I’d love to be wrong about this, but I have a feeling that people will debate the “appropriate” length of a resume until the end of time. But here’s the tough love truth: A one-page resume’s more than sufficient.
Before you start telling me that you’re the exception, let me tell you a fact: Your resume typically has around six seconds to make an impression on a recruiter. Therefore, the benefits of tailoring your resume to every job you apply for become blindingly obvious.
But even knowing that, the next question starts to tug at the heartstrings of even the most forward-thinking folks:
How do I remove old jobs that I’m proud of?
Look, I’ve been there a couple times myself. You graduate from college and struggle to come up with anything to put on that empty piece of paper. Then, fast-forward five or six years, you get a few roles under your belt and you’re proud at how much is on there. Removing anything feels like you’re not downgrading your hard-earned accomplishments.
But that’s not the case! All your successes build on top of each other. And even if your first internship’s not listed, the person looking at your bullet points will know that you weren’t just born a manager—that you, in fact, likely worked very hard to get to that point.
Think of it this way: When you order a fancy meal at a restaurant, the menu doesn’t list all the steps it’ll take to prepare it. But when you get served, you inherently know that it didn’t appear by magic.
So with that in mind, here are the two questions I use to decide what to keep and what to cut:
1. Does This Job Line Up With What I’m Applying For?
For those of you who are going after jobs in new fields, take a look at each position on your resume and ask yourself how closely your responsibilities line up with the roles you’re considering. If you can identify tasks or challenges that translate to your desired field, feel free to include it (although you should still do what you can to show the employer that they are relevant to the job you’re applying for).
But if there’s nothing about that previous position that would translate to your new field, hit the “delete” button on your keyboard and give it the boot.
2. Is This Recent Enough?
Those of you who are looking for a new job or a promotion in the same field might be thinking you’re off the hook. If you’re in this position, it’s still important to ask yourself how long each job has been on your resume. A relevant internship might be something that a recruiter will definitely care about—if you’re just starting out.
But if you’re considering taking the next step into a more advanced role, it won’t speak much to your qualifications. Your one page is better spent talking more about your current skills than your earlier ones.
Cutting down this document’s a necessary exercise for everyone. And trust me, I really do know how hard it is to delete bullet points about jobs you’ve really cared about. As you cut some of your old positions, remember that you’ve learned a lot of really positive lessons from all of them. And if one of those lessons becomes relevant in future interviews, talk about them! Those things don’t become less valid just because they’re not on your resume anymore.
Seriously, look at cutting down your resume as an achievement! After all, post-college-you probably couldn’t imagine the day when this would be your biggest problem.
Photo of person thinking courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author