The Military Job Hunter’s No. 1 Question: How long should a resume be?


The Military Job Hunter’s No. 1 Question: How long should a resume be?
by Randall Scasny

Without a doubt the most popular question I get by military job hunters who seek employment assistance concerns the length of a resume: How Long Should A Resume Be?

The question is both appropriate and understandable. It’s appropriate because job hunters who ask the length question just don’t know what information of their military service record civilian employers need to know. They are wise to ask.

And the length question is understandable because there is no consistency in answering the question by employers, executive recruiters, employment agencies, or other (public or private) employment experts who write on the topic.

So, let me give both the short and long answer about resume length…


The Short Answer: A resume’s length is variable, depending upon the type of job you are applying to as well as how many people are competing for the same job. Typically, a young veteran’s resume is 1 to 2 pages; a mature veteran’s resume (retiree) is 3 to 5 pages.

Now, for the long answer.

Why Resume Lengths Vary

Why do experts offer such varying advice on the length of a resume? Well, there are two reasons: (1) the information sources of the experts have a difference of opinion and (2) changes in technology have affected the nature of the job search game.

Before writing this article, I went down to my local bookstore and browsed through about 30 books by resume and employment experts. Most of them claimed a resume should be 1-page long; about one third said it should be no more than 2 pages; and a few said a resume could be more than 2 pages in certain situations.

But when you read about the authors of these books, you see that they are typically executive recruiters whose businesses are focused solely on getting jobs for an executive, professional audience. None of these headhunters work with the regular $45,000 working Joe. Why? Executives are the typical customers of headhunters because they generate large commissions for the headhunters when they get hired.

Yet, the job hunting techniques of executives are quite different from everyone else. This professional customer typically finds employment through personal networks (including friends) or headhunters to get jobs, not online job boards or classified ads run in newspapers, like the regular guy.

If your friend or personal contact is helping you find work, you do not need a long resume. A one page resume will suffice. But the game is quite different if you are competing via the job boards and there are perhaps 100 other people applying for the same job.

If you work with military job hunters through the entire life cycle of their job hunts like I do (sometimes daily for 2 months) you realize that resumes must be very detailed and contain a thorough catalog of job skills and qualifications to get noticed by an employer. And this requires more than a 1-page resume.

The Internet Has Increased The Length of Resumes

The Internet has exploded the popularity of online recruitment. Employers, executive recruiters, headhunters, employment agencies and independent job-listing website operators are using the Internet to source job candidates that otherwise would have been hidden from the view of employers.

Hence, the Internet has built resume data banks that index millions of resumes and employers search through them based upon discrete terms or phrases, commonly called “search keywords.” Because of the resume data banks, employers have many more potential candidates to consider, making online recruitment the most competitive way to find a job, in my opinion.

When I first began working with military job hunters, I applied the traditional wisdom about the length of resumes, 1-2 pages. However, I learned very quickly that these short resumes rarely got qualified and educated senior-enlisted, military veterans inquiries from employers.

What changed my mind was corresponding with a job hunter. He previously had a 2-page resume. And this is what he said about it:

“I used to have a two page resume….wasn’t getting me anywhere….some recruiters and others told me it needed to have more information….more specifics. The resume you reviewed (5 pages) has gotten me some calls and interviews….which is better than the zero I got with the two pager.”

Resume Length Is A Function Of Its Depth

The best way to answer the length question is to ask another: What is the purpose of a resume?

On the surface, a resume is a document that describes a job candidate’s qualifications for a job. And most military veterans abide by this definition; they think of their resume as a summary of their military Service Record.

The problem with this definition is that it is not totally correct. Yes, the resume describes job skills. But its function is to persuade an employer to call you for an interview. Hence, it is a sales or marketing tool for you.

Your resume needs to both detail your job skills but also provide a convincing portrait of your employment value in the form of not only what you can do but what results you can offer an employer. This cannot be done with a 1-page resume.

What follows is a 48-hour response from a recruiter to a military job hunter I have been working with:

“Your profile is interesting, and definitely could work. Have a good weekend, and let’s talk next week.”

The job hunter was not a perfect fit for the job the recruiter was trying to fill. But since the job hunter described his employment value very well, the recruiter was persuaded to call the job hunter. How long was his resume? 5 pages. Why was it 5 pages? Well, it was “deep” in career information content. Its length was really a function of its depth.

Don’t get bogged down in length issues! Rather, look at the job ad you want to apply for. Ask yourself if you have at least 75 percent of the requirements. If you do, then write a detailed resume about your experiences. Write it in such a way that anyone reading your resume would believe you are a complete candidate for that job.

Good Luck!

For More Assistance
Hunting for a job with little success? Don’t think your resume is getting you results? can help! Click here to learn more.

About The Author
Presently, Mr. Scasny is the Director of Previously, he was industry news reporter and business journalist. Mr. Scasny was a First Class Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy when he was honorably discharged in 1987. During that period of time, he was a Technical Instructor at the Advanced Electronics “C” School of the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, a Work Center Supervisor aboard the U.S.S. Manitowoc (LST 1180) and U.S.S. Inflict (MSO-456) and a Repair Technician on the U.S.S. Yosemite (AD-19).


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