How Long Should My Executive Resume Be for 2019-2020?
“How long should my resume be? I’ve heard it should never be longer than one page, maximum two.”
The above question and variations on it are probably the most frequently posed queries I receive from prospective executive resume service clients. (This article is intended to answer one very specific question about resume length. For extensive coverage of the many topics to be considered in writing your executive resume, see our resume writing resource page: How to Write an Executive Resume.)
My Answer to the Executive Resume Length Question
As an executive resume writer with over four decades of experience, my answer to the executive resume length question, in a nutshell is:
“Your resume should be as long as necessary to effectively communicate your qualifications, experience, and value proposition.”
It’s as simple as that!
If this task can be accomplished in one page, you are probably not an executive or senior manager. If your resume takes two pages, that’s fine. And if you have advanced to a senior level or are in a highly technical or scientific field, academia or medicine, three or even four pages in certain circumstances may be appropriate.
For an executive’s resume to cover 10 to 15 or more years of complex and highly accomplished experience in a single page is rather ludicrous when you think about it. Yet the urban legend that all resumes including executive resumes should be one page long still seems to persist. (In a recent LinkedIn article, I warn against one-page resumes for executives: “Don’t Sell Yourself Short with a One-Page Resume.”)
Executive Resume Writing Caveats
Some caveats to keep in mind when writing your resume, regardless of ultimate length, are:
Remember that your executive resume is not intended to present a detailed accounting of your entire life story and of each and every task you have ever performed for your employers. Rather, it is a marketing document which summarizes and highlights your experience, qualifications, and accomplishments in answer to the employer’s question: “What’s in it for me if I hire this person?” As an advertisement, it touts features and benefits, makes the business case for hiring you, and exudes your “Personal Career Brand.”
Do not include information which is irrelevant, boring, excessively repetitive, or damaging to your ability to close the sale! Note that long-ago work experiences can also expose you to age discrimination.
If you fail to pare down your work history and very briefly summarize early experience (if you cover it at all), you risk losing your reader’s interest entirely. A complete work history chronology of everything you have done since high school is not only unnecessary but can be detrimental to your job search. A possible exception to this is in some foreign countries, but the requirement for excruciating detail is lessening even overseas.
Don’t resort to miniscule fonts and small margins in order to keep the resume in a certain number of pages. These tactics can make your resume very unfriendly and off-putting to your reader. In general, you’ll want to stick to a minimum of 10 to 10.5-point fonts and margins of at least 1/2 inch, more if possible. You don’t want the reader to have to get out a magnifying glass to read, and you also want him or her to have space to make notations in the margin.
It is absolutely critical to make certain that your reader’s interest is piqued within the first half of the first page. If you’ve sparked an employer or executive recruiter’s interest, they will be hungry for more and will continue to read whatever you have provided (within reason). If you have not succeeded in capturing their attention, one page or ten will make no difference in the ultimate outcome.
It is also worth noting that if your executive resume does wind up at three pages, you can also create a one-page “summary resume” or “executive summary” for use in networking and prospecting with recruiters, companies, and venture capitalists, with your full resume to be provided once interest is established.
The Best Length for an Executive Resume
You may ask, but what is the best length for an executive resume? There is no hard and fast rule, but as I have said, at minimum it will require two pages, and in many cases for very experienced executives it will require three. In rare instances (let me emphasize “rare”), even four may be warranted. In all cases, you need to make your business case and showcase your value succinctly and quickly. There is truth to the old adage, “less is more.”
How to Limit Your Executive Resume to the Right Length for You
So, how can one limit his or her executive resume to a reasonable length? Some strategies include:
Don’t go into too much detail in describing the scope of your roles
Limit the number of bullets for each position
Keep those bullets to one or two lines, maximum three (more than that and you are writing paragraphs, not highlights)
Cut off detailed coverage of your work history at 15 to a max of 20 years
Executive Resume Writing Tips and Resources
With the executive resume length question answered, these articles and resources will provide additional help with executive resume writing tips and strategies to limit your resume to an appropriate length: