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I'm in the US and have 30 years of experience with a bunch of different companies, working in high-tech and the software industry. I have a lot of links, skills, and education which has pushed my resume to five pages in length.

How can I reduce the length of my past experience, skills, and education without short changing my skills and accomplishments?

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A good spot-check is "Would I read this if someone gave me a pile of 50 of them?" because that's what the recipient is likely thinking/doing. –  Rarity Apr 19 '12 at 18:32
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"What did you think of his résumé?" "TLDR" –  Byte56 Apr 19 '12 at 19:20
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Long answer short: a resume is not a confession. –  MPelletier Apr 19 '12 at 19:27
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I would suggest that you only focus on the last 2-3 jobs and/or 5-10 years timeframe to add any details. A potential employeer is going to want to know if the things you've done recently are comparable to what they want you to do for them. They aren't going to care much about what you did 20 years ago. Especially in technology where most tools and processes are obsolete in only a few years. –  AlanBarber Apr 19 '12 at 23:51
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I've brought this question up in this meta discussion tl;dr: No, just because there's lots of votes and responses does not make this a good question. It makes it a good forum thread –  Rarity Apr 20 '12 at 14:09
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up vote 39 down vote accepted

I have been consulting for 20 years so my resume is probably similar to yours. I put things on my resume that make me look like a good candidate for the specific position I am applying for. I format my resume like so:

Skills These are skills that apply to the position I am seeking. I include my evaluation of experience level (Experience, Advanced, Expert) for each skill and group skills that naturally go together. I only list the skills that are important to the job and are not general skills. Why would I list my ability to use MS Office? If it is listed in the job requirements then I will include it but otherwise, why bother?

Degree and Certification I have 20 years of experience - I list my degree and certifications. What my GPA, major, minor, any other crap about college is no longer important. So BS in CS from SIU is fine. Certifications I got in 2000 but are not current are irrelevant. I do not want to talk about my NT4.0 MCSE to any employer so why would I list it?

My most recent jobs and responsibilities - I include a small summary of projects I worked on and any thing that seems to apply to the position I am applying for.

A condensed list of older jobs Generally the employer and position. I only list major engagements here. And condense smaller gigs I worked for a single consultant company into on job. That I had work is important. Beyond consultant programmer no one really cares what I did there. If they do they ask.

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This depends where in the world you are and what sort of job you are applying for.

I understand that the "one page resume" is standard in the US, but in the UK or Australia for instance, two pages would be more often recommended, while in countries like Germany, or sectors such as U.S. academia, a full career history would be expected. (Thanks tehnyit & Jeff O)

Where a full CV isn't expected however, think of your resume or CV as being a summary of your full Curriculum vitae, tailored to each job application. Include the skills and experience which are relevant to the job you are applying for and omit anything which isn't relevant.

If you are writing a CV to go on a careers search website, you have to think differently again. Include things which you want to work with now, but omit things which you don't want to work with. For instance, if you have 3 years of pick experience (an unusual skill these days), but don't want to go back to that time in your career again, leave your pick experience off your on-line CV.

Mostly these on-line CVs are used to filter candidates by keywords, so if you don't want to be bugged by recruiters contacting you about jobs you aren't interested in, make sure you don't include those skills.

Another aspect, as Sam Woods suggests, is the seniority of the position you're applying for. Even in the UK, I wouldn't expect an application for a summer job (intern) position to provide as long a CV as someone with 20 years experience, applying for a senior position.

Ultimately, your resume/CV is your chance to sell yourself. Don't say that you have great communications skills, demonstrate it with your CV. I once interviewed a contractor with a CV which was approximately 16 page long. It appeared to list every project he'd ever worked on and was double spaced, presumably to make it easier for me to make notes. 95% of those projects were wholly irrelevant to me - he could have trivially condensed his CV to two or pages, which would have at least got him an interview.

Finally, keep a full CV up to date for reference, if you have all of the information you need to hand, it makes it much easier to copy and paste it to generate those highly effective tailored CVs.

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Absolutely true about the location. In Germany, they want the whole story without any gaps in your timeline! In Australia, must more relax, with a two page summary would be enough. –  tehnyit Apr 19 '12 at 18:23
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I think the seniority of the position you're applying for also somewhat dictates the possible length of resumes. Also, when I evaluate a resume and I see it is 3+ pages, that is an immediate red flag (regardless of how many years of experience) to me about the communication skills of the applicant. Most of the time, but not always it points to a lack of ability to concisely communicate and get your point across. –  Sam Woods Apr 19 '12 at 22:40
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I'm a manager who reads resumes from time to time and 5 pages is too long.

