Career Transition: What Resume Length Suits Your Situation?

December 19, 2011

Job Search

Having worked as a career counselor and resume writer for over a decade, it amazes me that the one page resume myth continues on. It is advantageous for most job seekers to have a two page resume. For executive level professionals and college professors, it is common to have a three page resume. I hope this post encourages readers to review their resume and figure out if it is too short, too long, or just right based on the information provided below.

In talking to hiring managers and human resource professionals over the years, I learned that the more information they have about a candidate’s transferable skills, job duties, and accomplishments, the better. The goal is for your resume to contain enough information for you to be invited in to interview, yet not too much information, whereas the employer feels there isn’t much left to discover. A resume is your document. You own it and it reflects what you wish to convey to persons in a position to potentially invite you for an interview.

Who would benefit from a one page resume? The answer is those who have little work experience. You may have spent most of your life in school, traveling, and/or raising a family, for instance. Or perhaps you only have held one or two jobs that didn’t last long. In this case, it is advantageous to spend quality time reflecting on what work and/or life experiences may be considered transferable. For a stay at home mother who is looking to enter the workforce, you know how hard it is raising your family. It mirrors a paid job quite well! For example, you could list volunteer experience, such as fundraising for your son’s school library or serving as the game scheduler for the baseball league he belongs to.resume length

For a recent graduate, it would be wise to list school projects, research work, notable papers, and internships/co-op experience. Envision your school projects as work projects – indeed you weren’t getting paid, but the experience you gained is priceless!

In most instances, job seekers should list any computer skills and foreign language abilities. Don’t forget to include the highest level of education achieved. If you have taken some college classes but don’t yet have a degree, you can list the number of credits you earned and name any classes related to the type of work you are seeking.

For job applicants who have an average of five or more years of work experience, you likely would benefit from a two page resume. What I have found with my clients is that the main reason they present a one page vs. a two page resume draft is because they are unfamiliar about how to expand upon their job duties and accomplishments. Most applicants never had the opportunity to take a resume class. A large majority of clients find that writing their own resume is harder than the thought of writing one for someone they know. Part of this may be due to us being too humble. Another part is likely given how self-critical we are. We tend to give less credit to ourselves than we should.

The concept of using P.A.R. statements helps clients’ resumes expand in content. “P” stands for Problem, “A” stands for Action(s), and “R” is for Result(s). Think about what action you did that led to a positive result and solved an employer’s problem or issue. Start each bulleted phrase with an action verb.

Examples of P.A.R. Statements:
• Implemented electronic database and agency management system, resulting in greater efficiency and security.
• Produced and edited YouTube videos that gained 886 subscribers, over half a million views, and resulted in successful YouTube Partnership.
• Created and modified educational plans, enabling students to successfully complete their academic programs within an appropriate time based on their unique needs.

If you are finding it difficult to come up with P.A.R. statements, one technique to try involves asking yourself, “So what?” For example, you work in a hospital lab and use a microscope for the majority of your work. So what? There are bound to be reasons your duties result in positive actions and solve problems or issues within the department. Often we become so used to performing tasks on a regular basis that we lose sight of their importance to our employer and the people you may assist, whether directly or indirectly.

Feeling like your resume could still use improvements? Consider hiring a career counselor to assist you.

Andrea KillionAndrea Killion, MS, NCC, MCC
Careerful Counseling Services
Andrea assists clients in successfully achieving rewarding employment. She works with a diverse array of adults from all industries, backgrounds and stages. Whether you are looking for work, trying to figure out what career to pursue, or unsure whether to stay in your current position, Andrea can assist you with these issues and more.

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