove your qualifications. On the other hand, it might convince them not to call you if it’s widely different from your resume or includes additional information that’s off-putting.”
Read our article on writing an effective LinkedIn profile for more information.
How to get your resume to the right length
If starting from scratch, check out our advice first on how to write a resume. Once you have a draft to work from, use the 10 tips below to add to or subtract from your resume length.
1. Focus on your most recent experience
A potential employer wants to see your most recent skills and experience. You don’t need to include an internship from 15 years ago! If you haven’t used those skills since, they’re not going to help in any way.
This applies to the work experience descriptions on your resume as well.
If you’ve held the same responsibilities under multiple entries, consider including them just below your most recent position..
Emphasize your most recent professional experience by going back no more than 10 years as this will keep the focus on what you’re capable of now and help to minimize age bias.
2. Focus on relevant experience
If you’ve jumped around during your career, try to downplay (or exclude) positions that aren’t relevant. Your resume doesn’t have to include every place you’ve worked or every job you’ve held–it’s a common myth that doesn’t do you any favors.
If you do want to list all your positions to establish a career trajectory or avoid gaps, limit the information you include with less relevant jobs. Expand the impact and results of your most recent and relevant jobs, and no more than three bullet points for the other information.
3. Remove graphics
Some content just shouldn’t be on your resume; when applying online, remove all graphics and logos from your resume. These images turn into confusing lines of code for ATS, so save visuals for your LinkedIn or a printed resume.
Your resume doesn’t need a headshot or selfie either. Save that for online profiles, but keep it professional!
4. Do NOT use Bitmojis or other “alternatives” to a photo
“I’m stumped by this trend,” says Caitlin, ZipJob’s Marketing Manager. “I love seeing creative displays of personality on a resume, but Bitmojis are cartoons. Stand out from the applicant pool in other ways that will earn you more respect.”
From a technical standpoint, as with other graphics, Bitmojis turn into jumbled nonsense for an ATS.
Unlike logos or artistic headers–which can be appropriate for graphic designer resumes in print form–Bitmojis never have a place on a resume.
5. Combine multiple related bullet points into one
If you have multiple lines on the same subject within your job experience, combine the statements into one.
Ensured our marketing had a positive ROI
Utilized marketing tools to ensure maximum ROI
Managed the marketing team to ensure smooth and efficient projects were deployed
Implemented and managed a marketing campaign with extensive A/B testing to achieve a 190% ROI
As can be seen, the three bullet points are easily grouped together to form one cohesive statement that’s sure to impress an employer.
6. Remove the “references” section
References are assumed and don’t need to be mentioned on your resume. In addition, there’s no need to include the line “references available upon request.”
A hiring manager doesn’t need this so early on in the application process. Instead, make a separate reference document to provide when asked. Your resume’s goal is to get you a phone call to schedule an interview. Keep it focused on you and the value you’d bring to the company.
Pro tip: bring a printed copy to the interview, and keep an email draft with names, contact information, current job titles, and your relationship to each referee.
7. Remove the “hobbies and interests” section
“Sometimes listing your hobbies and interests can help you stand out from the job-seeker crowd,” says Jennifer. “But tread carefully. Some hobbies can have a negative effect based on the biases of your audience.”
A better way to include hobbies or interests is to post about your passions on LinkedIn or join related groups. You can also establish yourself as an expert or thought leader on Reddit and Quora, which might pique the interest of the hiring manager who looks you up online before calling you for an interview.
8. Use an active voice
Your resume should be written in an active voice. This conveys you as a self-starter and that you can connect what you did with the impact it made in previous positions. It also means your experience is more tangible and effective.
Be sure to use the active voice to emphasize career highlights. Focus on accomplishments that are financial, a special award or recognition, or an initiative by which you demonstrated leadership.
Resumes aren’t written with any pronouns traditionally, so using the active voice simply includes whatever would come after “I achieved…” or “I am proud that I…”
When you start using more active language and quantifiable achievements, you’ll see that you’re left with a more concise, effective resume.
9. Change your resume’s formatting
If your resume has wide margins and a large font, you’re going to have a hard time fitting all the information you need onto two pages. After clarifying the content, read our advice on resume margins and font size, as well as the top 10 resume fonts. This will help your resume appear balanced, relevant, and easy to read.
Many people opt to use templates they find online. Those on Etsy, Canva, or other sites are often visually appealing and use a lot of white space; however, multiple columns can confuse ATS scans so proceed with caution.
“If your resume includes more than a square inch of white space at any point, adjust your settings,” advises Caitlin. “That’s valuable real estate! Play with the margins, tabs, and justification settings.”
Note: white space refers to spaces without content, no matter what color you’ve opted to use or any lines you’ve incorporated into your resume.
Finally, be wary of any sites or resume builders that offer a subscription service for resume templates–they’re notorious for charging unknowing job seekers month after month. When in doubt, DIY your resume or hire a reputable service.
You can find different price points for resume services on our free resource: 10 Best Resume Writing Services 2023 US + CA (All Industries)
10. Keep tailoring
A tailored outfit fits you perfectly. You only manage that by trimming away the excess. To ensure your resume length is a perfect fit, trim away anything that doesn’t fit for each job.
Look at every line of your document from the perspective of a hiring manager: does each line prove you’re a good fit for the position? If not, cut it out!
There’s no set rule when asking, “How long should a resume be?”. What’s more important is that the information on your resume is relevant to the position you seek. In fact, that’s the best place to start when you need to figure out how many pages a good resume should have! If you need something to measure it by, try fitting your resume into two pages, including only information that’ll help you get that particular job.
Good luck with your job search.
To ensure that you have the perfect resume for your job search, get your free resume review from our team of experts today!
Elizabeth Openshaw, Editor & Content Writer, Elizabeth Openshaw, Editor & Content Writer
Elizabeth Openshaw is an Elite CV Consultant with over 12 years of experience based in Brighton, UK, with an English degree and an addiction to Wordle! She is a former Journalist of 17 years with the claim to fame that she interviewed three times Grand Slam winner and former World No.1 tennis player, Andy Murray, when he was just 14 years old. You can connect with her at Elizabeth Openshaw | LinkedIn.