Like life in general, prioritization in resume writing is extremely important. I review hundreds of resumes from retail leaders every year and I often see ones that make me wonder whether the person even considered what might be most important and relevant to the reader.
I see names at the top that are so big it almost gets hard to read. I see summaries that take up half or more of the first page. I see regional directors who have dedicated just as much space to an assistant manager role they had 20 years ago as their current position. I see jobs from the 1980's (and earlier) - complete with achievements and everything. I see a lot of crazy stuff.
The thing about resumes is that they're restricted by space. Even though some people say 3, 4, or 5-page resumes are just fine - they're not in many cases. Not in retail anyway. If I've learned one thing over the years, it's this:
If you exceed two pages, there is a greater risk that someone will consider it to be too long.
That doesn't mean everyone will consider it too long. But some people will, and you sure don't want it to be the person who happens to be reading yours. So, for most people, you've got a maximum of 2 pages to play with (and that should be enough).
So what do you do with those 2 pages? Well, for starters, don't waste half of the first page on a summary or profile (25% of the entire resume). For the vast majority of you, that space could be put to much better use.
Here is a very rough guide as to how much space each section on your resume should take up. Please understand this will not apply to absolutely everyone in every single situation - that's why it's called a rough guide. There are exceptions to pretty much every "rule" in resume writing, and that's because everyone's background and situation are unique. However, it may be useful to compare this to your own resume and if something doesn't line up, ask yourself if there's a good reason why.
Here we go:
Name and contact information - 5%
Your name and contact information should not take up much space on your resume. Your name doesn't need to be in a 16-point font - trust me, the reader will find it as long as it's at the top of your resume - and many times your contact information can fit on one line. Save the extra space for content that can help showcase you as a superstar.
Summary, profile, or tagline - 10%
In my opinion, summaries are not read nearly as often as people think. As such, they're not as important as people think. Sure, some resume writers claim they're extremely valuable, but that's more likely because it gives them a chance to use flowery, creative terms to describe how awesome you are. In my experience, if you've got a lot of other great content to include on your resume, cut your summary/profile down, perhaps to a simple tagline.
Last 5 years of work experience - 40%
This is the meat of your resume, or tofu for my veg friends. For most people, this will be the most important section of your resume. Of course there are always exceptions, but in most cases recruiters are primarily interested in what you've done lately. As such, you may want to dedicate the most space on your resume to this time period, especially if your recent positions have been at a higher level than earlier periods.
Previous 5 years of work experience - 25%
Of course recruiters are interested in your previous experience as well, just not quite as much. Jobs that you held 5-10 years ago should, in most cases, be included on your resume but perhaps with a little less detail. Again, there are always exceptions - perhaps you held a higher-level position back then, or worked for a company more closely related to your job target - but in most cases it's perfectly fine to have a little less information for this period.
Previous 5-10 years of work experience - 15%
If you have relevant experience going back that far, I recommend going back a maximum of 20 years on your resume. Including jobs prior to that may start to increase your risk of age discrimination (besides, it's just so old now that it's much less relevant to recruiters). Therefore, jobs you held 10-20 years ago can be included but with progressively less detail the farther back you go.
Education and professional development - 5%
This will of course depend on your industry and how much education you have, but in many cases education can fit on one or two lines. Include your degree, if you have one, and relevant certifications you may have, but don't feel the need to include absolutely everything.
Take a quick look at your resume and see how it matches what I've outlined here. In my experience, prioritizing your available space goes a long way toward attracting the attention of recruiters and generating interest.
Best of luck!
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