Is Your Resume Too Long? Here’s a Too-Long “Before” Resume and a One-Page “After”

officeA common resume problem: it’s too long!

Here is the “too long” resume–what we’re calling the before resume: Before_Resume_Too_Long.

Here is the shortened after resume: After_Resume_One_Page.

While it’s true that there’s no longer a hard and fast rule that a resume must fit onto one page (partly because the concept of the “page” is antiquated now that most applications are submitted electronically), your resume still has to be clear, concise, and visually appealing.

The humans looking at your resume–after the robots have screened for keywords– spend as few as 30 seconds per resume. It’s up to you to make sure that time is used well!

Here are two tips (along with ‘before’ and ‘after’ examples) for containing the length of your resume so that you maximize the time hiring managers spend looking at it:  

1) Avoid repetition.  This means don’t talk about the same thing more than once on your resume and don’t use the same word over and over again on a single resume entry. 

In the first example, we see Spanish minor in the “Education” section at the top of the resume and listed again in the “Proficiencies” section at the bottom:

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In the after version, Spanish isn’t “listed” at all. Instead, the job candidate highlights how she has used her Spanish. Instead of seeing a minor program and a proficiency listed, we see what this person did in her minor program and how she uses her advanced proficiency:

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The “Education” section can almost always be shortened. Remember: you want to highlight your professional self, not your student self.  When it comes to repetition, ask yourself, “does any of this information appear elsewhere in my application?”  For example, if you are submitting transcripts, you don’t need to include any of the details that appear there on your resume.  

In this “before” example, we see some honors that do not need to take up prime real estate at the top of the resume:  

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This “after” looks much better and leaves two lines of text for the top quarter of the resume, where we know recruiters’ eyes track:

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One final example of repetition involves using the same word repeatedly in a single resume entry. In this example, the word “soap” is used five times.  And each of these words is used two times in that single resume entry: “biodiesel,” “recipe,” and “halls.”

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A lot of space can be saved simply by eliminating repetition!

Here’s the after:

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2) Keep each bullet to 2 lines of text or fewer.  If you’re writing more than two lines of text per bullet point, you’re probably using complete sentences (if not, paragraphs) which is simply the wrong kind of writing for a resume.  There is sure to be a way to say it that uses less space!  

You’ve already seen one example of this above (the “soap making” entry went from three full lines of text to two).  

Here is an entry that takes up five lines of text:  

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Here it is in three lines:  

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And again in two lines:  

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Which version you use depends on which aspects of the project you need to highlight for a given application. If the names of the participating organizations in Ukraine are important to highlight in one application, you might use the latter example.  But if those specific institutions were not important and highlighting sustainable research and collaboration with an American university, you would use the former example. And for a third application, you might have to tweak that same entry in yet a different way.

Always customize the details of your resume to fit the specific job to which you are applying.  

Note that in no version of this entry do you need “over the summer” or “In the fall,”–those express repetition with the time frame listed at the top of the entry.

Here’s one final example where we see two entries condensed into the space of one.

Each bullet contains more than two lines of text in the before:  

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 1.52.21 PM

But each is kept to two lines in the after:  

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When they’re laid out for you like this, these changes seem obvious, but it’s hard for you, as an individual, to take months and months of your life and condense that into two lines of text.  

And when you manage to summarize all that experience in four or five lines of text, it’s hard to analyze your own work with the eyes of an outsider to see all the ways you’ve repeated certain words or included clauses that are completely unnecessary.  

Follow these two tips (avoid repetition and keep each bullet to two lines or fewer) to improve your resume.  And if you can, have a critical outsider look over your resume before you send it to the most critical audience of all: the hiring managers and recruiters who you want to call you for an interview!  

2009 Head ShotDarcy Lear is a career coach specializing in job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. General and detailed feedback on your resume like you see in this post is $25. Your entire application package (up to 3 documents) is $50. And if you want to add in a face-to-face meeting to explore what you might be leaving off your application materials, that’s $100–and that includes working with you through submission of your first application so that you can be sure to match your materials to the specific job ad as closely as possible. See details here. For one-on-one support in preparing for your job search or to set up a campus workshop, contact Darcy:
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