The important thing to remember is that your resume is a brochure, not your autobiography. The sole purpose is to intrigue the hiring manager enough to want to talk to you in person not list every single accomplishment in your entire career.

You can probably shorten it up some by mentioning a few examples of accomplishments and making it clear that they are just a few examples of many. Another technique is to put the more comprehensive version (project summaries, commendations, etc.) on a website and put a URL in the resume in case the hiring manager wants to investigate more deeply.

When I am reading resumes I want a very succinct document that answers these basic questions in roughly this order:

  • What are your major differentiators that make you a stronger candidate than the next guy?
  • What are your key skills?
  • How much experience do you have that is relevant to the position? (previous similar jobs)
  • What qualifications do you have beyond experience (certifications, education, etc.)?
  • How good are your written communication skills as demonstrated by this resume?

I fully expect that a resume won't tell the complete story. That's what interviews are for. Don't stress over squeezing in every detail of every job you've ever worked.

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I've done a lot of hiring through the years and seen hundreds (maybe thousands) of resumes and have never yet seen a long one that could not have been condensed into 2 pages. –  HLGEM Apr 19 '12 at 21:35
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I'd try to trim it down to no more than 3 pages.

I read a lot of resumes and I while I personally don't mind reading long ones, it gets tedious unless it's very well written and the content is enticing. That's harder to do the longer the resume gets.

Let's say you have worked on 100 projects. Trying to tell me how all 100 of them relate to the post I am offering without redundancy is hard. Just pick and choose the ones that have the most impact and leave it at that. If not there might be a chance that I lose interest once I see the first "repeat" or unrelated content.

BTW, short resumes demonstrate your ability in distilling and understanding what's REALLY important to the matter at hand. If you list 5 pages and not ALL of them are stunning, it does more harm than good.

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My father has an excellent rule for students in his business classes: if you have a third page on your résumé, it had better be because it has a "For Further Reading..." section linking to where they can buy one of your biographies. If, after a few decades of work experience, you haven't learned to communicate relevant facts concisely, chances are good you're not the person I want to hire, anyway. –  BMDan Apr 20 '12 at 12:46
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I have that much experience as well and my resume is two pages.

Generally you only should show the last ten years of experience. That experience is irrelevant to a hiring manager and just gets you put on the "he's too old" page. Employers aren't really interested in more than that and showing more will get you a fast track into the age discrimination pile.

Here's some advice abut how I condensed my resume.

  • In brief, page one is the most important page, it contains the contact information and the accomplishments that are most relevant to the job I'm applying for. Page two contains the skills list, work history and education with only a 2 sentence (at most) description of each job listed after all the important stuff is in the accomplishments on page one. The purpose of page two is for HR to verify my experience and education if they need to and to let the hiring manger see the types of organizations I've worked for. But page one is the page that gets the interviews.

Weed through those skills and get rid of any that you haven't used in the last 5 years (Unless they are specifically relevant to the job you are applying for) and any that you would cut off your arm rather than use again.

Ditch any Objectives section. Those are just wasted space.

You can consolidate multiple contracting jobs (if need be) into a general listing rather than 10 6 month job in a row. Something like

Consultant 2005-2008 for ABC company, GEH Company, XYZ company. Performed...

makes sure the skills are listed in was that takes up the least amount of room, a table rather than a line by line list. This list is mostly for key word searches anyway.

I have rearranged mine so that the first Section is Accomplishments. That takes up a page and contains only the major things I have done that are relevant to the position I am applying for. You may need to have several versions of this. Make sure to use business terms and not just technical ones (At a senior level I would expect you to be thinking in business terms and not just technical ones, you can get away with just technical at lower levels but at the senior level this is what distinguishes you from the pack). However, don't ignore technical accomplishments, you want them to know that you know your stuff. Quantify if possible. Show performance improvement data, money saved, time saved, unhappy clients turned around, Major awards etc. If you are a presenter at a conferences or have written a book on the subject etc, it goes here.

The second page has the skills list, a 1-2 line list of the jobs and the general duties (you can use more for the last two jobs.) Then my education.

