How long should my resume be?
Creating a resume on your own can be difficult. While figuring out the right type of language to use and the correct methods of communicating your experience can be difficult, nothing is quite as hard as figuring out exactly how much you should put on paper. A good resume needs to be long enough to cover all the necessary information, yet not so long that it will overwhelm the person looking over the document. Figuring out how long your resume really needs to be involves digging deeper into the resume-writing process.
The Common Wisdom About Resume Length
There's a few bits of common wisdom that have tended to define resume length for at least the past several years. The first, and perhaps the most common for anyone who's gone through a career guidance course, is the one page rule - the idea that a good resume should never be more than a single page long. There's some real wisdom to this, as a single-page resume generally forces the applicant to sit down and think about what's important and what can be left off.
The other bit of conventional wisdom is the so-called "six second rule". The idea here is that the average hiring coordinator is only going to spend six seconds on your resume, so you'll need to make sure your information can be reliably transmitted in about that amount of time. While there's no hard data that this rule actually applies in the workforce, it's a good idea to remember that your resume will likely be read by a person who has very little time to do so. The more information you can communicate quickly, the better.
Consider Your Industry
While the common wisdom is good to keep in mind, it's not going to work for everyone. If you work in high-level academia, for example, there's no way you can create an effective resume that's going to fit on a single sheet of paper. In that case, you'll want to provide an exhaustive list of publications to impress upon the person making hiring decisions that you are both qualified and prolific in your work. Sticking to the common wisdom there wouldn't just be a bad idea - it'd be a guarantee that you will never get hired.
Always make sure that you take the time to look at other common resumes in your industry. As a rule, the length of your resume will generally be related to the type of position for which you are applying. If you are applying for an entry-level position, a single-page resume will do. If you have been working for five to ten years, two pages is better. If you are applying for a C-level position or you are in a specialized industry, it's going to be the content of your experience that matters more than the length of the resume.
Fluff vs. Enhancement
So, how do you figure out how to keep your resume at a reasonable length for your next job application? Simply put, it's going to be a matter of using your best judgment. You should decide what on your resume will enhance your chances of being hired and what additions are mere fluff. When you can stop long enough to be honest with yourself, you should be able to differentiate between the two with a fair amount of ease.
Fluff is any material that doesn't serve a real purpose. Unless you have no job experience or your position is directly related to your prior membership, it is generally useful to drop club membership from your resume after college. Likewise, you may generally be able to drop your recommendation section from your resume, as most employers will want this data separately. Some even recommend dropping your objective, as this section is both unnecessary when accompanied by a cover letter and a waste of prime resume real estate. Every piece of information on your resume should speak not only to your past experience, but also to your ability to do the job for which you are applying.
How long should your resume be? Sadly, the answer truly is 'long enough'. Make sure that you construct a resume that is exactly long enough to convince a hiring manager of your ability to do the job, but not so long that important data will get lost in the shuffle. Trying to stick to the one-page format is generally a good idea early in your career and you should always strive to keep your resume as short as the average length found in your field. With a little editing, you too can construct a resume that will communicate everything important to those who have the potential to hire you.