When a recruiter picks up your resume, you want it to make a good first impression…that “good at a glance” factor that prevents the recruiter from tossing it away before even reading the first sentence or two (and yes, this does happen). Elements such as format, dates, pages, margins, and fonts are some key first impression factors. While we still need to focus on content, keywords, and other substantial elements of the resume, we need to spend some time considering the “look and feel” of your resume. So, here’s the first in a series I’ll call “Resumes at a Glance”.
There is probably no element of the resume that has a stronger impact and can generate more vocal criticism than the number of pages of your resume. Among resume professionals, I find there are the 1-Page Zealots, the 2-Page Advocates, the 3-Page Radicals, and the As-Many-Pages-As-You-Want Anarchists! And for most of them, any page count other than what they advise is wrong! While you can’t please all the people all the time, you can surely make some moderately safe choices.
First, let’s start with the 1-page resume. This is ideal for the new college graduate, the first time job changer, even someone in mid-career that has had only a moderate change in activities even though they might have been working several jobs. A good rule of thumb for a 1-page resume is for people with only one or two distinct jobs/roles or less than 8-10 years in the industry. If you fall into these general areas, then a 1-pager should be your goal.
Second, there’s the 2-page resume. This is most suited for a majority of today’s job seekers. These are the mid-to-advanced career people with multiple jobs over the last 10-15 years. But this is not an invitation to put a lot of meaningless content in the resume to get it up to 2 pages. I knew of a bank president that had worked at 4 banks over 15 years, but he could still fit just fine on a 1-pager because his tasks and accomplishments across each job were very similar, so they didn’t need to be repeated. Rule of thumb, if you have between 8-15 years of experience or you have had more than 3 distinct jobs/roles, the 2-page resume is probably your best choice.
Third, there’s the multi-page resume. These are usually reserved for professionals or very senior executives that have had a wide variety of experience that can’t be easily condensed or summarized. A well-published professional (such as a college professor, scientist, or a doctor) might have a modest career that fits on 1 or 2 pages, but needs additional pages to list awards, publications, committees, honors or other career highlights. You’ll still probably want to keep your work experience limited to the first two pages and have the last pages be these unique accomplishments.
While these “tried but true” guidelines still work fine for your printed (“Word”) resume, let me mention that you might want to have a longer, more detailed resume available for three uses:
- First is where the interviewer or recruiter asks for more details from you. This might be when recruiters are trying to “sell” you to their clients—they need to know as much information about you as possible, so a longer resume is suitable.
- Second is when you post your resume on the online job boards—the more details in your resume the more likely a recruiter’s search will match your resume. But still have the “normal” 1 or 2 page resume handy for when they want to “present” you to their hiring managers.
- Third is if you are applying for a Federal position. Jobs posted on USAJOBS.GOV often require clear evidence that you have met the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs). The old style KSA resume has been mostly eliminated, but the need for a KSA-driven resume exists and without the text to support your answers to the job posting questions, it’s doubtful a 1 or 2 page resume can work here.
Bottom Line: When formatting your “printed” resume, if you are an early or single career person, use 1 page; for multi-job and mid-career people, go for 2 pages; online resumes can be longer, as can resumes for professionals with multiple publications or other notable accomplishments.
(Last updated 9/26/2014)
. . . .
For a full list of my Job Hunter articles, see Index