I have a new client who sought me out to help her package her information for a position she’s very excited about. She is a highly accomplished non-profit professional with 25 years of experience, and has an extremely impressive resume. But damn is it long.
This is possibly the most common question I get from people: how long should my resume be? The truth is, there are really no clear rules today, especially since many resumes are posted online, and there are no real criteria for those. The rule of thumb, in my mind, should be: Put yourself in an employer’s (or search consultant’s) shoes. Imagine you are a senior manager, under a lot of stress at the moment, with an open position reporting to you. Perhaps you’ve hired a search firm to conduct your search, or you may be spending more hours than you’d care to name trolling websites and reading resumes. You are starting to feel desperate; it seems counterintuitive that with so many people out of work, the ideal candidate has not presented him/herself. With your employer hat on, think about the kind of communication you would like to see from that ideal candidate. Would you be interested in someone who merely attached a resume as a response to your posting, no cover letter in sight? Would you be inclined to respond to someone who wrote to you as Dear Sir/Madam, when you had clearly listed your name and title? Would you give someone a call if they wrote a 2-page cover letter and their resume was 10 pages long, including addenda and footnotes? I can tell you from the perspective of both employer and search consultant, all of these examples are more common than you would expect.
So going back to this client of mine, she’s having some trouble seeing the forest through the trees. She’s afraid to leave anything off her resume, lest it be the one thing that will spark interest. My job is to help her package herself so that she’s done the hard work for the search firm and the employer. She needs to share the right amount of experience to get the employer to ask for more detail. If she fails to edit her material appropriately, it will be seen as a red flag and she won’t get a call. If you have done your homework, your resume will be an effective sales document, showcasing your unique selling proposition and providing the proof you can continue your successful track record with your next employer. If you don’t do the work upfront, I can tell you for sure, you won’t get a call.