Based on having received and reviewed literally hundreds of thousands of resumes, most people make the job search mistake of sending out resumes to potential employers that are filled with endless jobs, information, and details, all to the annoyance of human resources, recruiters, and hiring managers. If this is you, you have to stop and re-evaluate what you are doing. As is the case with resumes and plenty of other areas in life, people believe they have it figured out, but they don't. People are putting themselves at a disadvantage with something as important as employment. Too much or the wrong information on your resume does nothing but sell you out of contention with employers. Let that sink in.
Resumes that are too long are a prime example of people making assumptions and decisions based on what they believe to be good information. Where this supposedly good information came from is a mystery, but they are surely not using information based on having worked in staffing, headhunting, employment, and human resources for many years. In a nutshell, people are working off of a faulty present level of awareness. Resumes would be just one of many examples in which this happens. The results of not increasing awareness levels on the topic of resumes include less job options and choices, working at lower quality companies, settling for lesser jobs, longer job searchers, and numerous others.
Let's get right to the deniers who say a three page resume is fine. After all, how could a three plus page resume be bad if all I am doing is putting in my work experience, skills, education, etc. Here again, this person is thinking solely based on what they believe is accurate, but it is not. Most people believe that listing endless information on a resume translates into the perception of a lot of experience and a more qualified candidate. This assumption is beyond false. The physical length of a resume and showing endless jobs and job responsibilities does nothing in the mind of the reviewer to think that someone is more experienced. Mostly, it just irritates them. This especially goes for all IT, biotech, and education people who are notorious for having ridiculously long resumes. We also can't fail to mention the executive level candidates out there who believes this is the way to go as well.
If you have ever followed politics, you understand the concept of spin, making something appear a certain way that it's not by packaging information in a way to influence people. Politicians would probably make great resume writers, but they are too busy spending recklessly and ruining the greatest job search tool in the history of man, Capitalism. Putting a positive spin on your resume often means not putting every job you have ever had, even some of the jobs that do not go beyond 10-15 years standard. You must know what to keep and what to discard.
What employers mostly think when they see endless pages of information and piles of jobs that are often irrelevant, short-term, contract, self-employment, overlapping, etc. is what is this person's problem. More is not more on a resume. Let that sink in. More is not going to get you sold or impress anyone, and this also includes not putting every job title you ever had while working at a particular employer. Including the kitchen sink on a resume also often translates into the perception of one of those annoying people who talks too much, especially about themselves. If this is the first time you have heard it, jobs going back 15-40 years or six jobs showing in the last eight years is a colossal mistake, if for no other reason than the job market likes fresh and some semblance of employment stability. Recent and relevant sells, not old and outdated. There are creative ways to package / spin your resume to overcome all of these obstacles in the minds of the people doing the hiring.
The deal is that a person reviewing your resume is going to go through an exact process when they open your resume. Recruiters, HR, and hiring managers develop this system because it logically helps them to be more efficient and get what they need so they can move on to other tasks they enjoy more. When you send a resume that is out of focused and three, four, or five pages long the first thing they think is, here we go again. This is not how you want to start a relationship. Rest assured that NOBODY is reading all of this information. Nobody, ever. What you have done by sending a document like this is that you have watered down nearly all of the critical points that you want to get across and that easily need to be found. Targeted, relevant, and focused content has an impact, not pages of useless blather. An intelligent resume writer will help you decide what should stay and what should go.
Sorry, but when resumes start to become too long it is often a psychological issue with the person on the other end, not much different than hoarding / OCD. Not always, but often. People just cannot let go of the past or possessions. They will fight and rationalize until they are blue in the face why some obscure experience 20 years ago could be the difference between getting an interview or not. It is like saving a nasty old cooler in your garage because you think some day someone might want it, pay for it at a garage sale, or that you might actually use it. Get rid of it. Move on. It is making the rest of your garage a mess, just like this kind of thing does to a resume. Consider this too, when you take a resume to an interview to hand out, often to many people, do you think a 3, 4, or 5 page resume is a good idea? It is a horrible idea. It will be in the garbage by the time you turn your back to leave.
The bottom line is that you need someone to tell you what to keep and
put on your resume and how to package it. Don't be in denial about this.
This is too important of a topic to be stubborn. Regardless of the job
you do, you want a very sharp, crisp, succinct, and professional
presentation to show prospective employers. Employers are making
decisions and assumptions about you when you cannot say it in two pages
or less. They like a nice clean easy to follow story and they are not
interested or impressed with a lot of information that is not relevant to
the job they have open.
You only want to put your absolute best information in front of them. You have heard it many times before that you have very little time to grab attention, sell your case, and get an interview. Do you ever see advertising literature or a marketing brochure that is multiple pages long? Of course, never. Whatever you do, do not ever go beyond two pages on a resume. There would also be no circumstance that we have encountered where an entry level job seeker should go beyond a one page resume. If you send a two page resume to an employer as an entry level job seeker it will not be well received and likely deleted.
Reprinted by Permission: Professional Recruiter Org