And remember you don't need to show further back than the last ten years. No one is interested in what you did 30 years ago no matter how proud of it you may personally be.

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Also don't forget that in most cases only your most recent experience is going to be relevant/what the company is hiring you for. Yes, you might find someone who wants that 30 year old skill, but they're going to be very rare. –  ChrisF Apr 19 '12 at 22:17
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And if you do include more than 10 years (I do), you don't need to say much about the older ones and should never bring up old skills that you haven't maintained. Yeah, 25 years ago I did AI-based natural-language processing on a Vax using Common LISP, but that's not relevant now. My oldest positions are just job title, employer, dates, and a one-liner if I have something useful to say. –  Monica Cellio Apr 25 '12 at 18:06
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Hi HGLEM, we merged your other answer with this one since they were similar. Hope this helps. Feel free to add anything else we may have missed or overlooked! :) –  jmort253 May 19 '13 at 21:48
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Try your best to get it down to two pages.

I've reviewed quite a few resumes, and typically I'll look over the candidate's skills, education, and then a few of the most recent work experience entries. Then, if it looks like he or she may have what we need, we'll just bring them in for an interview.

Once you go back beyond a few jobs, I would start listing the entries as just a summary: list the company, years worked, and skills/technologies used. I doubt very many developers / hiring managers will actually read the details of what you were doing at job X 15 years ago.

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Yes, I would call that too long.

I always try and get my resume down to 1 page, although sometimes I have to settle for 2. If it's any longer, I think you can remove stuff

Some tips to shorten it...

  • Remove experience that is unrelated to the job you're applying for. You don't need to list that you worked in marketting for X years if you're applying for an IT job.
  • Remove old experience, or combine/summarize it in a single line
  • Simplify your education. You should only need at most one line for each degree relevant to the job you're applying for. For example, you don't need to list that you're a certified lifeguard if you're applying for an IT position.
  • Customize your resume for the job you're applying for. If you're applying to a JAVA job, be sure to give them a resume that highlights your JAVA skills and experience. If you're looking for an ASP.Net job, show your web experience and summarize/combine the rest.

Don't forget, you can go over your skills/experience in more detail during the interview. Your resume is simply your ticket to getting the interview. Use it to highlight points that will lead to conversation topics during the interview where you can expand on your skills and experience, not to list everything about you and what you know.

Some people don't even read the resume too closely until right before the interview, or view a longer resume as detrimential to a candidate, so a longer resume can actually do more harm then good.

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I'm a manager and I do quite a bit of interviewing. I will only print out and read your first two pages (double sided, one page of dead tree). Anything beyond that is probably wasting my time.

If you couldn't summarize your relevant skills in two pages, you'll probably have trouble writing succinct and accurate reports, emails, bug reports, code comments, design specs, etc.

If you want to list lots of companies, go ahead. Just give a one-liner for each.

Save a tree, and my time.

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It is my position that the resume is a short description of your work experience. I try to put about 1 paragraph's worth of detail for each job, and since I've worked for some companies for 10 years, and others for 3 months, a paragraph for each 3-6 month contract assignment in the past 3 years will quickly fill a page.

If you are a contractor, and have contracted for the past 15 years, you will easily be able to fill 5 pages with a short synopsis of each assignment. I was an FTE for the first 17 years of my working career and it was hard to fill a single page of a resume back then - the subsequent 2 years were full of contract jobs and they'd fill up a single page just by themselves.

The bottom line is that the single page rule was customary in an era where many people were able to get one job out of school and work there for the rest of their working career; or folks who only stayed 5 years at a job were considered "job hoppers". Today, you are likely to have many totally different careers during your working life and many different jobs. A resume that reflects the new realities of the workplace requires far more than the traditional 1 pager.

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Think of your audience. They want to know what you're capable of with the least amount of effort. The sooner you get to a selling point, and the easier those selling points are to find, the better. I typically condense irrelevant work experience to a single line or make a one-line "details below" reference to it to preserve chronology (so people don't think you have large gaps in your work history) and move details to the bottom.

Likewise with skills, avoid distracting from your strengths by diluting them with skills that at best you've only touched on. I tend to create a subcategory of "exposed-to/entry level at best" skills at the bottom of a skills listing. If there is stuff you know everybody adds to their resumes in your field, keep your own mention of things either very brief or non-existent if it's stuff that just comes with the territory of your other skillsets. For instance, I do client-side web development. Everybody is standards/aware/standards-compliant. One brief mention somewhere to make it clear you're aware that such things matter is more than enough but I've looked at more than a few resumes that break it into multiple bullet points which is a waste of space.

