Next to the question, “What should I do next,” nothing obsesses job hunters as much as the length of a resume — or the “mean shoulds.” “How long should the resume be?” This is not an easily answered question since the advent of cyberspace. Who cares how long it is since no reader has to read any part he or she doesn’t want to?
We care. A resume isn’t an autobiography, although it has autobiographical elements. The length isn’t subject to an arbitrary rule but a sensible one: How much information does it take to tell your story? You might need three pages or just one to drive home what you want to do next and why you’re amply qualified. For example, you’ve been employed by the same company for 25 years, albeit in different jobs. A new graduate as had 15 part-time jobs and internships. The new grad’s resume might be longer than a long-term employee’s!
Don’t go back more than ten years. One fact on which there is almost universal agreement: talking about what you did before 2000 is soooo last century — and irrelevant! I’d argue that anything before the Great Recession is suspect but HR types may want the details. Put them in — even if you never discuss any accomplishments before 2006.
Did you make or save money? Any other accomplishments which include such words as “enhanced,” “promoted,” or other non-monitary words should be left out unless you’re looking at jobs with no agreed-upon parameters.
Did you help someone do a better job? Anytime you help get a better performance out of another employee it’s important. If you do so regularly it’s a standout. Why? Most managers are overwhelmed keeping the group on track. Anyone who helps do that is valuable. Second, many employees believe they are responsible only for themselves — unconnected islands in a sea.
Use pie charts and graphs. Why should a screener have to work to understand what you do? Take control of the information and use a graphic. Be careful with this. One graphic can make a point, five are clutter.
Considering the variety among resume screeners doesn’t it make sense to get as many different opinions and suggestions on what you’ve written before the resume goes live? Don’t take advice from anyone whose resume is mediocre. Did you use industry jargon? Would insiders recognize you as a co-worker? If you’re changing fields translate what you’ve done into the jargon of your new industry. Keep revising your resume as you get new information.
You will never have the perfect resume but it can help you find a near-perfect job!
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