How Long Should a Resume Be in 2024? The Definitive Guide

When it comes to resumes, size matters. But how long should a resume be for optimal results in today‘s competitive job market?

As a former recruiter and current career coach, I‘ve reviewed thousands of resumes over the years. While there‘s no hard and fast rule, I‘ve found that the best resumes are long enough to effectively showcase your relevant experience and accomplishments, but short enough to keep a hiring manager‘s attention.

With the average job posting attracting 250 resumes, recruiters are often inundated with applications. As a result, the average initial screening takes just 7.4 seconds per resume. A too-long, unwieldy resume may lose the reviewer‘s attention, while an overly brief resume might not adequately convey your qualifications.

So how do you strike the right balance? What‘s the ideal resume length for your situation and experience level? How can you trim a bloated resume down to size?

In this expert guide, I‘ll break down everything you need to know about resume length in 2024, including:

  • Why resume length matters to recruiters
  • Ideal resume length by career level
  • What to include and cut to optimize resume length
  • Tips and tricks to fit your resume on 1-2 pages
  • Formatting best practices for a polished, readable resume
  • Real resume examples at different lengths and levels

Whether you‘re crafting a resume from scratch or need to revamp an existing one, this guide will help you create a sleek, compelling resume that‘s the ideal length to grab a recruiter or hiring manager‘s attention and land that interview.

Why Resume Length Matters in 2024

Before we dive into the specifics of how long your resume should be, let‘s discuss why resume length matters in the first place.

Recruiters are pressed for time

On average, recruiters spend just 6-8 seconds scanning a resume during the initial screening. In those precious few seconds, they‘re assessing whether your skills and experience warrant a closer look. If key details are buried in a lengthy, hard-to-follow document, they may get overlooked.

Recruiters want to quickly spot your career highlights and see how your background lines up with the role‘s requirements. A concise, tailored resume enables them to do that efficiently.

Applicant tracking systems have limited parsing abilities

According to a 2019 study by JobScan, 99% of Fortune 500 companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to streamline their recruiting process. While ATS algorithms are becoming more sophisticated, many still have difficulty parsing very long or intricately formatted resumes.

If your resume is too lengthy, the ATS may be unable to identify key information, lowering your chances of making it to the next round. Sticking to a concise, straightforward format reduces the likelihood of important details getting lost in translation.

Different industries have different expectations

Depending on your industry and role, hiring managers may expect a longer or shorter resume. For example, in academia, medicine, and some research-heavy fields, a multi-page CV detailing publications, patents, conferences, and professional affiliations is the norm. For most corporate roles, however, a more concise resume is preferred.

Aligning your resume‘s length to industry standards shows you understand the field‘s hiring conventions and positions you as a stronger candidate.

How Long Should Your Resume Be? A Breakdown by Career Level

So what‘s the ideal resume length for your situation? The short answer: it depends.

Factors like years of experience, industry, and career level all impact how long your resume should be. Here‘s a quick overview of the ideal resume length by career stage:

Career Level Ideal Resume Length
Entry-Level (0-2 years) 1 page
Mid-Level (3-7 years) 1-2 pages
Senior-Level (8+ years) 2-3 pages
Executive (Director/C-Suite) 2-3 pages
Academic/Research 2-5 pages (CV format)
Career Change 1-2 pages focused on transferable skills

Let‘s examine each level in more detail and discuss what should (and shouldn‘t) be included at each stage.

Entry-Level Resumes

When you‘re just starting out in your career, you likely have limited work experience to draw from. At this stage, it‘s better to have a resume that‘s a bit sparse than one padded with irrelevant details.

Aim for: 1 page

What to include:

  • Education (including relevant coursework, honors, GPA if above 3.5)
  • Internships
  • Part-time jobs
  • Volunteer experience
  • Extracurricular activities (particularly leadership roles)
  • Technical skills
  • Certifications or licenses

What to cut:

  • Outdated or irrelevant experience (e.g. your high school lawn mowing business)
  • Generic soft skills or hobbies (unless highly relevant to the role)
  • References (save these for later in the process)

Mid-Level Resumes

As you progress in your career, your resume should focus less on short-term jobs and extracurriculars and more on your professional accomplishments and progression.

