What is the ideal length of the resume?

This is one of the first questions being asked by those who are just going to start their job search.

And you know what is the “ideal” answer to this question:

One page is ideal. Two pages – maximum!!

So, there goes the the “laxman-rekha”.

Okay – my resume was/is of three pages. And I do not remember any instance where the resume was rejected because of that.

But do read on. I am not saying that you should write a novel in place of your resume. As far as I can summarize it, there are two valid reasons given why resumes should be kept short

  • The difficulty of sustaining interest of the person reading your resume, when it is too long
  • Time contraints with the person who isΒ  reading your resume for short-listing

But just saying “One/Two page resume” is at best a thumb-rule. Let’s discuss these two fundamental problems instead.

Sustaining the interest is the first thing. And that would mean including interesting things and only interesting things except for what are the standard requirements (personal details, education – even if it has not been interesting, etc.). That would also mean that you elaborate enough on each point of your resume so that it arises interest even if the person reading it may not be previously aware of the context; at the same time keeping it coincise enough so that you are not repeating information, or giving so many details that the reader will get bored. If you have interesting things just for one page, let it be one page. If it is for more, let it be more.

“But still Jaya, I can not possibly send a 10-page resume.” Certainly. But most likely you won’t if you take care of, lets call it “Interestingness Quotient” (InQ).

If you are someone who is straight out of college, have no or little work experience, then in all likelihood, you are quite young to have so many achievements that it will fill pages after pages. Yeah – you can safely ignore the poetry recitation competition you won in your school in 4th Standard. But then if you are really a super-achiever at quite early an age, the best bet would be to include only the “wow”-factors from your list of achievements in the resume. Because if somebody is going through it and sees all big things at the top, less important things (even if they’d be important for the lesser mortals amongst your peers) do not add any value to it – may only spoil the effect created initially.

And if you are a senior person with lots of experience, I think one page resume would indeed be enough. Your professional life will do most of the talking for yourself and you do not possibly need to dig out all the events in whose organization you volunteered to prove that you are a self-starter!!

Okay now. I have decided that I have enough interesting things to fill up three pages and I am sure that if some one goes through the three pages, he/she won’t be bored, rather would be impressed. But what if that all-important someone is constrained for time. The answer to do this one is simple. Just put the things that’d have gotten you a short-list with one-page resume on page 1!! πŸ™‚ And if the person decides to short-list you based on the trailer let him/her get delighted with the rest of the performance too.

Based on this, I decided that at this stage, a three page resume was fine with me. And yeah – you can say that I have somewhere stretched the thumb-rule for myself to include three-pages-maximum. You read it right! Maximum. πŸ˜€ I’d be uncomfortable if a fresher sent me a 4-pages resume to review. But then, again – I won’t prescribe a rule for the whole world. It depends on your confidence level.

Finally, there are two circumstances in which it is better to stick to the conventional thumb-rule.Β  First one is when the company you are applying to has specified the maximum length of the resume. In this case stick to the prescribed length or less. Second is when you are not sure you can decide how interesting the things on your resume are. You can stick to the “shorter (when >=1 page) the better” maxim.

I hope HR guys/recruiters do not come chasing me for trying to increase their work πŸ˜€

This entry was posted in Business & Entrepreneurship, Thoughts by Jaya. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jaya

Jaya Jha is an entrepreneur, a techie, a writer and a poet. She was born and brought up in various towns of Bihar and Jharkhand. A graduate of IIT Kanpur and IIM Lucknow, she realized early on that the corporate world was not her cup of tea. In 2008, she started Pothi.com, one of the first print-on-demand publishing platform in India. She currently lives in Bangalore and divides her time between writing and working on her company's latest product InstaScribe (http://instascribe.com) with a vision to make it the best e-book creation tool. Blog: https://jayajha.wordpress.com Twitter: @jayajha Facebook: http://facebook.com/MovingOnTheBook

7 thoughts on “What is the ideal length of the resume?

  1. Hey, good one. I also go with the 2 page thumb rule n wud love to see more candidates following that (esp those applying to Thoughtworks :D).

    A few points that I have noticed while interviewing people…

    Candidates tend to write about each and every project that they have worked on. For a person with 5/6 years experience, this typically translates into 5-10 projects. Chronological description of each n every project clutters the resume and makes it very long. I rarely have the time n patience to go thru the descriptions of all the projects.

    Here is what I tend to do. I ask the candidate to describe his current project, what he is working on etc. And use questions like what else have u worked on?

    On the resume…
    The listing of technologies/platforms that the person has worked on helps. It lets me judge whether there is a match with the skillset my company is looking for. I will not grill the person on everything that is mentioned in that list. But will try to see if the candidate is comfortable with some of the stuff we regularly use. This is the core or basic skills, most of which I believe should be present in every employee. If the person is good n has the basics right, s/he can pick up the rest of the stuff.

    Then comes the interesting bit. Things that r unique to the candidate. E.g. has s/he done any performance tuning/testing, some analyst kind of role, team leading, deep expertise of some technical area, championed an open source project, something to solve a well known problem, … There r the things that make the candidate stand out. Its possible that interviewers might not have the expertise to grill the person on this. But that also means that the candidate will fill a void. Assuming that we need to get that void filled. πŸ™‚

    How do u make these things obvious in the resume. List ur skills n achievements. Stay away from a chronological description of the stuff u have done. And try to put things that excite u near the top.

  2. Pingback: The ideal length of a resume at Blogbharti

  3. Hmm… When you have a “IIML topper” on the resume, I do not see why you could not make do with a one line resume… tells a lot about your confidence level. πŸ˜›

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