Have you experienced this problem? You've finished your resume. You think it looks great and you're happy with it, but it's 5 pages. Darn it! Too long. Personally, I think this is my biggest challenge in resume writing. I constantly have to remember to edit myself and fight the urge to send off a resume that is way too many pages. I don't know about you, but when I'm really excited about a career opportunity, I want to list every accomplishment I've ever had to make sure the recruiter knows that I'm the one they need to hire. I mean, it's all important details, right? Not necessarily. I know I lack objectivity. To me, every pat on the back is important , but just because I'm proud of something doesn't mean it's relevant to what I'm trying to accomplish.
The reason why resumes become too long is because we get confused about its purpose. Wait for it...the resume is not about getting the job. Is your mind blown? The resume is about getting the interview. It's a teaser, a door-opener so to speak. Resumes should be strategic, targeted and focused on providing the right information to the recruiter so they become interested in learning more. The next time you create a resume, remember that your resume is not the place to say it all, you should say it all in the interview.
Today, I'm going to talk to you about creating a quality resume without breaking the quantity rule. Below I've put together 6 ways you can improve the quality of your resume while addressing any resume length issues you may be facing. There's a lot of debate out there about how long a resume should be. Some say resumes should be one page, others say two and even three pages are okay. The Boss says this: If your resume is a quality one you shouldn't have an issue with resume length. I have stopped getting hung up on the number of pages, and I've started focusing on making sure everything I say on a resume is targeted, relevant and focused. When I stick to this rule. My resumes never exceed 2 pages.
I promise you that if you put these ideas into action you'll find that no only will your resume be easier to draft, your worries about your resume length won't dog you so much.
Have a Clear Objective
Think about this. When you receive a brochure that’s trying to sell you something, it has a clear objective, right? They tell you about their features, benefits, and what makes their service unique. Most importantly, they have a call to action. When this is done well, don’t you hear yourself saying “yeah, I should give these guys a try, I’m going to call and find out more…” This concept is really no different when it comes to your resume. I want you to treat your resume like a marketing tool. You are the product, and the potential employer is the customer. Just like a quality sales brochure, a quality resume begins with having a clear objective and knowing your target audience. Allowing those two things to be your guiding posts throughout your writing process will ensure that your resume is clear, concise and as a result, not too many pages. So before you start crafting your next resume, take a minute to sit down and reflect on how you plan to market yourself. Get out a piece of paper and answer the following:
Who’s your target? Speaking of mind-blowing, it shocks me how many people do not research the employer. Don't you want to know who you'll be potentially working for? Be a troll and find out everything there is to know about them. What are their values? Their mission? What are they up to? What do other people say about working for them? If there is a specific job posting you’re applying for, analyze it thoroughly and take note of things like their language and tone; what are they asking for? All these things will help you in designing a resume that's a marketing tool directed right at them.
What are your features and benefits? What makes you unique? Simply put, what are you going to bring to the table? I want you to dig a bit deeper than mentioning what job duties you've performed. When you think about your features, benefits and what makes you unique, I want you to talk about your strengths and qualities that make you awesome!
Without an objective it is very easy to come off like your trying to sell meat to a vegetarian. For a recruiter, it is very obvious who hasn’t considered these questions. Resumes that do not have a clear objective tend be quite general, unfocused and subsequently become too long. Once you've answered these questions, it's a good idea to create a concise, very specific, targeted and well researched summary that tells the employer where you’ve been and where you want to go with them. Creating an effective objective statement takes a lot of thought and some can find it difficult. I really like this article on how to create a “killer” objective statement, they break it down in an easily digestible way.
If you have read any of my previous blog entries you know how I feel about customizing your resume to the position you’re applying for. You have to do it! Sending out a generic resume is like shooting a dart at a moving target. Very hit and miss. If you take the time to analyze the job posting and focus your resume on what they are looking for and use keywords, not only will you find that your resume becomes higher quality, it will also decrease in size. Try this exercise in resume customization. It will keep you focused on talking about what the employer is looking for and will help you in keeping the number of pages in your resume reasonable.
Talk about Achievements Not Duties
Let’s face it , these days, companies are running leaner and meaner and employees are being asked to do more. You may have had some jobs where you could easily list 20 job tasks you were responsible for. Don’t. Recruiters aren’t interested in reading a big list of what you do, instead they want you to prove you can bring the goods! There is no better way to put your money where your mouth is than talking about your achievements. Not only will doing this improve the quality of your resume it will decrease the length. (Unless, you’re an amazing robot that has had more achievements than job duties). When I say achievements, I mean strong achievements. Did you increase sales by a certain percent? Did you improve a process that saved the company X amount of dollars? Did you successfully lead a project from planning to implementation? These are the types of achievements I want you to focus on. This will take you some time to think about, but I promise you that digging deeper than listing a bunch of obvious job duties will push you and your resume to the top of the pile.
