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July 15, 2014
Résumé Length: The Devil Is in the Details

You've spent your career being the A-list go-to person in your department or company. Awards hang on your wall, and the company exec pops in to personally to commend you and offer a handshake every so often. You're in good standing with an admirable track record.

Does your résumé reflect that?

Most people spend the majority of their résumé space citing a laundry list of what they did, rather than focusing on their accomplishments, and worrying about the length of the overall document. More importantly, they don't showcase their top-line value proposition to prospective employers. Even worse, they simply copy and paste the job duties from a position description and call it good.

Wrong approach.

While it is not uncommon for hiring managers to receive 100, 200, and even up to 500 résumés for each open position, communicating what makes you stand out is even more critical. And résumé length has everything to do with it. The devil is in the details, and in this case, the details have to be short, sweet, and to the point.

Delivering a concise, value-laden résumé takes critical editing skills. Many people end up edging past two pages once the details start to flow. This is exactly the point where the red pen needs to come out and ruthless changes need to happen. One résumé writing expert recently announced she is down to a one-page résumé summary for executives, who usually are the ones who flow onto three pages.

How do you winnow your background into a tidy and clear illustration about your value to prospective employers?

You need to show what you are capable of doing and the value you would be to the prospective employer, not what you've done on a daily level. To get to this point, the truth hurts as you begin the editing process. A good way of thinking about it is to frame your background the following way:

Action (what you did) plus Results (what was the outcome to company) equals your value to the prospective employer

Take off that one responsibility that you really enjoyed but didn't produce results. Trim down extensive training and professional development classes that you've taken, leaving just the "cherry picked" top-notch opportunities that are the most relevant to your background.

Train yourself to think about your background in terms of not what you did on a daily basis, but what the overall results were to the company as a whole. Did you make them money? Save them money? Save them time? In the case of nonprofit organizations, did you expand services? Make efficiency changes? Increase outreach and exposure?

By adopting this approach, you can drastically shorten your résumé but add focused power behind communicating what you offer to a potential employer.

It'll have an amazing effect on your viability as a candidate, and you won't be worrying about how long your résumé is.

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Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, is the president of Portland, Ore.-based Pathfinder Writing and Careers, which specializes in mid- to upper-management résumés. She is an active volunteer in her community and donates her time teaching a résumé writing class at the Oregon Employment Department every week to help empower unemployed professionals and workers.
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