How long should your résumé be? It’s a long-standing debate among recruiters, but there is one thing they agree on: it needs to be relevant. This is true whether you're just out of school or have worked for 20 years, and it means your résumé needs to be concise and tailored to that job.
Recruiters won't read a full bulleted list of your duties and everything you did at every job. They only want to read what in your background is applicable to the particular job and/or company to which you’re applying. So your task is to make the information easily available.
If you’ve just graduated from college or even graduate school immediately following college, it won’t be hard to keep your résumé to one page. Even if you already have a one- or two-page résumé, there are probably things you can remove that don't relate to your current job application. The great news is that LinkedIn or a personal website can be used as a space to put all that extra information. Think of it as the curriculum vitae (CV) version of your résumé – it can be as long as it needs to be.
What to Keep on Your Résumé
Career summary. Summarize your work experience and skills at the top, but apply it to the job of interest: What do you have that the employer is looking for?
Bullets. Try not to get hung up on making your résumé only one or two pages to please recruiters and start deleting things without careful consideration. Your goal is to get the recruiter to read. How can you do that? Make it pertinent, in other words, make it worth their time. Answer what they're asking; think of the job description as a questionnaire – what on the description can you answer with a solid “yes, I’ve done that” or a “I’ve done some of that?" Those are the items that you keep on the résumé you’re sending.
Education. If you graduated more than five years ago, you don’t need to include years of study. You do need to list your degree(s), school name(s) and location(s).
Awards. Recognition is something that’s quite important to note, so in most cases, you’ll want to leave this on your résumé.
While it’s true that one person may have several pages of relevant information for the job, and another may have only one page of pertinent background, it’s worth taking a closer look to see if there are things taking up valuable space. If a recruiter sees a lot of details that don't pertain to the job, you're likely to lose her attention.
What to Consider Taking Off
Community activities. If you’re changing industries and you’ve done volunteer work in the one you’re transitioning to, it’s good to include that. However, if the volunteer work is unrelated to the job you’re pursuing and your document is more than two pages, strike this and include it in your LinkedIn profile instead. You could bring it up during small talk at an interview, too.
Coursework. Again, if you’re transitioning into a new field or fresh out of school, it’s good to include relevant coursework. There is no reason to include this information if you’ve been working for a while and you're not making a significant career change.
Skills. There are many skills out there from language to technical. Are your particular skills related to the job? If so, are they already reflected in an earlier part of your résumé? If the answer to the first question is no, you don’t need to include them.
Hobbies. These make great talking points and may produce chemistry with a hiring manager. However, it takes up critical space.
Many other countries and certain industries in the U.S. use a curriculum vitae (CV) instead of a résumé. These are generally much longer and cover publications and more personal data. You can find samples online if you’ve been asked to write one.
What to Save for LinkedIn
Your LinkedIn profile should have the information in your résumé plus additional material. In other words, it’s the full generic data sheet on you and you can include as much information as you wish.
In addition to including community activities, coursework, skills, volunteer work and hobbies, you can insert causes that you care about, professional development activities and affiliations. You can include presentations, publications and other knowledge that you possess. This is a good place to go beyond your professional self to show what you do outside of work; just don’t get too personal.
Nowadays, the send-one-résumé-to-all approach doesn't work. Each résumé should be relevant to the job to which you’re applying, which means extra work on your part to ensure the right pieces are there. It’s not a question of “should my résumé be one page?” but “is my résumé relevant enough to the job so that the recruiter will read it and consider me as a serious candidate?”
Marcelle Yeager is the president of Career Valet, which delivers personalized career navigation services. Her goal is to enable people to recognize skills and job possibilities they didn’t know they had to make a career change or progress in their current career. She worked for more than 10 years as a strategic communications consultant, including four years overseas. Yeager holds an MBA from the University of Maryland.