The Career Coach: Resume Length

April 12, 2012 |


Navy veteran and career counselor Tom Wolfe answers your civilian career questions every week. Email your questions to Tom at


I am getting out of the Army in 9 months and am making a stab at a resume—the first time I have ever needed one. I get conflicting advice on length—one page? Two? Three? One will be tough because I have 10 years TIS (5 enlisted + 5 commissioned). Any advice?

Jennifer G., Captain


Resume length is a tricky subject. Ask 10 experts and get 10 different answers. Here is number 11. You get one page for every year since high school or college graduation, but never more than 2 total. If you are on the third page you are guilty of gross TMI (too much information). So I guess that means 2 pages for you. That might sound hard to do but if you keep a few things in mind it is not that difficult:

  1. A resume cannot, and is not supposed to, cover everything. It needs to be written so that it does a good job of targeting the job you are trying to get.
  2. The resume should “tease” the reader, making him or her want to know more, and that leads to an interview.
  3. Spend most of you ink on HOW WELL you do what you do rather than simply spelling out WHAT you do. Past accomplishment indicates potential for future success.
  4. Consider consolidation of similar assignments into a single section, even if you have to bend the chronology a little to do so.
  5. Edit thoroughly for unnecessary words; many people go overboard with the adjectives and adverbs; also, you can dump the personal pronouns in most cases.
  6. Look for additional ways to get ink off the page.
  7. Use bullets to single out accomplishments, achievements, recognition, awards, improvements (back to the HOW WELL vs. WHAT rule).
  8. Consider writing a “resume supplement” or “addendum” if you need to amplify something, but leave the basic resume alone.
  9. Don’t waste space with phrases like “references available upon request” or “willing to travel and relocate.”
  10. Don’t put references on the resume—they are important but that is a separate document.

If you struggle with this, then it might be worthwhile to seek out the services of a resume writer or career coach who can assist. Just make sure you pick one who is a specialist in military-to-civilian transition.

Thank you for your service and good hunting!

Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe is an author, columnist, career coach, veteran, and an expert in the field of military-to-civilian career transition. During his career he assisted thousands of service members in their searches for employment, placing more than 3000 in their new jobs. Prior to civilian life, he graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy and served as a surface warfare officer. He teaches transition courses, gives seminars on career and job change, writes about the career transition process, and continues to counsel current and former military personnel. His book, OUT OF UNIFORM: Your Guide to a Successful Military-to-Civilian Career Transition, was published by Potomac Books in 2011.

About Ho Lin

Ho Lin is an editor at His interests include naval history, the New York football Giants, and loud rock music.