How many words should a resume be?

How to Size Your Resume to Recruiters’ Needs

I opened a resume file the other night that scared me. It used a tiny font and had no white space. I had an instant flight response.

Then I found myself asking, “How many words are in this thing?”

That was followed by, “How long should a resume be?”

Back to the scary resume — it contained 1,121 words on 2 pages. I didn’t want to read it. Ever.

How Long Should Your Resume Be?

Then, I decided to do a little research. I opened some of my clients’ files and checked the number of words in their 2-page resumes. Yes, 2 pages — we don’t write longer resumes.

They averaged between 550 and 750 words rendered in 11-point Calibri font. A 757-word resume looked cramped to me.

Resume Word Count Guidelines

Let’s compare how many words you have in your resume to what research says is optimal.

First, check your word count. Look in the lower-left corner of your Word document. You should see “XXX words.”

If not, then count the number of words in your resume by clicking the Word “Tools” menu and then clicking “Word Count.”

Still stumped? This video shows how to get word counts in Word 2013, Word 2016, and Office 365.

 

Next, don’t exceed 700 words because research published by ZipRecruiter found that 600 to 700-word resumes get the highest employer ratings.

If you’re north of 700 words, you might be sharing information that’s dear to you but not relevant to recruiters and hiring managers. Plus, I guarantee your resume is not as visually appealing as it might be.

How Many Pages Should Your Resume Be?

Now that we know how many words to use, let’s look at the number of pages that work best:

  1. A 2018 recruiter survey conducted by RiseSmart found that 71% of the respondents liked 2-page resumes. Only 8% preferred 1-page resumes.
  2. More recently, ResumeGo ran a study that found recruiters and hiring managers have a distinct preference for 2-page resumes — at all levels.
Should I Submit My Resume as a .pdf or .doc File?

Beyond the number of pages and words, many people wonder which file format they should use.

I recommend using .pdf because it preserves your formatting across different readers’ devices.

However, if the job posting or recruiter specifies they want a .doc file, give them a .doc file.

How Do I Make My Resume a .pdf?

It’s easy to save your resume as a .pdf file.

Follow these steps:

  1. On your computer’s top horizontal rail, click “File.”
  2. Then, click “Save As” or “Save Page As.”
  3. Name your file.
  4. Then, look down to “File Format” and click “Word Document” to get a menu of choices.
  5. Next, click “PDF.”
  6. Finally, click “Save.”
How to Make Recruiters Like Your Resume

To recap, make recruiters like you by:

  1. Writing a 600 to 700-word resume
  2. Using a 2-page resume
  3. Using an easy-to-read font like Calibri
  4. Showing that your background is relevant to their needs
  5. Giving them the file format they want

You can click through to illustrative resume samples here.

Updated January 2021

© 2013 – 2021, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 2

  1. Great advice, especially in the private sector. I will say that in the federal government, HR offices are not allowed to penalize lengthy resumes in any way. This is by regulation, and as a result, we often see 5-10 page monsters that we are obliged to read through!

  2. I feel a nightmare coming on…five to ten pages, aaaaaaack!!!!!! Hopefully you get hazardous duty pay for that!

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