In my last blog entry, I gave 6 great ideas on creative resume design that would improve the quality of your resume. The tips I want to talk about today are more focused on reducing your resume length. Being smart about how you use your page real estate can easily take a four page resume to two. I am a huge supporter of creative resume design, but I understand this: When it comes to a resume, it's quality content over aesthetics. If you are using a run of the mill standard resume template but you have a clear objective, you're talking about your achievements and you market yourself as the best candidate for the job, having a resume that lacks creative "Pow Factor" is not going to kill your chances. Having a resume that looks great but has no substance will. You should focus on content first and design second. Below are a few ways you can impact your resume length through design so you have more space to include quality content.
Font Type and Size
Playing around with your font type and size is an easy way to adjust the length of a resume, but Hold Up! Be careful not to make your font so small that it becomes a chore to read. As a personal rule, I never choose a font that is below 10pt and I stick to fonts that are professional and easy to scan.
Try using every space available on a page. I've seen a lot of resumes and the majority of them follow the same functional up and down pattern (objective, skills, work experience, education etc.) ZZZZZZZZ...snoozefest. Try something different and place information in an area that most do not use. Most don't fully utilize the left and right borders of their page. I love seeing someone's skills and competencies listed on the left border of the page or a summary about the candidate on the right border. Not only does it give the resume a fresh and interesting look, it will save you space!
Say it with a Graphic
The use of a graphic in your resume will not only assist you in saving space, but it will also will make your resume look interesting. Human's are visual creatures. We love pictures! You know what I mean. When you're cruising the internet do you want to read big blocks of text? No. We're much more likely to spend more time reading something if it looks interesting and not daunting to get through. The next time you create your resume, try taking something like your personal skills and attributes and say it with a graphic like below.
Keep it Current (if you can)
I've been asked the question how long should my resume be for a long time and honestly many people don't like my answer. They want me to give them a definitive answer. 5 years, 10 years etc. But my answer is this: It depends. But wait, let me explain. Every person is unique in their professional experience and what might be right for one may not be for another. For example, personally I go back no more than 10 years. My professional experiences 10 years ago are no longer as relevant as my current experiences. If I went back too far, those experiences would not add any quality to my resume. But, I prepared a resume for a friend who had been working for the same company for 20 years and she was looking to be promoted to another position within the same company. Why shouldn't she leverage her experience and growth with that employer? You see where I'm going with this? There is not right or wrong answer here. It depends on where you've been and how relevant it is to what you want to do now. If job experiences from 20 years ago are a perfect match for a job opportunity you are applying for now, why not mention it? It's a quality addition. I will say this, If you are going to go back that far in your work experience, be very selective in what you mention. Remember speak the language of achievement, and be sure to mention only a few points in each job to ensure your resume does not become too long.
You're probably thinking duh..CV Boss, of course you should proofread your resume! But I'm not talking about being on the lookout for misspelled words or grammatical mistakes. I'm talking about something called wordiness. I am a huge culprit of this one, and I've even been hand slapped several times by my professors in essay submissions. I'm a talker what can I say, but I work on it consistently in my writing and you should do the same when creating your resumes. Try to say what you're saying with as few words as possible. Cut out redundant wording and use simple language. If you're anything like me, I have a hard time proofing my own work because I've read it so much. I need a pair of fresh eyes. Have your friends and family give your resume a once-over to see how it reads to them, or use programs like Grammarly or Paperater.
Mission complete. I given you some solid tips on creating a quality resume without breaking the quantity rule. Have that confidence to think of yourself as a quality product that your customers must have to help them reach their organizational goals, and remember that your number one goal is to use your resume as a marketing tool. Before you sit down at the computer and start typing about yourself, take the time to create a clear objective, stay focused, use strategic resume design, customize, speak the language of achievement and proofread. If you follow these tips, you'll find that you're resume will become concise, full of quality content, and as a result your resume length will decrease.
Shameless Plug Time: Check me out at resumesbycvboss.com
Now get to marketing yourself like a product and show that resume who's boss!
Next Week: 5 Ways to Leverage Social Media to Get That Job You Deserve!
Photo Credits: Sheikh_Tuhin, LIftarn, and Johnny Automatic
JC Halfkenny is CV Boss. With over 20 years of recruitment experience she has reviewed thousands of resumes and hired hundreds in various industries such as manufacturing, spa and wellness, finance, retail and aviation. As an experienced recruiter, she knows the secret of resume writing lies in knowing precisely what to put in, precisely what not to put in, and exactly what kind of a spin to put on a resume, to ensure it will stand out from the crowd.