Keep it Short and Sweet: Making the Case for Resume Brevity


So you’re an accomplished candidate in search of a career switch or a new job.  Maybe you have a five solid years worth of experience, a college internship, and more accommodations that you can count.  Oh, and don’t forget that Wednesday morning yoga class you teach that shows your commitment to flexibility and the three years of college French classes that have left you kinda, sorta, halfway, maybe passably, fluent if the person is talking very slowly and gives you time to bust out the Google Translate app for back up support.  

You’re so proud of all of these skillsets it only makes sense that a potential employer would want to know about them as well so you go ahead and throw all of this info into your resume via the Rescue my Resumes handy tool and voila…you’ve got a three and a half page masterpiece!  Not so fast…

Before you go and hit save and send, we’d like a chance to talk you out of launching a massive beast of a CV into your career world.  The fact of the matter is that most resumes should fit onto a single, non-crammed, reasonably readable font-sized, letter-sized page. If you just broke out in anxiety induced cold sweats wondering how you could POSSIBLY make this work with all that you have to share with your potential employers, never fear.  Read on and we’ll break down the why’s and how’s to craft a shorter resume while still conveying your awesomeness to potential hiring managers.

The Why’s of a Short and Sweet Resume

Before we start digging into the mechanics, let’s talk about the reasoning behind the one page in length resume.  A CV is meant to be a snapshot of your relevant skills and experience and not necessarily the final piece of evidence that lands you in the door.  The resume should include brief descriptions of your relevant work history, a short, non-detailed listing of your education and certifications, and if there’s room, skills, experience, or a one to two sentences on your objective or what you’re looking for in a career position.  

Hiring managers often receive dozens of resumes for each available position and spend on average 6 seconds during the initial review before making a decision on who to bring in for interviews.  The resume should be just enough to spike the interest of a potential employer, but not enough that they put it down due to overlength before they’ve had a chance to get to the substance of your skills, experience, and overall candidacy.  If the relevant information is buried within paragraphs of facts that an employer finds irrelevant, chances are you’ll be missing out when it comes to getting to the next stage of the hiring process.

How Short are we Talking?

As we mentioned above, the average resume should be no more than a single page in length.  As opposed to the usual meaning of the word, in this case being average is a good thing. Overly long resumes are more likely to be sent immediately to the recycle bin as standing out in a negative way.  Lengthy resumes often indicate someone who isn’t career savvy or familiar with normal application processes, which is a red flag for many companies and experienced recruiters. There may be the rare instance where a resume can spill over onto a few extra pages (more on that later) but in general, a normal font, 11 or 12 type resume should fit onto a single page to maximize interest and avoid standing out from the professional and “normal” crowd while attracting the wrong kind of attention.

The How’s to Keeping Things Concise

The above lecturings are all well and good, but how does a candidate who is absolutely certain about the stellar nature of their skills and experience go about trimming that information down into a single page that summarizes their candidacy?  We’re glad you asked!

To begin, take count of the various entries in each of your major resume sections.  Depending on how long you’ve been in your given career path, it may be time to eliminate certain listings altogether as dated and no longer relevant to current employers.  If you’ve been out of college for several years, a High School degree isn’t likely to do you much good. Similarly, that job that you held in undergrad selling frappe’s at the local area bistro may have been great for beer money but isn’t going to score you any extra points when applying for your data analytics position.  Weed out old, outdated and irrelevant info to help save resume space and shorten things up.

Once you’ve tackled the low hanging fruit, it’s time to start getting into the nitty gritty details of your various experience listings.  For each job, be sure to keep the list of responsibilities and accomplishments brief. The use of active verbs such as “managed,” “achieved,” or “sustained” can take the opening act of sentences and help avoid the need for length “in this position I” starters that don’t contain relevant details.  Use similar approaches to ensure all aspects of your resume are active and as void of wordiness as possible.

Last but not least, look for information that may be extraneous to your attempt to land a job.  Sure, it’s great that you like yoga and tennis, but those are hobbies that provide little to no meaningful substance to an employer’s review of your resume.  If you want to gush about your interests as a way of connecting with a hiring manager, try working it into a conversation after you’ve landed the interview. It’s the perfect technique for breaking the ice and a likely question by most interviewers.

Now that We’ve Said all That…the Exceptions

Yes, we know that we’ve spent several paragraphs now pitching the greatness of brevity.  There are, however, a few rare occasions where traditional one-page resumes just aren’t going to cut it.  If you’re an executive level candidate with 15 plus years of experience, for example, a multi-page resume may be needed to flush out your various positions held.  At that level, memberships and board service also play a critical role in hiring which takes up additional room. In other fields such as science, medical and engineering, a details account of your history and qualifications, such as listing certifications or overview of relevant projects, panels, or presentations, also may be necessary.  

If you’re in doubt, the great news is that Rescue my Resumes is here to help.  With customizable templates and tips and tricks designed specifically with your career field in mind, we take the guessing game out of resume creation and updating.  Give the free Rescue my Resume service a try and avoid the mistake of adding in too much, or too little, into your professional snapshot.


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