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Resume length can vary depending on a variey of factors such as resume length and formatting. Some experts, in fact, suggest it doesn’t matter. What matters is “that a candidate for employment provides the necessary information in a concise, direct manner,” according to management consultant Wendy Powell.

If you have any experience as a hirer, you may have found that when you’re looking at dozens of resumes, one page is about all you have patience for, especially for a position that’s not very high-level.

Brief Summary Opening

What is critical, according to Michelle Roccia, executive vice president at the recruiting firm WinterWyman, is that “the important information stands out: a very brief summary of who you are, what you’re looking for, your key accomplishments and strengths, which tell the employer why they should hire you.” Roccia points out that this information “should be captured in the top quarter of the page,” allowing the employer to quickly scan where you worked, what you did and other details listed under each position.

Short and Sweet

"I personally believe that a one-page resume, for the most part, is the way to go – unless you are a very senior executive with a number of accomplishments through your long career. Otherwise, short and focused is better," recommends Jim Joseph, author of "The Experience Effect" and an executive with global communications agency Cohn & Wolfe.

That sounds about right. Entry-level or even somewhat higher-ranked positions just aren't worth a busy executive’s time in going beyond one page, even if you’ve come up with what you firmly believe is an enchanting design.

As it turns out, the big question in a lot of minds is, should your resume be more than two pages. Upshot: No. Most experts would agree with Joel Rudy, chief operating officer of Photographic Solutions, Inc.: “It comes down to relevant content. If you have the qualifications the employer needs, you need to share that. If it’s just fluff to fill blank paper, limit that fluff.” Rudy also points out, “Experienced hiring managers are very good at identifying fabricated content.” (See also 5 Overused Resume Phrases and How Lying On Your Resume Will Get You In Trouble.)

CV vs. Resume

That could bring us to the perennial question: “What’s the difference between a curriculum vitae and a resume?” The answer: A resume lists only your work experience and education, as well as contact information, of course; a CV is much more complete – it adds your awards, presentations and publications, grants, areas of interest and references. Senior academics who've published a lot and frequently presented papers at conferences may have 12-page CVs (or even longer). In the United States, a CV is used primarily when applying for academic, education, scientific or research positions. It is also used when applying for fellowships or grants. 

Since CV derives from Latin, the proper plural is curricula vitae, but hardly anyone says that; usually people simply say CVs. Résumé is a French word that gets the two ascending accents over the e’s and has migrated into the English language. Plain resume, no accent marks, has also become widely accepted in the U.S., though it’s still pronounced more or less like the French (RAY-zoo-MAY) rather than its English look-alike, resume (re-ZOOM) as in restart. What’s less good is splitting the difference with resumé, putting the accent over only the last letter. Small points, but you might as well know them.

Form and Format

Mostly, experts are clear on one aspect of resumes: Don’t alter the font or spacing to make them longer or shorter. Most will agree that using a standard font like Times New Roman in a standard size, such as 12-pt. type, is easiest to read and least distracting.

As to what software format to use for your resume, you usually won’t have a choice. Most companies have firm rules on how they want to receive them. But if it’s your call, you may decide a Word document is best. Almost all companies have Word software, and it can be easier to get through some corporate email security software than a PDF. Or you may opt for a PDF because it's not so simple to alter, which means your formatting (as well as your information) won't get mysteriously altered in transit. A few sites recommend attaching both to your cover email, but you may feel that's overkill. Jobsearch.about.com, which also offers free resume templates, notes: Usually, the company will want your resume sent as an attachment with an email message and sent in specific format, typically as a Microsoft Word document or as a PDF.

Since you're probably readjusting or refocusing your resume depending on what job you're applying for, it's tempting to save each version under the name of the company you're applying to. But don't do it: Imagine how many JCPenneyresume.pdf files the people in J. C. Penney (NYSE: JCP) human resources department must have. Jobsearch suggests that you name your file yournameresume.doc, so HR will always be able to find it.


Many companies now use scanning/search systems to locate certain words in resumes. If the words are not there, the resume may never be seen (by a human being). They can be words in the company’s want-ads, which will certainly clue you in on what they’re looking for, or just strong solid words like “accomplished, achieved, conducted, created…” Industry jargon can even be very useful. Some companies even rank resumes by the number of such words in them. So trying to find a new, clever way of saying something about your experience could be counter-productive.

The Bottom Line

Remember, a resume is just the beginning, although it’s an important one. After you’ve followed all the resume advice, let's hope your next step will be preparing for the interview! 





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