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The Lengths a Résumé Should Go

At the WorkBloom blog this week, résumé coach Jessica Holbrook discusses the optimum length of a résumé, and the advice she gives can be summed up as “it depends.” Holbrook says that one size won’t fit all job-hunters, but finding the right size depends (that word again) on the amount and type of experience the job-seeker has to offer.

Holbrook says that most American business résumés should be 1 to 3 pages. Entry-level workers and recent grads can probably get by with a single-page, since they have less of a story to tell than their more experienced counterparts. Mid-career workers will probably need 2 pages for their professional histories; a 3rd page, if needed, should be devoted to publications, honors, and continuing education.

Holbrook emphasized that job hunters should be as concerned about the content and quality of their résumés as with their length. The goal of the résumé is to give the hiring manager a clear picture of your professional history. Filling up space with a lot of fluff will probably hurt more than help your case. Likewise, says Holbrook, if your work history is measured in decades rather than years, you probably want to concentrate on the most recent several years and leave out some of the details about your early experience.

A common source of confusion in academic and scientific employment is the difference between a résumé and curriculum vitae, or CV. The CV is a comprehensive description of education, work history, publications, and presentations used for academic hiring. A CV often runs many more pages than the typical business résumé. (An additional source of confusion is the fact that in some European countries “CV” is used to describe a document very similar to what we call a résumé). About a year ago, Science Careers columnist Dave Jensen defined résumé, CV, and a host of other common terms used in job-hunting and career development. In an earlier column, Jensen also described how a CV can be adapted for business use.

One comment on “The Lengths a Résumé Should Go”

  1. I do resume critiquing and career development seminars at various national and local science meetings. Invariably, a good portion of the graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who I talk to our confused about the difference between a resume and a curriculum vitae. So much so that they prepare resumes (1-2 pages) and cvs (3 or more pages) and unfortunately the content of both documents is lacking and the structure is incorrect. Almost always, they tell me that somebody told them that they need a resume as well as a cv. I wish the people who are telling science graduate students and postdoctoral fellows that they need a resume would stop. Put simply, if you are applying for a scientific position or even a business position in a life sciences company a resume simply will not be sufficient. It is perfectly acceptable to submit cvs for all positions within life sciences companies.
    Instead of explaining the difference between a resume and a cv, I think teaching science students how to construct a job-worthy cv would be more instructive.
    Anybody interested in having me critique their resume, I will be at Experimental Biology in Anaheim this year with the rest of my colleagues at FASEB careers.
    See you there!

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