Adding less relevant or redundant stuff for quantity is a mistake. If you're honest and forthcoming about what you're good at and what you aren't, it saves everybody time and employers appreciate it when you cut the bull. I would expect this to be a fairly universal phenomenon but I've had a lot of positive comments on my resumes in the US.

Five pages is probably unnecessary (and paper isn't cheap), but the important thing is that they get to a good estimation of your relevant skills and experience by skimming pages one and two, and if you're lucky page three when they become interested. So it's not about length, it's about how quickly you get to the stuff that matters to them.

And don't be afraid to monkey around with resume protocol a little bit by doing things like getting irrelevant stuff out of the way. They're looking for somebody to solve a problem, not somebody to sic the resume police on. If it's obvious you put in the effort to make your resume more relevance focused for a specific job, that's only going to make you look good.

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While one page resume is not as important of late but you still should put the most important things within the first 2 pages at the most.

Reason for that is that the hiring manager who is a very busy person in general should be able to glance at your resume and decide whether or not he/she should proceed with further evaluation. From my dealings with some people it's helpful assume that the person on the receiving end has ADD.

Secondly it is normally understood at least in the world of software development and IT in general that technologies used 5+ years ago may not be as relevant today so what you know now and what you can do now is more important, which may not be true for all industries but certainly true for some.

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It depends on who's reading.

If you're applying for a job and are in competition against dozens of other potential candidats, 5 pages of info will work against your advantage. The recruiter usually need to go through a big pile of CV and will probably not bother reading yours. Or if they do, it won't be in details, and they'll inevitable go over vital information. In this case conciseness is best. Try as much as you can to make only the relevant parts of your career fit on one page, send it and hope for the best.

However this is not the only situation in which you send your resume. I read many times that most position are filled by word of mouth (instead of anonymous CV browsing). A friend of a friend, an ex-coworker, a member of your local user group, ... Networking will get you interviews far more easier than posting your resume on an online job board or anything like that. In those case, premliminary contact has been made and the interviewer will be more likely to take her time reading your responsabilities at your last job or that super cool project you did in college.

Finally, I'll just mention that 5 pages is too long, even for the "word of mouth" scenario. For the recruiter, 5 pages is a chore. That's not something you want to give her. You can go to 2, maybe 3 if that's necessary. However, I like keeping some (little less relevant but equally awesome) experiences off my resume so I can "casually" mention them during the interview. You're much more than your resume says you are. Keep this in mind.

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You can't

The key here is to compromise,

  • Build your resume around one target job
  • leave out details that is not relevant to that job
  • the above two should automatically take care of all the junk (sorry, didn't mean to offend you, I know those are accomplishment but if it is not relevant, kill it)
  • Have your resume reviewed by pears (very important) and find out its selling value. Which resume is the best?

The idea of including everything in one resume is probably a bad idea. It does not sell you but can confuse your employer and leave them thinking, if he is so talented why he is jobless. These little things matter in real life. With one skill in resume, you are really focusing your mind and thoughts in the job, that makes a very positive impact on the employer.

I am not saying what you have achieved in 30 years were not accomplishment. They were but if they are not relevant, they don't belong to the resume. I am talking technical skills here. You are an expert C++ programer, you are not a fit for Java programmer.

Another point that I want to make is if you don't have one area of skills where you want to work, that is probably your fault. Generalized resume does not work in technical field, you must have a focus and an expertise.

Some tips:

If an employer does not need a skill, adding it does not adds your value. If it is of some value good enough but it can distract the employer and he might simply say not a good fit.

Stressing again, have your resume reviewed by at least one person. Somewhere they said a resume should be reviewed by 7 people before rolling out. Its hard to judge the value of your resume yourself because you wrote it.

I can give you my example. At one point I had 4 resumes all focused on different areas and I know it can be quite embarassing. My skills are, I am

  • Electrical Engineering
  • Hardware Designer*
  • C/C++ programmer,
  • Embedded system programmer
  • Assembly language programmer,
  • FPGA programmer,
  • Matlab programmer,
  • HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Ajax, jQuery
  • PHP, MySQL, Apache
  • ASP.NET, MSSQL

To sum all these skills in one resume would probably be disastrous. So I had

*Electrical Engineering Resume

*C/C++ Resume

*Web Developer Resume

In all of my resumes, I never focused on FPGA stuff because I did not want to pursue jobs in it, although I had designed my own intellectual property in Xilinx FPGAs. Some of my projects in EE were quite accomplished, I totally skipped it in C++ resume.

