We often have candidates tell us that they received advice from others (often outplacement agencies) to pare their resume back to fit into a 2 page format. While this is possible for some to accomplish, it can pose a challenge for people who are several years in to their career and have many experiences and successes to highlight.
We recommend keeping a resume as clean, clear and concise as possible but don't mind seeing a 3 or 4 page resume, particularly for someone with over 15 years of experience. It is well known thatmost recruiters or hiring managers will spend 5-10 seconds reviewing a resume to determine if a candidate is worthy of further exploration. Once you capture someone's attention it is important to have enough details to further substantiate your fit for an opportunity. The following are a few key tips to ensure that your resume makes it past the '5 second scan'.
Keep it chronological rather than functional. Highlighting your overall skills in a functional format is frustrating for anyone reading your resume. They must spend time figuring out where in your employment experience each functional area ties back to. If you have a great skill or success but it is from your first job out of school 20 years ago, it may not be considered marketable.
Avoid lengthy intros/bio summaries. Your 'intro' statement should be no more than 2 sentences, and should be very concise. Paint a picture for the reader that summarizes your history, highlights and career goals in a very streamlined manner. An example might be: A global Program Manager with 20+ years of experience successfully managing highly complex, enterprise wide transformational initiatives. Seeking a challenging opportunity with an industry leader that will afford me opportunities for growth.
Forget the long list of skills at the beginning of the resume. Anyone and everyone can mention 'Hard Working, Great Time Management Skills, Team Player, Conscientious'. Focus on highlighting quantifiable achievements rather than a vague listing of skills that simply take up valuable space.
Focus on successes/achievements rather than highlighting 'day to day' core activities. Every bullet point that you list should be impactful and highlight a success, achievement or initiative that you undertook. Use words like 'Successfully, Spearheaded, Exceeded, Efficiently Created, Fostered', etc. then finish the sentence with what positive result you achieved from the initiative.
No paragraphs, ever. A bullet point should be less than 2 lines, and should not contain more than one sentence. If you are using a paragraph format, the reader will lose interest very quickly and you likely won't make it past 3 seconds!
Keep a reasonable font. It is not a great achievement if you manage to get your resume to 2 pages by reducing the font size to 5. Use a professional font that is easy to read and as a general rule, never use a font below 10.
Ask your recruiter for feedback on your resume, and take their advice. A resume should be a constant work in progress and should be ever evolving as your career progresses. For insight into the differences between a typical contractor vs permanent employee resume, stay tuned for my next post!