Sunday, October 1, 2017

People keep asking: How long should a resume be?

The answer is the shortest length that will win an interview. 

Resumes that focus on the fewest words presented in an orderly, easy-to-read manner, win interviews.

People who read resumes search for key pieces of information, things that motivate them to want to interview. It follows that content and presentation are key to winning an invitation to interview. Length is a variable outcome.

Know your audience.

Those who review resumes to fill positions like professor or research scientist, and certain government positions, etc., often want volumes of detail and are very willing to read it carefully. They may need detailed pedigree data like publications, dissertations, presentations or information that can be used to assist vetting for various levels of secret clearances.

However, those reviewing resumes for people in the majority of disciplines are not looking for that level of detail. They simply want to quickly discover information that motivates them to want to interview. They are not interested in voluminous information and typically budget mere seconds to scan the many resumes they receive. They don't read, they glance at resumes. In these situations the emphasis should be on making it possible for the reader  to find key information quickly.

One length does not fit all.

When a resume is first read, what the candidate wants is not important to the reader. What's important is information that responds to the hiring manager's needs. Excessive length usually means rejection, often without even reading the resume. If one page will get an interview, fine. The ideal is probably two. Beyond two one risks rejection unless applying for positions like those described above that require extensive information.

From a logical perspective, readers may interpret excessive length as simply an indication that the candidate is unable to express thoughts crisply and succinctly or is desperate, using a "hard sell" approach to cover up something.

The takeaway is this: Resume content and how content is presented always trumps length. Understanding the audience of readers is necessary for drawing the right balance between content and length.

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