I had a candidate ask me this questions the other day, when submitting a resume for a project consultant job. This resume and cover letter submission was eight pages long in total.  Most readers would probably agree with the response I gave this candidate – “yes, the resume is a bit too long”.  But, this candidate’s simple question started to make me think about how and why a resume could get this long, and furthermore, made me realize that many candidates continue to grapple with correct answer to this question.

Six Seconds of Review:

A 2012 Study revealed that recruiters spend, on average, six seconds reviewing a candidate’s resume.  For this reason alone, it is important to keep your resume at a format and length that will best suit that 6 second average review time.

The Two Page Rule:

Many resume blog readers would agree that the general concessive is two pages; they may also tend to agree with the rule: one page per ten years of experience. In the latter guideline, a new grad would be submitting a one page resume, where as a seasoned executive would be allowed to submit 3 pages.  In my experience, there is no “all-in” solution.  How long your resume will be should also depend on specific factors such as: the type of job for which you are applying, how technical the resume needs to be, how many applicants there are in the completion, what exactly it is that you need to highlight, and who exactly will be reading the resume/application on the other end. Ultimately, keeping your resume as short as possible, without sacrificing the content you need in order to get noticed, is an approach I would recommend.

Tailoring to the type of job:

Some candidates will be able to shorten their resume by removing content from their resumes that is not necessarily relevant to the type of job for which they are applying. For example, you might be aiming to keep your resume under one page in an application to an IT job.  Including your job in customer service position from eight years ago, might be causing you to go over one page; therefore, it might be a good idea to eliminate the job duties for that particular job and simply include the position title and dates as a way to keep with your one page goal.

How Technical does the Resume Need to be?

Some job competitions require you to include a vast amount of technical data and information. In these scenarios, recruiters may be looking for key technical words in your resume, over achievements and job duties.  Thus, it’s important to tailor your resume accordingly.  If additional information is requirement, it can always be included in a separate document or shared during the interview.

Dealing with a High Volume of Applications:

In scenarios where your resume may be included amongst a multitude of other applications, a shorter resume is your best option. In shorter resumes, format is important.  Be sure to highlight position titles and dates clearly, and be sure to identify “reasons for leaving” where applicable.  Making recruiters aware of this information up front will give them more confidence in your submission.

Who is Reading your Resume?

This is the vaguest answer to ascertain of all.  Each recruiter or hiring team will have their own behaviors and tendencies when reviewing your resume.  While it is not always possible to find out who it is that will be reviewing your resume, it is possible to search the company directory, recruiter or hiring manager LinkedIn profiles, and then attempt to reach out to them directly.  If you get a response, feel free to ask about what they may be looking for in terms of a resume for a specific job or company culture.