Category “Career Advice”

How Long Should Your Resume Be?

Monday, 12 August, 2013

Cartoon about resumesSomewhere along the line, we were convinced that there is a set length to a resume.  I remember how adamant a student of mine was once about keeping her 1-page resume format, despite it looking cramped and sounding incomplete. Others have shuddered at the thought of condensing their 3-page resume. Some recruiters insist two is the magic number. So what’s the ideal length? I would say it depends, much like the resume as a whole, on your preferences and what you’re applying for.

Length ∝ Job

One of the biggest mistakes people make with resumes is not to customize to the job, and length is part of this. I would argue that the length of your resume can be directly proportional (∝) to the job you’re applying for. If you’re fresh out of college and applying for an entry level position, then 1-page works well. If you have more experience, and it’s all relevant, then make it 1 1/2 or 2. If it’s executive level, then 3 could work.

However, I would also argue that it depends on the industry and the company. Perhaps, even for a high level position, a 1-pager would make more impact – it states the highlight of your career  and it guarantees the reader will absorb more information more quickly. After all, with a wealth of experience, what could you give other than core benefits your skills would bring to the employer? I think that if you’re applying for an unsolicited job (i.e. there is no ad, but you’re submitting your resume to a company you really want to work at), then perhaps a 1-pager also makes the most impact;  a teaser that says “call me if you want to know more”. 

Philip Berne, in his blog post titled The Zero Page Resume, discusses how we may be heading towards online resumes – no pages at all, but formats like LinkedIn to replace the traditional version. If you’re running a smart self-marketing campaign through social media, then much of your resume should be online already (think LinkedIn). Personally, I feel like a combination is ideal. Again, you have to look at the industry expectations, the information preferences of the reader, and what type of job you are applying for.

You vs. “They”

Regardless of what “they” say (including me 🙂 ), I think you have to decide what best represents you and what you think your readers will expect and need to see. And above all, follow the job ad guidelines to the letter – they’re telling you what they want, so give it to them. Don’t include every single job you’ve had; include the most relevant and get around the date gaps by using “Related Word Experience” or “Relevant Work Experience” as your work section heading. Tailor to the ad, the company, the industry. Highlight measurables. And edit, edit, edit.

Remember that these days recruiters scan through resumes very quickly (and they may be scanned by machine beforehand or after to look for keywords), so don’t overwhelm the reader with reams of information. Choose your highlights. And go with the length that works for you.


Outdated Career Advice & Other Tips

Tuesday, 26 July, 2011

One of the exciting though sometimes frustrating aspects of language is how it is ever changing. As business, too, is shaped and changed by globalization, technology, flattened management structures, and an increasingly diverse workforce, so is how we communicate in that realm.

I came across an interesting article, via LinkedIn, about the top 10 things to ignore in career searches, including for interviews, resumes, and cover letters. I was interested (and pleased) to note that many of these items are exactly what I tell my students and my clients when talking about career packages. You can read the full article here. I’m especially please to see that the article warns against the Career Objective on the resume. It has always been a pet peeve of mine, because very few people do them correctly, and I feel that they waste valuable real estate on the resume.

I disagree somewhat with Point 9: “Your resume and cover letter [not] should be written in formal language.” While it is important to keep your tone friendly, and add your own personality, by avoiding formal language, you can err on the side of chatty, casual, slangy writing. I would suggest that you don’t try and sound overly formal by using big words that end up coming across as robotic or pompous, or that you fall into trite, cliche business language e.g. Please do not hesitateThank you in advance for…. Enclosed please find etc., but you do need to keep it professional and polished.

You need to remember that business is about relationships and if you hide behind jargon or cliches, then the audience will never get a sense of who you are, or feel invited to build a relationship with you, whether he or she is a prospective client or that elusive future employer.