How Long Should a Resume Be? Studies, Data, and Answers

How Long Should a Resume Be? Studies, Data, and Answers

Your resume needs to be as concise as possible ... without overlooking important work experience and skills. It needs to be professionally crafted and legible—which means not cluttering it with small fonts and narrow margins.

The rule of thumb is for recent graduates and applicants with fewer than 10 years’ experience to have a 1-page resume. Those with 10 years’ experience or more can have 2 pages, but the resume should still be as succinct as possible.

But recent data is challenging that advice, and suggests that longer, well-crafted resumes can help earn you an interview.

To help you create a professional resume, this article covers:

How many pages should a resume have?

Having a well-organized, targeted resume is important. A Ladders study found that recruiters spend only 7 seconds reviewing a resume. For that reason, the most successful applicants keep their resume to 1-page so that their most important information can be seen at a glance.

The ideal resume length depends on your years of experience and whether you need to fit in any other pertinent information related to the job. The prevailing wisdom says that a single page should be enough for a recent graduate or someone in the workforce with fewer than 10 years’ experience.

Professionals with more than 10 years’ experience, applicants for leadership or management roles, and academics might need a resume that’s two pages or longer.

While the single-page resume has been advised for decades, the idea isn’t without controversy.

Some professionals are recommending two-page resumes for everyone except entry-level applicants. Their rationale is that when you complete an online job application, the resume and cover letter need to include enough keywords to pass through the automated Applicant Tracking System (ATS) screening.

A two-page resume allows candidates to customize their accomplishments and insert relevant information and keywords. One study even found that recruiters are over twice as likely to prefer two-page resumes.

A longer resume isn’t a problem when it’s focused on accomplishments and experiences relevant to the position. Executives hiring senior-level positions expect candidates to have a two- or even three-page resume.

One of the longest types of resume is the Curriculum Vitae (CV) used in academia. This is an in-depth document that includes all of the applicant’s relevant publications, research, and experiences.

There’s no rule on how long a CV should be, but they’re often 2 to 3 pages. It could be much longer for mid-level or senior professionals, because it details all of your career accomplishments.

That said, every resume should be concise and summarize your experience relevant to the job.

Why the length of a resume matters

Your resume should be well organized and scannable so a recruiter can easily see how your experience fits a given job. It should be long enough to list your accomplishments and customized for the requirements of the job.

If you detail a few quantifiable accomplishments from each job, you should be able to impress the hiring manager while keeping your resume concise. The quality of the information you include is more important than the length.

Add 2 or 3 measurable achievements rather than listing every role you’ve had at each company you’ve worked at. Consider excluding older jobs or experiences that do not apply to the current position.

A resume that’s two pages or more conveys length of experience and career progression. Hiring managers typically expect longer resumes from experienced professionals and candidates with specialized expertise.

What to consider when creating a resume

A well-written resume is often the first step in getting an interview during your job search. A strong resume should appeal to both human readers and ATS (Applicant Tracking System) screenings. Here’s what to consider when creating your resume.

What to consider

1. Be concise

Exclude older jobs or other experience that isn’t relevant to the position you’re seeking. Listing the entry-level job you held 15 years ago might not show a recruiter that you are the right fit. If you’ve changed careers, don’t include experience if it’s not a requirement for the position, but be prepared to discuss any gaps in your work history if you get an interview.

2. Remove filler words

To keep your resume brief, avoid filler words such as “like,” “that,” “the,” or “a.” While you’re at it, don’t describe yourself with meaningless business cliches like “go-getter” or “self-starter.” These overused words have lost their meaning and won’t show a recruiter what you bring to a job.

3. Limit the description of each role

Instead of listing every duty for each job you’ve held, list a few bullet points of achievements. These should be quantified if possible, such as “reduced costs by 30%.”

In general, three to five bullet points should be enough to detail your accomplishments in a user-friendly way.

4. Limit each bullet point to two lines

Limit each bullet point to two lines to make your resume more scannable. This forces you to be concise and edit the information you include.

5. Focus on the most relevant experience

This tip assumes you’re tailoring your resume for each application. Carefully read the job description and note any professional experience the potential employer is looking for. Don’t include former jobs or internships that aren’t relevant to the requirements. Where possible, use the same terminology as in the job listing so the ATS recognizes the keyword.

If you have had a long career, it’s not necessary to go far back and include your full work history. Focus on your most recent relevant experience within the last 10 or 15 years.

