Optimal Resume Length in 2021: How Long Should A Resume Be?

Should your resume be one page or two? How many words per page? What about more experienced hires? This guide will answer those questions and more.

a month ago   •   6 min read

By Resume Worded Editorial Team
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Phew — you finished writing your resume! It has action-based accomplishments, relevant keywords, and sections to highlight your education and hard skills. It’s also three pages long … so how big a problem is that, really?

How many pages should a resume be?

One page is the standard resume length. But this isn’t an absolute rule — it’s flexible depending on how much experience you have.

As a general rule of thumb, you can get away with one page for every 5-10 years of relevant experience you have. Which means that as an entry-level or early career hire, you do want to stick to one page.

If you’re a mid-career or more experienced applicant, you may need to expand your resume to two pages, and that’s okay! More than two pages is pushing it, even for high-level positions, with the exception of some very specific situations (more on those later).

Why use a one-page resume?

You want recruiters to focus on the most important parts

Keeping your resume concise is key — but why? The answer is, hiring managers just don’t have enough time to read every resume in detail. Most recruiters will spend only 15-30 seconds on each resume they read — and that’s a generous estimate.

This number doesn’t magically increase if you send in a two- or three page resume, which means that the longer your resume is, the less time a recruiter will spend on each page, and the higher the chances that they’ll miss a key piece of information.

Keeps your resume relevant

Having a short resume isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Setting your resume length at one or two pages forces you to evaluate what information is really essential and leave out unnecessary details. Everything in your resume needs to be relevant to the job you’re applying for. Every bullet point should be impactful, every skill one you need for this job in particular. And always make sure your key accomplishments are at the top of your resume, especially if it’s longer than one page.

Not sure if your resume needs to be one page or two? Use a free resume checker to evaluate your resume length and give you feedback on the key areas hiring managers actually care about.

How to cut your resume down to the right size: step-by step

Not sure how to cut your resume down to 1-2 pages? Follow these steps:

1. Leave off older work experience. Anything older than 15 years is unlikely to be relevant.

2. Remove excess bullet points. You can include 3-6 accomplishments under your most recent roles, but older positions may only need 1-2 bullet points.

Keep your resume short by paring down older jobs to 1-2 bullet points.
Keep your resume short by paring down older jobs to 1-2 bullet points.

3. Eliminate duplicate bullet points. If you already have a similar accomplishment elsewhere in your resume, you don’t need to list it again under a different position.

4. Minimize your education section. Unless you’re a current student or recent graduate, your education only needs to take up 1-2 lines underneath your work experience. Mention your degree, institution, and any major awards, but get rid of things like your GPA, coursework, and extracurricular activities. Including the year you graduated is optional, especially if you want to reduce the chance of age-based discrimination.

The education section of your resume should only take up 1-2 lines on a one page resume.
The education section of your resume should only take up 1-2 lines on a one page resume.

5. Cut the resume summary. Most resumes don’t need a summary at all, but if you do choose to include one, keep it to 2-3 lines max.

6. Get rid of unnecessary sections. Things like volunteer work, projects, hobbies, and skills only need to be included if they’re actually relevant to the job you’re applying for. Otherwise, they don’t belong on your resume.

7. Don’t list references on your resume. Potential employers will ask for your references if needed once they hit the appropriate stage of hiring.

8. Trim your contact info. This only ever needs to be a single line at the top of your resume.

Manage your resume length by keeping your contact information concise.
Manage your resume length by keeping your contact information concise.

9. Don’t include images of graphics. This includes a photo — in some countries, this may be standard, but not in the U.S.

10. Reduce your font size, margins, and line spacing — but only a little. This can be a last resort if your resume spills over by a line or two, but don’t overdo it in the name of fitting in one last bullet point.

The ideal resume length for all situations

Remember how we said above that a one page resume isn’t a hard and fast rule? Here’s when you should follow that rule — and when it’s okay to break it.

Current students and recent graduates

As a student or recent grad, your resume should always be one page. This also applies to anyone with less than 5-10 years of experience. Recruiters value resumes that are short and to the point, so give them what they want.

Career changers

If you’re considering moving into a new industry or completely different role, you should generally stick to a one-page resume. This is still true even if you have extensive experience in your previous field — most of that experience isn’t likely to be relevant to the jobs you’re now applying for, so you don’t need to include it in detail. It might be okay to go up to two pages if you’re including a lot of transferable skills, but do make sure they’re all actually relevant.

Experienced hires

For mid-level hires — people with around 8-15 years of experience — two pages is an acceptable resume length. That doesn’t mean you need to use a two page resume — if everything fits onto a single page, there’s no need to stretch things out just to emphasize your depth of experience. Two pages will usually suffice for more senior roles, too. It’s rare that you’ll ever need a three-page resume; while sending one won’t immediately disqualify you on its own, recruiters are also more likely than not to simply ignore that third page.

Banking, finance, and consulting

In these industries, standards for resume length tend to be a lot stricter — stick to single-page resumes unless you have more than 10-15 years of experience.

International resume standards

These are all U.S. standards — if you’re applying for jobs overseas, those countries will have their own expectations for resume length and format. For example, two or even three-page resumes are more common in countries like Australia and the U.K., so be aware of local customs.

Frequently asked questions

Will I get rejected if my resume is longer than one page?

Can resumes be 2 pages? Absolutely! You won’t be automatically rejected if your resume is longer than one page. But if you’re a recent graduate with a two-page resume, or you’re sending out 3-4 page resumes completely out of line with industry standards, it may cause recruiters to wonder about your professional judgment.

How many words per page should a resume have?

Between 450-650 words per page (or around 800-1200 words for a two-page resume) is ideal. Less than that means you risk your resume looking a little empty, while more means that it’s too difficult for a recruiter to scan. If you avoid tiny margins and 0 line spacing, your resume should easily fall within the ‘readability range.’

Do I need to stick to full pages only?

No. If you’ve been told that it’s never okay to leave the second page of your resume half empty, that’s a silly rule and you should feel free to ignore it. A one and a half page resume is fine — never pad your resume with unnecessary fluff just to take up more room so your resume ‘looks better.’

That said, if you only have 1-3 lines spilling over onto the next page, it’s a good idea to cut it down so it falls neatly onto a single page.

Is it ever okay to send a resume longer than two pages?

There are some exceptions to the 1-2 page resume rule. One of these is for very high-level positions — think C-level positions, not just any management position. The other is for academic jobs, which have their own set of industry standards and often require a full CV and list of publications.

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