How long should your resume be?
September 29, 2008
If you’re an intern, co-op, or graduating senior, one page is the standard resume length. If you’re a graduate student with multiple publications or presentations (especially if you have four or more years of engineering experience), you will probably need at least two pages to effectively market your background.
If you’re a senior with a lot of work experience, a long list of campus activities, and a full “qualifications” section, you may be thinking, “How can I fit everything on one page?” or “What should I cut?” The answer depends largely on your unique circumstances, but these guidelines should help.
- Everything on your resume must be accurate – but everything doesn’t need to be on it. You probably have been adding things every year without editing out the earlier information that should be replaced with more current stuff. For example, by the time you’re a senior, those first-year engineering projects should be replaced by examples with higher levels of technical skills. Ditto most high school activities. (Sports? No. “Captain of state-championship team”? Maybe. National Honor Society? No. Eagle Scout? Probably.)
- Speaking of skills – whack those laundry lists of outdated skills, too. (We don’t need to know every version of windows you’ve ever used. And Cadkey? Fortran? Are you kidding?)
- Take a close look at the format you’ve chosen: are you wasting space with the same extra-wide margins you used for your first resume, when you didn’t have much to talk about? Check out the ECS resume templates for graduating seniors for format tips and help.
- Don’t list all your coursework. Instead, select only upper-level courses in your major and concisely summarize non-major coursework that’s potentially interesting to an employer (ex: “two years of college-level Japanese” or “business coursework includes accounting, economics, marketing, and management.”)
- Start your experience section with your most recent jobs, and give more space to the more specific jobs. If you have a lot of engineering related experience, you might eliminate those early lifeguard and landscaper jobs. Even if all you have are unrelated jobs, prune the descriptions to focus on what’s most important and what you learned from those jobs – don’t list every duty. And, if you can’t remember the details of an experience, do you really want it on your resume as a basis for interview questions?
- Edit unnecessary words. Be concise. Each point under an experience entry should follow this pattern: task plus outcome (purpose or results). This will not only focus on the critical elements, it will help you prepare for behavioral interview questions.
- Still having trouble? Make an appointment for an ECS resume consultation – not only can we provide much-needed objectivity; we know what employers look for.
- Finally, if you’re a grad student (or exceptional senior) with more than one page, don’t forget to add a footer: Lastname, p X of Y. At least employers will know if part of it is missing!
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, each time hoping for different results."
Authored by Rosemary Hill.