Space: the final frontier…of your resume

You’ve carefully outlined your responsibilities as obviously as possible in a clean, easy on the eyes format. You’ve spent hours carefully quantifying the results of your years of hard work on a position-by-position basis, highlighting one carefully worded, attention-getting achievement after another. Every single letter on your resume is perfectly in place; it is a marvel of precision phraseology worthy of a Pulitzer (or a Polk, if you’re Bill O’Reilly).

And it’s a quarter page or more too long.

Now this isn’t to say that a resume of more than one page is a bad thing – two or even three pages, fully occupied by text, well, that’s just fine. One and one-third pages or two and one-quarter pages just doesn’t feel right in the exact same way that a vestigial tail or any conjoined twin doesn’t (though your resume will less likely wind up a feature on Japanese news or give you a starring role in Basket Case Two).

In today’s market though, a great many job seekers have been employed by companies involved in one or more mergers. This can artificially pad a resume by creating multiple positions over what should have been one contiguous term of employment with no resignations. In a case like this, it’s generally accepted practice to lump together multiple pre merger names under one heading.

If you’re really pressed for space, you can even take the collapsing a step further and combine older but largely similar positions at different/non-merged/unrelated organizations under a single group (for example, 1 line with “ABC Corp 1997-1998” and the next with “XYZ Corp 1996-1997” above a single title “Account Executive” with 1 set of responsibilities). These prior positions aren’t as relevant to what you’re doing now and this is generally considered an acceptable means of space-saving among the high-volume resume reading community – as long as the proper dates are listed on company-by-company basis.

However, there are a number of more pragmatic approaches using MS Word that may be helpful in reducing the size with zero or nominal content editing (ensuring your message gets across unabridged), as follows:

  1. Use “Shrink to Fit” to reduce by 1 page: if you’ve got a stray paragraph or couple of lines that don’t make it onto the last page, go to “Print Preview” from the “File” menu and then select “Shrink to Fit”, which will make automatic adjustments throughout your document to reduce the output by 1 page exactly. This works very well with plain text, but won’t affect embedded tables or text boxes as well (or sometimes, at all).


  1. Eliminate or reduce white space between paragraphs and in individual lines: consider putting title or location on a line that only has company and date on opposite sides of the page. Alternately, you can reduce the break in between paragraphs to 1.5 lines instead of 2 full lines, producing an extra line of text per 2 paragraphs. In the case of my own (now unused) resume, this would produce upwards of 5 lines per page. Education can be reduced to a single line, or two, in a pinch.


  1. Tweak font size: minimum standard for ease of legibility tends to be 8, although I like 10. However, one can tweak font size by 0.5. Reducing from 10 to 9.5 yields a 5% increase in characters per line, making the same amount of text fit in a smaller space.


  1. Maximize margins: most printers can print with just 0.2 or 0.3 inches of white space on top, left, right and bottom…but the default for MS Word is 1 inch all around. Maximize your margins, go to “Print” and find out what your own printer’s parameters are; Word will automatically correct to minimum standards for your printer. More text per line and more lines per page=fewer pages.


  1. Tweak bullets and numbers: you can reduce the space between a bullet and the following text, producing about five characters per bulleted line. Also, consider not having a bulleted paragraph’s text justified at the left side, but instead having the bullet as a line character with text directly below it – another 3-10 characters per line, depending on bullet settings.


  • Here’s an example of what a bullet looks like after tweaking the after-bullet spacing and paragraph formatting, by comparison to the paragraph numbers appearing before and after this paragraph


  1. Use text boxes: a recent example I read had a large name (68 size font) on the left with the contact info in the same vertical space in a text box on the right (10.5 font). This saves the line that the name would normally go on (1 extra line of text) and also makes my name stand out on the page. Text boxes can be moved independent of other formatting.


  1. Use the thesaurus in Word: sometimes an equal can be made with a shorter word. My own favorite example is “utilize” – there is no use for this where one cannot substitute “use” to equal effect. You may also consider Bullfighter, a Word plugin developed by Deloitte that helps eliminate multisyllabic management jargon (available for free, here).


  1. Be aware of font: if you are using Courier (which looks like an old typwriter), every character takes up the same amount of space. Other fonts (Arial, Garamond, Verdana, Times New Roman) do not share this feature and have variable spacing per letter.  Consider the following 5 character-per-line entries:






  1. Finally, be aware of font face – bold face takes up the most space per character.   Consider underlining plain text to take up less space, or try italics – which may take up the least space of all (depending on your font).



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