What is the right length for a resume?

The right length for a professional resume is two pages total if you have 10 or more years of experience.  College graduates, those with less than 10 years’ experience, and individual contributors looking to stay individual contributors should stick to one page only.  Those in the top 1% of earners, making $500,000 or more, and executives with 25 years or more of experience, can consider three pages if the situation warrants.

Professional experience between 10 and 25 years

Your resume should be two pages total, composed of a professional summary, a chronological detail of your professional success, an education section followed by awards and inventions, and a brief personal section.  You should begin with your contact information at the head of your resume.

Two pages are sufficient length to detail your background, successes, and past assignments.  This length allows you to show the progression of your career over the decades while providing enough detail on the past five years to give a very strong sense of your capabilities and accomplishments to the audience for your resume.  If you are on a growth trajectory in your career, two pages are enough to indicate your expected next level without overdoing it.

Conversely, if you’ve been in the same role with the same title for 25 years, then it is appropriate to stick with the one-page length.  If you’ve remained an insurance adjuster, or senior accountant, or sales representative, for a decade or more, it is best to stay at one page.  Resume length is an important signal for your career expectations. If you desire to remain at an individual contributor level, you are doing yourself a disservice by sending an inaccurate signal to future employers with a two-page resume.

You can read more detailed advice on the best format for the two-page resume here.  And we have an extensive set of resume examples and resume templates available for your use.  If you’re interested in reading a comprehensive breakdown and analysis of the two-page resume, my best-selling resume guide on Amazon is available here.

Professional experience less than 10 years

If you have less than 10 years’ experience, one page is often the right length for your resume. Your professional summary should be a single line and is more likely a normally capitalized sentence.  If you graduated fewer than five years ago, your education may still appear at the top of your resume, depending on whether you are looking for an entry-level or mid-level role.

As you approach 10 years’ experience, how do you know when expanding to two pages is the right length for your resume?  When your most recent job is very different in role, responsibility, or expectations from your earliest job, you should expand to two pages.  A progression from individual contributor to manager, for example, would require two pages. Progressing from an individual contributor role on a team to a policy, architecture, direction or “lead” designation, would also call for two pages.” 

Professional experience over 25 years

If you have over 25 years’ experience, you may consider three pages, though two are often sufficient.  A good rule of thumb is that if you’re in the top 1% of the nation’s earners, making $500,000 or more, three pages is likely appropriate.  If you’re pursuing executive roles at companies with more than 500 employees, three pages should be considered. You should also seek guidance from professional recruiters in your specific industry.  

It’s worth noting that, if you’re at the executive level with 25 total years’ experience, and making $500,000, an experienced writer should be crafting your resume for you.  As you know, it’s foolish to splurge on the product and skimp on the ad expense, especially when you are the product.