6 Tips for Shortening Your Résumé

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

We are told that our résumés should be 2 pages long – 3 at a push. So how do we reduce these documents down without losing critical information?

I’ve helped hundreds of people sharpen their résumés – and reducing it down from many pages is one of the greatest challenges. Recently, I was asked to help shorten one résumé down from 12 pages! So through this experience, I have a number of generally-applicable tips to help you do the same.

  1. ‘Flatten’ the content. I see many résumés that use formatting that pads the document out. This is often as a result of using tables. Don’t do this. Apart from the reason I have just given, this also breaks the ‘rule’ of machine-readable formatting. If you’re using tables, then get rid of them and use document styles to achieve the result instead. A pretty résumé is not as good as a readable one.
  2. Remove unnecessary sections. Unless you are specifically asked to provide the information in an application, remove sections such as hobbies, references and school education. Hobbies can be discussed at an interview; references are required only if you’re in the process of being recruited; and school education (unless you are recently a school-leaver) has little value.
  3. ‘Collapse’ repeating content into one section, or vice-versa. For example, depending on your specific résumé, it may be more efficient to place skills you have used throughout your career in one ‘skills’ section. However, if you’re already using a skills section, it may be more efficient to disperse them in your career history.
  4. Take a brutal axe to content. I normally do this at this start of the reduction process. I remove a lot of content, leaving only the absolute core and critical detail, and assess the impact. Then, I add detail back in – by picking the content that has the highest value downwards. Essentially, I am force-ranking the content to achieve the balance between detail and brevity. I find this easier, and more effective, than looking for individual words and phrases to chop out.
  5. Remove or reduce positions. And by ‘position’ I mean a job in your career. I have moved around a lot in my career. I’ve had over 15 positions in my career, so far. Many of these are not worth going into too much detail about, relative to the rest. So in my résumé, I use a single line to represent these positions. As you might expect, these are the ones early in my career.
  6. Do the above considering the individual opportunity. One size doesn’t fit all. Especially when you are rationalizing your career down to hit a page-target. Use your discretion about what is important to each employer and opportunity. So be prepared to do this each time you’re applying for a job.

What I don’t do:

  • I don’t shorten phrases to their acronyms if the phrase is esoteric or not commonly used. This will confuse and diminish the value of your résumé. You don’t want readers to be thinking WTF
  • I don’t reduce font size or margins – this is cheating, and does not change the length of your résumé when it is re-formatted by recruitment agencies and their machines
  • I don’t try to be clever with word by swapping phrases or word-pairs with words that people cannot osmose. (Sorry, I mean don’t understand the meaning of – get the picture?)
  • I don’t remove detail that represents my achievements. I would rather remove a skill rather than an achievement, as it’s this that employers are looking for

Need YOUR Résumé Tuning Up?

I provide this as a service – I can help you get your résumé into shape and ahead of your competition. Check out my Résumé Tune-Up page. And it is currently discounted by 50%!

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