Job seekers often ask how long their resume should be. Some people can barely stretch theirs to a single page, while others have difficulty fitting it into four pages. What makes this decision so difficult? You want to include all of the relevant information that will inevitably get you hired. However, you also don’t want to overwhelm the human-resources personnel who are already swamped with work and could potentially be going through hundreds or thousands of resumes. If yours is too long, HR staff will skim it too quickly and miss the important points, or they’ll simply file it into the garbage because they don’t have the time to read it.
The Three-Page Resume Debate
A two-page resume is considered the perfect length for executive jobs. Career advice experts say there are some three-page resumes, but they also note that three-page resumes should be a rare occurrence. If you talk to a professional resume writer, his advice to those applying to executive jobs is to make resumes two pages maximum. However, there are always exceptions so this doesn’t mean that you should never have three pages.
For example, you might need three pages when you’re switching from one industry or career path to another. In this instance, your resume needs to contain experiences, qualities and skills for both fields, which may require you to fill an additional page.
Even in this instance, a resume writer will try to avoid writing a three-page resume regardless of how far apart the two fields are. They feel that if it’s written well and you’ve done your homework, you should be able to keep the information to two pages.
So how do you make things shorter while still including all the relevant information needed to apply for executive jobs? Career-advice professionals and resume writers will both tell you to start cutting the oldest information first and work your way forward. You also want to be sure that you write concisely to avoid redundancy.
Text, Font and Formatting
When trying to squeeze a resume into two pages, the most common trick is to make the font smaller and shrink the margins. These tricks work to make your resume the proper size, but they may also make the pages difficult to read. As a general rule of thumb, your font or text should never be less than 10 or 10.5 points. As for the margin, never make it less than half an inch in width on any one side.
Style and font is the next consideration when formatting your resume for executive jobs. Resume experts will tell you that the font or text style you choose will significantly influence how your correspondence will appear. Since you’ll need something that looks professional and flawless when applying for executive jobs, you want to use classic fonts such as Arial, Courier Gothic, Garamond, Tahoma, Times Brethren or Times New Roman.
You might be tempted to use artistic or fancy fonts on your resume, but you need to be very cautious about these. Unless you’re applying for an executive position in advertising, graphic arts or other artistic fields where there is an emphasis on this type of flair, chances are that the person who reads your resume will simply toss it out.
Vary text to draw attention to the important elements in your document. Bold, italics and underline as well as a variation in font size can be a big help. Which elements are best to bring attention to, use headings to divide the various segments, and many career advice experts also recommend bolding things such as skills and achievements (one or two key words rather than the full description).
Career-advice experts also warn job seekers about graphics. It’s OK to have some light graphic work, but be sure that it does not become the focal point of your resume (again, unless you are applying for executive positions in the art industry). In fact, you’ll likely find that a simpler document will look more professional than one with a page full of graphics.
When you combine these elements within your resume, you’ll find them far more effective when applying for executive jobs than if you tried to draft a shorter or longer document. Ultimately, this is the goal that will get your foot in the door and well on your way to landing that $100K job.
Matthew Rothenberg is editor-in-chief of TheLadders.com, offering career advice and a specialized job-search engine for those seeking $100K jobs. TheLadders.com also provides recruiters with a place to find suitable applicants for executive jobs and other high-level careers.