Recruiters Answer: How Long Should My Resume Be?

Lawyers often ask how long their legal resumes should be. Many attorneys insist resumes can only be one page; others equally insist a lawyer's resume cannot be longer than two pages. My answer – based on years working with general counsel, legal search consultants, and others on the legal hiring-side – remains simple: your resume needs to be as long as it needs to be to tell your story to your audience. For most law students and junior lawyers, that means a one-page resume. For most lawyers, that means a two-page or three-page resume. For general counsel and C-suite lawyers, that might mean a six-page CV with addenda.

Why such variability? It's not just a matter of years of experience. As you ascend the hierarchy, you're more and more in positions of trust. And the risk averse hiring-side wants to know as much about you as possible before they bring you in. They don't want surprises; they want your entire work history -- all 20 or 30 years of it. (Of course, they still hope you'll be able to do in a few pages so if your resume is longer than two pages, make sure the content justifies the length.)

Once again, my answer has been (happily) backed up by surveys of recruiters. Global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas conducted a nationwide survey of some 150 recruiters. Among the findings were two-thirds of recruiters surveyed (not just legal recruiters) wanted "to see a candidate’s entire professional experience. This belies the common misperception that employers are only interested in your most recent work experience."

Another interesting finding: 75% of recruiters surveyed want a link to your LinkedIn profile on your resume, so be sure that profile is top-notch before you invite prospective employers to take a look at it.