6. Avoid long lists of responsibilities

Listing the responsibilities for each job can make your resume dull and repetitive. Instead, list a few achievements for each job.

For example, if you’ve had several positions in supply chain logistics, don’t add a long list of the responsibilities for each role. Instead, list two or three highlights for every position. Did you cut costs, improve customer satisfaction, or increase efficiency? Add bullet points to quantify those results.

7. Use a 10- to 12-point font size

It can be tempting to use a small font size to fit more information on one page and reduce the length of your resume. But use a 10- or 12-point font to make your resume readable.

Change bulleted lists into two columns or reduce the size of your resume header to free up additional space.

8. Use an appropriate margin

You won’t fit as much text on your resume if it has wide margins, and you can make room by adjusting them. Standard margins for a resume are between a half-inch and 1 inch wide. But don’t remove too much white space. Packing in too much text can make a document difficult to read.

9. Remove unnecessary elements

Certain elements often included in resumes are unnecessary and should be cut. Don’t bother listing your high school, and you don’t need to say “References available upon request.” You can provide them when you’re a final candidate.

If you’re thinking about including a headshot, find out the norms regarding using photos in the country where the job is located. Some European employers expect to see a headshot on the resume, but that’s not the norm in the U.S. American hiring managers may prefer to check your LinkedIn profile to see your photo.

There’s also no need for a “hobbies and interests” section. If you do include this section, avoid anything with a political or religious affiliation. That could turn off recruiters. Certain interests are safe to add, including:

  • Musical talent
  • Sports and fitness activities
  • Community work

Resume formats

If you’re looking for more detailed guidelines, we have an in-depth article on how to write a great resume. But here, we want to briefly cover the three types of resume formats job seekers typically use.

  • Chronological. This type of resume is actually in reverse-chronological order. You list your most recent experience at the top. The benefit of a chronological resume format is that it easily shows career advancement. Most recruiters are familiar with and prefer this format. This is also the easiest format for an ATS to read. The downside of a chronological resume is that it can make employment gaps more noticeable. It also doesn’t emphasize skills and talents.
  • Functional. This format puts less emphasis on work history and more on skills and abilities. A significant portion of this resume is taken up by a section that highlights your relevant skills and accomplishments. A functional resume is useful for recent graduates, those making a career change, or those who have gaps in their work history.
  • Combination. This format includes a skills section while still detailing your work experience. A combination resume is good for applicants with a diverse skill set backed by a strong, consistent work history. If your experience includes freelance work, this type of resume makes it easy to share your accomplishments. For ideas on how to include it, check out our article “How to List Your Freelance Work on a Resume.”

Getting past the Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

The best resume in the world won’t do you any good if a human never sees it. Most resumes submitted online are screened by an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). This software scans resumes for keywords in the job description. Only those considered the best fit for the job are forwarded to recruiters or hiring managers.

Here are a few tips for creating a resume that gets past the bots.

  • Apply for positions that match your experience. Don’t make up experience when applying.
  • Add a skills section. This could be a bulleted list of skills, certifications, or software used. Pick up requirements from the job description.
  • Use keywords. If the job description uses slightly different terms than your resume, such as “sales consultant” rather than “sales representative,” use the term in the job description.
  • Use basic formatting. ATS systems can’t read graphics and charts.

How to handle gaps in your work history

In the 7.4 seconds employers look at resumes, many of them are looking for employment gaps. It’s an easy way to screen people with otherwise equivalent resumes.

If you have employment gaps, use a functional resume. This format focuses on skills and abilities rather than your chronological work experience. If you’ve been involved in volunteer work, freelancing, or taking classes, you can fill the employment gaps with those dates on your resume.

Be prepared to discuss the time you weren’t in the workforce. There are a lot of good reasons for employment gaps—caregiving, parenting, returning to school, mental health, self-employment, etc. But don’t get caught off guard in the interview when this comes up!

Create a resume that’s tailored to the work you want

Whether you’re interested in traditional employment or exploring the world of freelance, tailor your resume to the work you want. Being concise while also showing hiring managers and clients why you’re the best fit for the job is a skill that many people appreciate.

Think you’ve finally nailed down your resume? Put it to good use by applying for some of the best freelance jobs on Upwork. By highlighting your most relevant experience and skills, you can start landing projects that can help propel your freelance career.

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How Long Should a Resume Be? Studies, Data, and Answers
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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