A frequently asked question is: "What do I do if my resume is too long?" Wondering what to cut, what to omit, and where you should stop in your resume confuses many job seekers.
As with many resume questions, the answer is "it depends."
What if my resume is too long?
What is the right length for a resume? Most of the resumes I write are two to three pages long and they are job-winning resumes. I work with job seekers who have been working for anywhere from new graduates to 30+ years.
Determining what goes into your resume and how long is too long troubles many job seekers.
How many pages is too long for a resume?
You will get varying answers to this question. Your resume needs to tell your story. I would rather expand to a third page than leave out critical aspects of your experience. On the other hand, you want to make sure that every part of your resume shows value.
Your resume should tell the story to market you for the next role. To do that, you need to determine what role you are seeking. A mindset of "I need a job" is way too broad for your resume. You need to hone in on what you want to do and where you want to do it to enable your resume to focus on the right areas to attract the employer.
I want a technology leadership role doesn't cut it.
Determine what you want to do and ensure you can sell the employer on your ability to do the job. As you grow in leadership roles, identify the leadership skills you bring to enable the company you target to be successful. Thinking back on the last 20 years, there have been multiple challenges that companies have faced: dot.com bust, global recession, pandemic, inflation, supply chain issues, and war.
Your resume should focus on solutions you brought or helped create for the companies you worked for in the past.
What is the right length for your resume?
The general consensus in the resume writing industry is that your resume should showcase the past 10 to 15 years of your career. However, if you have stayed in a role for more than 20 years, you do need to list the whole time. You can condense the information under the positions if you need to save space.
For roles beyond the 10 to 15 years, you can use a section such as Early Career Profile (sample linked) to list the roles prior to the 10 to 15 years:
Early Career Profile
General Manager | COPPER CARE-A-VANS, INC., Salt Lake City, UT | 14 years
General Manager | COPPERLAND CHARTER, Salt Lake City, UT | 2 years
When using this section, you eliminate the dates and list only the span of time. You also can cherry-pick the companies and jobs you list in this area. If you desire, you can enhance these postings with additional information about the value you brought in these older roles.
Key Point: Your resume is a marketing document
People ask me about leaving things out of a resume. The resume is not a legal document. It is a marketing document to attract employers to invite you for an interview. Don't include every job since high school. The employer is looking for relevant experience to ensure that you can do the job.
As you evaluate your resume, ensure that your content is filled with value - not job description information but how you helped the companies in your roles previously, such as these bullets from five different job-winning clients.
- Strategic Sales Growth – Created and executed customer-specific routing design to market targeted accounts in a highly competitive New Jersey market, leading to 2 national sales awards.
- Substantive Results – Successful settlement of decade-long, complex federal class action related to fraud as well as asbestos and talc issues. Motion to dismiss granted in $90B False Claims Act litigation with minimal legal spend. Favorable jury verdict in multibillion-dollar patent trial related to ground-breaking Omega-3 technology.
- Crisis Management – Led operations for a COVID-19 Mandatory Work from Home order for six countries, rethinking strategies to
facilitate remote work processes while implementing standardization for critical and essential maintenance as well as enhanced cleaning and disinfecting processes.
- Security Awareness – Recognized vulnerabilities in the password system that could potentially impact every workstation in North America and communicated with Engineering and senior leadership, leading to a global solution implemented system-wide that greatly enhanced security.
- Business Transformation – Transformed digital solution implementation approach from project management to product management to iteratively prioritize feature backlogs for optimal business impact.
Writing your resume should be an exercise in strategizing where you want to go and what you have done in the past to get you to the next step in your career journey.
When clients work with me, we do it together. We strategize, imagine, and write to get you to the place you want to be. I will help you find the right balance of content for your resume so that you don't have to worry about cutting content. Learn more and check pricing here.