I just saw answers to the question “how long should a resume be?” on an e-mail from the coaches’ special interest group (SIG) to which I belong.

Just as I expected: most coaches believe resumes should be no longer than two pages. Some felt it could be one page for someone relatively junior in their careers, and two for a more senior person. One person said it could go as long as three pages, and one felt it should be no more than one – no matter what.

My experience tells me that successful resumes are as follows:

* one page for a relative newcomer to the world of work – zero to ten years
* two pages for someone with more than 10 years of experience
* possibly two and a half pages for someone who is incredibly experienced and has many awards or publications or affiliations or something really extraordinary. Really, though, all those things should be distilled into two pages with headings that say “AFFILIATIONS (selected),” “PUBLICATIONS (selected)” and the like. If you just can’t leave anything out, put them into separate attachments instead of in the resume!

In my opinion, someone who is experienced should always have two pages, because a single page subliminally tells readers “this is a junior person” and “don’t bother reading this one.” If you’re applying for a senior position, that is NOT the message you want to communicate. You want to communicate “I am experienced enough for anything you throw at me” and “I deserve your consideration for this job.” On the flip side, if you have more than two pages, the subliminal messages are “this is an arrogant person” and “this person doesn’t respect my time.” These are messages designed to get your resume put in the NO pile if not the recycling bin.

There are times when people have to produce a resume or curriculum vitae that conforms to a specific format or standard. One person I know, a medical doctor, has a ridiculously long CV – 8 pages at least – because his institution mandated the format. If he is looking for work, however, I’d advise him to develop a two page resume with attachments.

One poster mentioned an incredibly important point: no matter its length, a resume needs to be easily read. The point of submitting a resume is for someone to read it. If the reviewer has to reach for his/her reading glasses, that’s a point against you. Our job as applicants is to make it as easy as possible for the reviewer to see our skills and abilities. That means they should encounter no obstacles.

To me, readable resumes avoid fancy formatting. Most often today, people submit resumes electronically. Many times, the fancy formatting doesn’t come through accurately. Instead of those beautiful arrows you used to itemize your accomplishments, a question mark appears. Or the line appears as a bunch of dots. Or text disappears or appears somewhere else. Or page breaks happen in odd places and suddenly you have a four page resume.

You get the point. The last thing you could wish for is any implication that there is any question about your accomplishments! So use the dots provided for in Word.

There’s an important point in the previous sentence: use Word! It’s the most common word processing package; even Mac users have it now. And save it as a “doc.” It’s the only format that just about everyone reliably can open.

Readable resumes use simple fonts like Times Roman, Garamond and possibly Tahoma or Verdana. The last two are sans serif type faces which are always more difficult to read, so I don’t recommend them as a first choice. Times Roman is familiar and that’s a good thing. We want the reviewer to immediately feel comfortable with us; it’s one less hurdle for us to get over in the job search process.

Font alone doesn’t make a resume readable. One also much use a big enough font. I prefer 12 point for Times Roman and no smaller than 11 point. I read somewhere that Garamond is a more elegant version of Times Roman, which is the case. However, it also is a bit smaller, so I opt for 12 point type – never 11 point. Tahoma and Verdana are big enough that 11 point is sufficient.

Legible resumes also follow an easy-to-read format. And that’s a post for another day.