Size Matters

RezScore has identified factors which help make a great resume.  We call these factors “Brevity”, “Impact”, and “Depth”, which we score on a scale of 0 to 100.  This is the first of three blog posts exploring the guts behind these grades.

“Say what you have to say and the first time you come to a sentence with a grammatical ending–sit down.”
–Winston Churchill

Brevity is the soul of wit.  It’s also the soul of a resume, according to our analysis at RezScore.

Nowadays, the typical resume is between 386 and 896 words long, with a median resume length of 578 words.  This usually fits on a single page.

Resume Length Histogram

At RezScore, we wanted to approach this with a bit more science.  We wanted to know what the “perfect” resume length is.  To figure this out, we collected and normalized several survey responses on this very subject.  We asked experts throughout the hiring industry to look at resumes and grade them on whether its length was appropriate, with a rating of ten being an excellent length, and a rating of zero being an inappropriate length.  The results are plotted below:

This boxplot teaches a few lessons.

Lesson #1: There’s No Perfect Length

Although we saw observable trends, there’s no such thing as a “perfect length.”  You can see on the graph that any length of resume received very disparate scores.  Our most severe outliers, resumes six and ten times longer than the typical resume, got scored an 8 and a 2 respectively.  Goes to show you never can tell.  Or, in other words, a great resume should be as long or as short as it needs to be.

Lesson #2: Longer is Worse

If you follow the median ratings (the black lines in the center), you see our graders consistently rated resumes under 800 words a 7.  Resumes with more than 900 words typically saw their ratings fall to a 5.  If your resume is drifting above 900 words, you should flip your pencil over and use your eraser.

Lesson #3: Six to Seven Hundred Words is the “Right Length”

Contradicting what we just said in lesson #1, if there is a “right length”, it’s 600-700 words.  Resumes falling in this range consistently scored between 6.5 and 9, but never below a 5.  If your resume falls within this length, you’re more or less immune from criticism.

Lesson #4: Shorter is OK

The penalty for writing a resume shorter than 600 words is negligible.  If your resume dips beneath this length, your resume will still typically be considered “the right length.” There is about a one in four chance your resume will be flagged as too short, however we found this to be the case primarily when the resume was written weakly.

When we first started building our grader, we wanted to name this category “length.”  After studying these trends, we opted to call it a “brevity” score instead, to emphasize the value of keeping your resume short and punchy.

A few postscripts, but no more pretty graphs.

Does Years of Experience Make a Difference?

It’s a common rule of thumb that your resume can be one page per ten years of work experience.  In other words, if you have thirty years of experience, your resume should be three pages long.  We tested this for correlation, but we found length scores largely remained consistent regardless of time in the marketplace.  We continue to encourage brevity in all instances.

Importance of Length:

Now armed with a working model for rating the length of the resume, we looked at another important question: how important is length to the overall grade of the resume.  We found it correlated weakly, and accounted for a little less than 30% of the explanation of a good resume.  Or in English, a bad 600 word resume is still bad, and a good 1200 word resume is still good.  Keeping it short is important, but it’s not the only thing to consider when writing a resume.