Aim for: 1-2 pages

What to include:

  • Reverse chronological work history for the past 5-7 years
  • Brief description of companies if not well known
  • Key accomplishments for each role (aim for 3-5 quantified bullet points)
  • Relevant technical and soft skills
  • Education (can move below experience at this stage)
  • Relevant certifications or professional development

What to cut:

  • College extracurriculars and coursework (unless highly relevant)
  • Bullet points covering basic job duties rather than achievements
  • Short-term jobs not relevant to your current career path

Senior-Level Resumes

At the senior level, you have a more extensive work history to draw from. The key is to include enough detail to showcase the depth of your experience while still being selective about what you include.

Aim for: 2-3 pages

What to include:

  • Detailed work history for the past 10-15 years
  • Notable accomplishments and metrics for each role
  • Progression into leadership roles
  • Strategic initiatives you‘ve led
  • Relevant board memberships or conference presentations
  • Education and advanced degrees

What to cut:

  • Early career or outdated experience (over 15 years old)
  • Repetitive bullet points within the same company
  • Excessive detail about older, less relevant roles

Executive Resumes

For executive roles, your resume should paint a compelling leadership narrative. While you have more leeway in terms of length, you still want to be strategic about what details to include.

Aim for: 2-3 pages

What to include:

  • Leadership roles and progression over the past 15-20 years
  • High-level business achievements (grew revenue, launched product, etc.)
  • Strategic vision and thought leadership
  • Board and volunteer leadership roles
  • Select publications, speaking engagements, or media features
  • Advanced degrees and executive education

What to cut:

  • Tactical details or early career experience
  • Long skill lists (focus on leadership competencies)
  • Excessive publications or affiliations (be selective)

Academic and Research Resumes

In academia, medicine, and research-oriented fields, a longer curriculum vitae (CV) is expected to capture relevant publications, teaching experience, grants, and professional affiliations.

Aim for: 2-5 pages

What to include:

  • Academic background and post-doctoral training
  • Relevant work experience
  • Teaching experience and courses taught
  • Research projects and grants
  • Publications and conference presentations
  • Professional memberships and leadership roles
  • Licenses and certifications

What to cut:

  • Detailed descriptions of outdated or irrelevant projects
  • Excessive detail on research or publications not related to the role
  • Hobbies and extracurricular activities

Career Change Resumes

If you‘re pursuing a career change, the challenge is to showcase how your past experience translates to your new field. Focus on relevant transferable skills and accomplishments rather than getting bogged down in unrelated details.

Aim for: 1-2 pages

What to include:

  • Summary emphasizing transferable skills and passion for new field
  • Relevant projects, volunteer work, or education in new field
  • Experience highlights focused on transferable skills
  • Courses, training, or certifications related to new industry

What to cut:

  • Outdated experience unrelated to your new target role
  • Industry-specific jargon or acronyms from your old field
  • Excessive details on past roles not related to your current goals

Tips for Trimming a Too-Long Resume

If you find your resume spilling onto an extra page, it‘s time to make some strategic cuts. Here are some tips for slimming down an overly long resume:

  1. Cut outdated experience. Unless you‘re applying for an executive role, experience over 15 years old can usually be condensed or cut.

  2. Tighten up job descriptions. Focus on your key achievements rather than listing every single job duty. Aim for 3-5 punchy bullet points per role.

  3. Remove references. In most cases, it‘s assumed that references are available upon request, so you don‘t need to use precious resume space to list them.

  4. Tailor your resume to each role. If space is tight, cut experience and skills that aren‘t directly relevant to the job at hand. A tailored resume is more impactful than a generic catch-all.

  5. Get an outside opinion. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to review your resume with a critical eye. They may spot redundancies or irrelevant details you‘ve overlooked.

  6. Tweak your formatting. Experiment with different fonts, font sizes, and margins to fit more onto each page. Just keep readability in mind and don‘t go below 10-point font.

