Usually, when I talk about resume length, I focus on the number of pages. Keeping a resume under two pages is a good rule of thumb, but this is only part of the story. The other thing to consider is the number of words in a resume.
The average adult reads approximately 250 words per minute. This estimate is based on easy to comprehend material. More difficult, technical material requires a slower rate, with some estimates as low as 50 words per minute for extremely technical material when the reader wants 100% comprehension.
How your resume is written will affect how a person reads it. If it is very technical in nature, with very long complex sentences, the reader will have to read slower. If your resume is very long, you put the reader in a bind. Slow down to comprehend everything, or save time by reading fast and only skim the material.
Let’s say your resume is written so that it can be read fairly easily – say at 200 words per minute. This means that a 400 word resume (a fairly typical length) will require two minutes of concentration to read thoroughly.
The problem with many resumes is that they are not easy, light reading. Additionally, most hiring managers can only afford 15, 30 or maybe 60 seconds per resume. In that time, they may only comprehend a few sentences before determining if they are going to discard the resume or continue reading.
I’ve seen very long resumes. We looked at one recently that was five pages and 1,600 words. It was full of technical terms and acronyms. It was work to comprehend and understand each detail. If I wanted to truly understand this job seeker’s resume, it might take ten or fifteen minutes (possibly longer, I can’t be sure since I quit reading early on).
- Keep your resume short and concise.
- Write in easy to read sentences and paragraphs.
- Target a length of 400-900 words.
- Use bullets, indents, bold, italics and other formatting cues to direct the reader to the most important information.