A question we get asked often by our career coaching clients is “How long a resume should be?”
If you do an internet search or speak to a number of different career coaching professionals, the advice you receive will often be different. Some will say it doesn’t matter, some say no more than 5 pages and others say keep it to under 2 pages.
This leaves job seekers confused as to what is ‘right.’
So we decided to ask the people who ultimately matter – the professional recruiters and the HR Managers. These are the people who read your resume and decide whether they want to interview you.
We spoke to two of the best we know in their fields – Recruiter Sue Ritchie, General Manager, Melbourne (HR Partners) and Jim Sherlock, Group General Manager, Human Resources (Programmed Group).
Here’s what they had to say –
Sue Ritchie – HR Partners (General Manager, Melbourne)
“My thoughts on a Professional/Executive Resume is…not how long it should be, but what should be covered in it. Most people make an assumption that the reader understands the scope, complexity of their roles and companies. This is not true. Unless you work in a recruitment environment where you are meeting professionals from a large variety of industries, you won’t always have that underlining knowledge or insight. My advice to the HR Professionals that I deal with is that they outline their commercial and technical capabilities. When they are describing their roles, that they ensure they give the scope, complexity and context of the role – a snap shot of the 5 key deliverables and then commercial achievements with metrics.
Your resume is marketing you, so it needs to be a true reflection of what you have achieved and be written in your language. Focus on greater detail for the last 5-10 years and then reduce the detail, however don’t omit information. People are not great at promoting/marketing themselves. It is essential that they put their best foot forward. To ensure that, ask a friend or professional mentor to review and comment on your documentation.
The resume gets you the interview and once in the interview you can bring your experience to life.”
Jim Sherlock – Programmed Group (Group General Manager, Human Resources)
“It’s not really about the length but how the application helps you to develop a picture in your mind of how this candidate will fit into your team and what they will contribute to your business. I put a great deal of emphasis on the cover letter, which ideally should be about a page long and be customized to the opportunity I have advertised or, if a direct approach is made, about how his or her skill set will fit with my business. I do like to see a page or so about the person themselves; their education, interests and any personal details they care to share such as age and family if they are comfortable to do so. For me it’s all about understanding the whole person.
I don’t particularly value skills summaries, as I like to dive into the history and seek to understand who they have worked for. A candidate should never assume the prospective employer knows who the previous employer is or what they do, so give a paragraph on this as well as a high level purpose of the role(s) performed and duration of employment. Describe some of the key areas of focus, contributions and achievement but this needs to include what they contributed to the outcome, not just stuff that happened when they were there. Provide a good deal of information on the most recent roles and limit the volume on earlier and/or less relevant past roles and experience. It is also good for a prospective employer to understand why a candidate has moved on from recent posts.
So, all in all, this should be about 6 pages of well-crafted and clearly set out information in a basic and easy to read font no smaller than 11pt. Naturally, those who have been around a bit longer or moved a bit may want to include an extra page or two. Those less experienced job seekers may have less to share. The most important thing is that you not present an intimidating wall of text that dulls rather than spikes the reader’s attention, or is full of unbelievable claims. Remember, the CV gets you a chance to sit in front of the recruiter or prospective employer, it doesn’t get you the job; that depends on how well you tell your story when you get into the chair.”
Our final thoughts …
As you can read, both the recruiter and the HR professional talk similarly about their views. It’s about content. It’s about marketing yourself authentically,uniquely and honestly. Resume writing is as much an art as a science. There are no hard and fast rules on what length a resume should be. Your goal is to craft your resume in such a way that it best reflects your experience, skills and talents.
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