Real Resume Length Examples

To help illustrate these resume length guidelines, let‘s look at a few real-world examples. The following resumes showcase how to effectively tailor your resume‘s length and content to your experience level and target role:

Entry-Level Marketing Resume

[1-page entry-level marketing resume example]

Note how this candidate‘s resume focuses on their relevant internships, coursework, and extracurricular leadership experience. At the 1-page length, the resume provides just enough detail to showcase their potential without overwhelming the reader.

Mid-Level Sales Manager Resume

[2-page mid-level sales manager resume example]

With 6 years of experience, this candidate has graduated to a 2-page resume. The first page focuses on their most recent and relevant sales experience, while the second page briefly touches on their early career and education. Quantified achievements take center stage, demonstrating the candidate‘s concrete value.

Senior IT Project Manager Resume

[2-page senior IT project manager resume example]

For a senior-level role, this candidate‘s 2-page resume strikes a nice balance between breadth and depth. The first page highlights their key career progression and achievements, while the second page dives into more technical details and early career experience. The length allows the candidate to paint a compelling career narrative without excessive detail.

Key Takeaways

While there‘s no universal rule for exactly how long your resume should be, there are guidelines you can follow to ensure your resume is long enough to effectively showcase your qualifications without losing the hiring manager‘s attention.

The key is to tailor your resume‘s content and length to your experience level and target role. When in doubt, ask yourself if each piece of information is directly relevant and adds value. If not, cut it.

Remember:

  • Keep it concise. Stick to 1 page if you have less than 7 years of experience, 2-3 pages if you‘re more senior.
  • Tailor it to the role. Cut irrelevant details to make room for information that shows you‘re a perfect fit.
  • Focus on achievements. Whenever possible, quantify your bullet points to concretely show your value.
  • Polish your formatting. Ensure your resume is visually appealing and easy to scan at a glance.

By following these guidelines, you‘ll be able to craft a compelling, appropriately long resume that grabs the hiring manager‘s attention and positions you for success.

FAQs

  1. What if I have a lot of short-term or contract positions?
    If you‘ve held multiple short-term positions, group them under a single heading (e.g. "Contract Positions") and list the company, job title, and dates for each. Focus on the overarching skills you gained rather than diving into detail on each.

  2. How can I address employment gaps?
    Short gaps (a few months) don‘t necessarily need to be addressed. For longer gaps, add a brief line in your work history explaining the gap, such as "Family leave" or "Relocated to new city." If you did any volunteer work, freelancing, or professional development during the gap, definitely include that.

  3. Should I include my entire educational history?
    It depends. If you‘re a recent graduate, your education should be listed at the top of your resume and can include details like coursework and extracurricular activities. If you‘ve been working for several years, just list your degree, school name, and graduation year. Omit your GPA and graduation year if it‘s been more than 3 years since you graduated.

  4. I work in an industry where longer CVs are the norm. How long is too long?
    If you‘re in a field like academia, medicine, or research, a multi-page CV is expected. In these cases, it‘s common to have CVs that are 5-10 pages, or even longer for very senior professionals. The key is to still be selective about what you include and organize the information clearly with headings and subheadings. If your CV exceeds 5 pages, consider creating a 2-page condensed version to send for initial screenings.

  5. Do I need to include an objective or summary statement?
    Objective statements have largely fallen out of favor because they focus on the candidate‘s goals rather than the employer‘s needs. A summary statement can be a good way to frame your experience, but it‘s not always necessary. If you‘re running tight on space, it‘s usually better to let your experience speak for itself.

Next Steps

Crafting a compelling resume is a critical step in your job search. But there‘s more to landing a great job than just having a well-honed resume. To take your job search to the next level, check out these additional resources:

By investing time in refining your resume and preparing for the other key aspects of the job search process, you‘ll be well on your way to landing your dream role.

Remember, your resume is often the first impression you make on a potential employer. By crafting a concise, tailored document that showcases your most relevant skills and experiences, you‘ll increase your chances of landing an interview and ultimately, the job.

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