7 Resume Length Mistakes To Avoid (How Long Your Resume Should Be)

Here’s the biggest fact you need to know about how long your resume should be: interviewers and HR managers look at your resume for an average of 7 seconds. That’s right, only 7 seconds!

How should you design your resume with this factor in mind? And how long should your resume be? We’re going to cover mistakes you can avoid when designing your resume for both formatting and length to ensure your resume is impactful.

Ready? Let’s get started.

How Long Should A Resume Be

The Ladders performed an eye-tracking study in 2018 that concluded the average time that an HR manager or hiring manager looks at your resume is 7.4 seconds. Yes, only 7.4 seconds.

This means that for the most part, no one is reading your resume. That doesn’t mean your resume isn’t important, though. It simply means that you need to ensure your resume is concise, impactful and hooks your reader so that their attention span goes beyond the 7.4-second mark.

The data that The Ladders uncovered makes sense in 2019 as well as going into 2020. This is because we’re becoming more distracted consumers, even at work. The access to work communication through the phone has caused our attention spans to suffer, even when interviewing.

Ideally, your resume should never be longer than one page. By it being longer than one page you might risk the interviewer never reading your resume in the first place. Or the interviewer simply interpreting your two-page resume as the “inability to communicate clearly and concisely.”

7 Ways To Keep Your Resume Length In Order And Make Your Resume Stronger

Here are second mistakes you can avoid when thinking about your resume length.

1. Keep your resume short.

At the most, list your most recent 5 positions. And each one of those previous positions should have one sentence introducing the job function and 2-3 data points regarding what you’ve been able to accomplish at the job. Avoid multi-paragraph explanations about your previous job experience. That will increase the length of your resume and reduce the impact that the reader will have.

Related: 2 Best Soft Skills To Beat AI (Plus Soft Skills List)

2. Ensure your resume layout is clean.

Don’t clutter your resume with your picture or a long list of hobbies & interests. Try to keep your resume layout focused on the information that’s on the page. You don’t need to design a highly visual layout in order to be discovered. By keeping your resume layout readable, this will make you stand out.

Try thinking about your resume layout before writing what goes inside of the resume. Write down a list of what you want to include in your resume and design a layout that has clear areas for each of the bullet points you wrote down. Once you have your layout sorted out, then start thinking about the message you want to deliver.

3. Ensure you have whitespace.

Another common mistake is to use large font size (12pt font or larger) and have very little white space on the page. Try to keep some white space on the page. Use white space as a strategy for where you want your reader to look. Try to avoid tight line spacing as this will make it more difficult to read. Try a 1.5 line spacing length.

Pro fact: Nick Kolenda performed a study that suggests font choices have a large impact on the perception of the author.

4. Lean into the job title.

If you can, separate your job title from the rest of your previous job experience information. For example, use negative indentation to make your job title float to the left of your previous work experience explanation. This will make it easier for your hiring manager to be able to scan the document by job title and company.

Bold your job title, underline the company that you previously worked at. Use formatting to your advantage in order to attract your reader to the figures that really matter.

5. Think about how the interviewer scans your resume.

When an interviewer, recruiter, hiring manager or HR manager looks at your resume, they’ll be “scanning” your document. This means they’ll be looking at your resume for a very brief amount of time, looking for something that stands out to them. Not sincerely reading your resume from start to finish (which would take 1 minute to 3 minutes at least).

Pro tip: NACE’s Job Outlook Survey performed in 2019 mentioned that the three key skills employers want to see as part of their resume (for experienced professionals or recent graduates) is communication skills (written and verbal), problem-solving skills and the ability to work as part of a team.

Because they’re scanning your document, think about data points and layouts that will make the reader stop and read at least a few bullet points. Your goal should be to convert the reader from a 7 second average reading time to something like 30-seconds. This will get them engaged with you and the conversation that you might be having.

6. Don’t stuff keywords into your resume.

If your resume looks like a bunch of keywords, for example, “Excel, MySQL, Postgres.” It might lack personality. Try to focus on delivering your message through factual data figures. Something like, “Raised revenue by 33.8% in Q4 of 2018.”

Pro fact: CareerBuilder.com performed a study and found that 48% of hiring managers will automatically dismiss a resume or cover letter that isn’t customized or tailored to the job posting.

Factual statements with supportive data that focus on the company benefit from you working at the job is going to be more attractive to the reader than any keyword stuffing. It will communicate your skills with more impact than simply stating your skill sets.

7. Try to draw the readers eye down the page.

If you can, design your resume with the idea that you want them to complete the scan of the document. Avoid putting skills, hobbies & interests or extracurricular information towards the top of the page. Keep that information at the bottom of the resume.

Try to make a few bullets regarding “career highlights” which might be at the very top of the page. Then your previous work experience and at the bottom of the page, anything that might make you seem like a qualified candidate. This will naturally draw the reader down the page as most of the body of the content is at the bottom.

Resume Length Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some commonly asked questions and answers regarding resume length.

Is a 2-page resume bad?

A two-page resume could be considered bad for entry-level positions or those with less than 30 years of working experience. This is because it might be communicating to the reader that you have a difficult time speaking about your previous accomplishments. Or a difficult time delivering a concise and impactful message.

Can a resume be more than one page?

What’s inside your resume package should be more than one page but your actual resume should never be more than one page. For example, if you have professional references or letters of recommendation that may make your overall “resume package” longer than one page. But your resume itself (listing your prior job experience) should never be more than one page.

What’s the exception for a resume being 2-pages or more?

For the most part, only those who are applying to very senior-level management positions may want to make their resume 2-pages. This is because they need to convey 30-years of working experience or more.

What font sizes should I use for the best readability?

Keep your font size to 9-point or 10-point if you can. This will provide you enough space to write a clear and impactful message. But it won’t risk your reader having a difficult time comprehending your message when it’s printed out. Keep your font choices to something in a serif (Calibri or Georgia) as it is more formal than a sans-serif font like Arial.

How many bullet points should be in each of my previous jobs?

Try to keep your introduction to the previous job experience one or two sentences at most. Then keep your bullet points between 3 - 5. Lastly, be sure to end the bullet points with a closing statement for the work experience.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams.

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