What makes your resume stand out among hundreds of quickly-scanned others? Does length have something to do with it? How long should your resume be? The answer: it depends. While no firm rule exists for whether resumes should be one page or two, you should consider these six guidelines to create a resume that will help you make your best first impression.

  1. Consider your experience level.
    Obviously, job seekers with 15 years of experience will have longer resumes than those with only two years under their belts. You want to paint a clear picture of what you’ve accomplished and the expertise you’ve acquired. Take two pages if needed—you don’t want to leave something important out. But if you have a short work history and few employers, or if you’re applying for an entry-level position in a new field, it’s fine to keep your resume to one page.
  2. Include industry-related technical skills.
    Industry can be a factor in resume length. People in IT tend to have longer, more detailed resumes, and some industries, such as manufacturing, require technical experience for a specific job role. In general, it’s good to include an area at the top or the bottom of your resume where you can incorporate essential skills. As a recruiter, it’s disheartening to get excited about a resume and then have to discard it after scanning for qualifications.
  3. Target your audience.
    Tailoring your information to your specific audience and the job at hand can help you create a more focused resume that will allow the reviewer to see you in the position. Whether it’s a person or a computer program that’s taking the first pass to identify viable candidates, be sure to include appropriate keywords for the job.
  4. Create unique top summary content.
    Regardless of length, your resume needs to “sell” you at a single glance. Create a concise career summary at the top of your first page that can act as a quick “CliffsNotes” version of your resume. Omit any general statement of objective (i.e. “Seeking x position…”) and instead provide unique selling points—your major strengths and accomplishments—that compel the reviewer to keep reading.
  5. Organize strategically and cut filler.
    How you organize your resume is a matter of preference, and there are different templates available online. Generally, work experience should precede education (unless you have a short work history, then your education might be a better selling point). If you have 3+ years of work experience, save room by cutting out potential filler, such as personal interests and long summary sentences about yourself.
  6. Keep it simple—not distracting.
    Resume length does not matter as much as readability, so make sure your resume is well organized and easy to scan. Don’t use very big, very small, or non-standard fonts, and avoid distracting colors and graphics. You want people to notice your resume for the right reasons.

However long your resume may be, remember that the purpose is to capture the reviewer’s attention, not answer every question. Save that for the interview.

What are your tips for writing a compelling and succinct resume? Share your comments here.