After I had these multiple resume, a friend of mine reviewed it for me and advised me to stick with web developer resume and I sticked with it (I had also made up my mind at that point). I have been happy since :)

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I do a decent amount of hiring for experienced tech talent.

You don't get hired based on your resume, so you don't need everything you've done in it. The resume is your chance to get an interview, nothing more. So you want to showcase the best things about you, and a 5 page resume will only dilute that message and diminish you're chances of getting an interview.

A 1 to 2 page max resume is what you want. Highlight the coolest things you've done, and showcase the qualities people look for in an employee such as work ethic, passion, etc.

The interview is your place to elaborate on specifics, and what you couldn't fit in the resume.

Good luck!

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My rule for a resume being submitted to a job application / recruiter is that it should be no longer than one standard-sized sheet of paper (US Letter in the US, A4 pretty much everywhere else), double-sided.

The front is me, my contact information, my skills (in order of strength and relevance to the job), and my current employer position/job summary.

The back lists my work history, education, relevant personal interests (e.g. I maintain some ports for the FreeBSD Project - that's relevant when applying for system administrator work), and a note that references are available on request.

This resume, plus a tailored cover letter addressing why I want to work for $_COMPANY and why I think I'd be a good fit, should be enough to decide if they want to interview me or request more information about some specific skill or previous job.


As someone who has to review resumes I have a strong preference for the brevity of this format: It tells me what I need to know to decide if I want to interview you. If you bring a longer resume with you to the interview I don't mind it, particularly if you are calling out relevant positions/experience/skills in greater detail -- It shows a level of preparedness and respect for the interview process.

Generally the absolute limit I'm willing to deal with are two double-sided pages. The person submitting such a resume should have substantial experience (>15 years), and should be listing some big players in the field on their resume, with an impressive list of accomplishments (if your resume has grown to two pages and you're still listing "Summer job cutting lawns" there's something seriously wrong).

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IMHO this is related to the following equation:

# pages ~ expected salary / # of candidates

which basically mean, the more candidates there are and the lower the expected salary, the less time the recruiter will spend with your CV.

So for a general position one page is enough. If you are applying as the next CEO you may certainly write 5 pages, or a book.

Beside the joke I guess you get the picture.

I work in IT and my CV is 5 pages long, with much space and easy to the eye. I'm sure I won't get the position if I have to compete with 100 others, but I know there are at most 10 other candidates and I'm "out-of-the-box", so it worked pretty well up to now.

It's not bad to be different, if you are applying for a position that requires someone to be "different", on the contrary. But I know you already knew that :-)

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A resume should be as short as possible. Having said that, your 5-pages CV is huge (no matter how much experience you have).

I am an SW engineer with 12 years of experience, with several projects behind me. Once I received a resume of a 10 years experienced engineer. It was very long, and written in not to easily understand language. After the first page I gave up.

So, I would recommend you to have two versions of CV : one short condensed (shouldn't be longer then 2 pages), and another long with all details.

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I am in a similar situation after 15 years in software engineering. I don't want to trim down my CV because some of the stuff that I've done is still relevant (some isn't) and would still interest me if offered to do it again. Some people may be interested in how my career has progressed, and may also find something interesting that I've done a few years back.

However, I can sympathize with the person reading my CV so I do the following:

  • I put the most important facts on the first page (objectives, skills, expertise, education),
  • The most recent job would also still be on the first page,
  • I sometimes alter the first page to better present myself for the position I'm applying to

I still need to remove from my CV the keywords that I get found on for jobs I don't want to do anymore (e.g. like ColdFusion that I did back in 1999 and don't want to go back to). Some recruitment agents ignore the fact that jobs you've done ten years ago paid half of what you may be being paid now and still feel the urge to send you similar jobs.

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Customization: Only include information that is relevant to the position you're applying to. That means you will have a different CV for each application. It also means that you need to research your target position and employer very thoroughly and find out what they are looking for. When I apply for a research position, I emphasize my research skills. When I apply for a software development position, I emphasize my IT skills.

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