Resume Help/Resume length


Dear Dr Converse,

I keep hearing conflicting things about how long the resume should be.  Some people say definitely keep it to one page, others say longer ones are okay.  I have no idea who is right!  Help!


Hi Elise,

The first thing you need to do is to understand that no one in this debate is necessarily "right" or "wrong."  The length of your resume depends entirely on two things: the length of time you have been employed and the brevity with which you can summarize that employment.  So, let me take these two things one at a time.

Obviously, a person just out of school (college, trade school, etc) will have less to put on their resume than a person who has thirty-year work history.  That only makes sense, right?  So, using those two extreme examples, it would be very unusual for the new graduate to have a resume longer than a page.  It would be just as unusual for the older employee to have a resume that could be adequately summarized in one page.  Every person's background is different - as is every job they apply for - so you need to adapt your resume to your own personal experience as well as the requirements of any job for which you submit an application.  One employer may want no resume at all, another may want one that requires in-depth descriptions of your work history.  You need to make the decision based on your background and the employer's needs.

The other factor, brevity (or lack thereof) is, in my experience, the biggest issue for job seekers.  A lot of people (especially those with a limited work history) think that the "more is better" philosophy is the automatic choice.  Not true.  The biggest fault I see with all the resumes I review is that they are much too wordy.  Too much text.  Remember that the resume is supposed to be a brief snapshot, not a novel.  If you think about it from the employer point of view, the person who reviews the application packages may have a hundred (or more) of them to go through.  They have neither the time nor the inclination to read every word of every resume they get.  That's just the way it is.  Your resume should describe the what, when, and where of each position (and, of course, your education) and then in six to eight word bullets, describe what you accomplished (not what your duties were) in each position.  Make it easy for the reader to glance through your document in a few seconds - because that is normally all the time you get in a first review.  If you need to describe your background in more detail, the place for an extended narrative is in the cover letter, NOT the resume.  Make everything as brief as you possibly can.  Don't use 38 words to describe what you did when you can get it down to 8 with a lot of work and editing.  The reason too many people use too many words is that they are too lazy to do the hard part of editing and cutting.  And THAT is what separates the successful application from the shredded one.

Hope this helps; send me an email at the address below and attach your resume if you wish.  I will be glad to give you a free evaluation.

Good luck,

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.


I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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