When writing a resume, the area that possibly causes the most stress to a job seeker is the work history section. It is not only a matter of what to specifically write for each position in terms of a candidate’s accomplishments and responsibilities, but also whether to include the position in the first place.

The thought has always been that your work history is a delicate balance between going back too far and not far enough. The concern of going too far back has always been that it runs the risk of dating you (perhaps opening you up to some type of age bias from a recruiter or Hiring Manager) and unnecessarily includes potentially dated and irrelevant material that makes your document longer than it needs to be.

I have always been an advocate of cutting off your resume at around 20 years of experience. I have generally not been interested in a work history 20+ years ago and have always strongly preferred a resume that is no longer than 2 pages long (unless your industry, such as the academic profession, endorses something different). Of course, an employer application is a different situation, since you do not control the format quite like you do a resume.

A recent study by the global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, however, indicates that other Recruiters feel differently than me in terms of experience, but the same regarding length. A whopping 54% of the 150 Recruiters surveyed wanted to see the entire professional experience of a candidate. I am assuming that the term “professional” would remove a candidate’s beginning fast food, retail and internship positions (unless you are seeking a position in one of these industries).

The next largest group at 20% (much smaller than the leader) felt that 20 years was enough of a period of time, while 18% wanted to see another amount (although I am not sure what that amount is).

A key point, however, is that 63% of those surveyed felt that a resume should be no more than two pages. This would lead me to believe that the point that they were trying to make is to cut the fluff and give them the information that they need. This, therefore, makes the need for a clear, concise well-written document more important than ever.

So, if you are experienced, how do you keep your resume at two pages, while including all of your work history? The following are some tips to consider:

• If you are still doing a “Career Objectives” section, this may now be the time to finally dump it. Most job seekers have transitioned away from this section that almost always took up space but provided zero relevant information.

• As mentioned earlier, you can do a close review of everything written inside your work history to make sure the emphasis is on achievements and true areas of responsibilities. Generic statements or items that appear to be very task oriented can be omitted, therefore saving space.

• While I am an advocate of white space in your resume, some people take it far beyond the expected. Remember, while white (empty) space does make the document more aesthetically pleasing, it does not really do much to help you “sell” your candidacy. Strike a balance with your white space and you may find your resume with a little more room to write while still being pleasing to the eye.

• If you are still writing “references available upon request”, you can remove this statement. It is a given that you will provide upon request, and if you don’t, you will likely be dismissed from consideration for the role.

• If you are someone who writes hobbies, or every organization you are associated with, then you have an opportunity to further edit. Your resume should focus on the professional, other than some strategic use of organizations you may be associated with via volunteering.

The recruiters have spoken and if you believe the validity of the noted survey and those surveyed, there are some very specific feelings towards how a resume should be written. A majority of recruiters believe that all professional work history should be included while maintaining the brevity of a maximum of two pages. It may be time for you to review your document to make sure that it is meeting the needs of recruiters in both areas.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of RochesterJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein


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