RESUME FOOD FOR THOUGHT SERIES
UPDATED ON 12/15/2021
Length is one of the most emphasized component of resume writing. We stress about it when it is the least of our worries.
In the first part of this debate series, I discuss the legitimacy of using actual titles given by employers versus accurate titles that match our accomplishments.
In the second part, I provided my opinion about the amount of experience to include.
In this third part, I will deliberate on the one element that has been hammered into our minds by majority of career coaches. Length.
The number of pages should be simple. One page is one page, right?
However, as you will come to realize, this rule is more complex than you think.
One Page vs. Over One Page
Ever since I can remember, my predecessors — and now colleagues — adamantly state that a resume should be no longer than one page…no matter how many years of experience I had.
This advice means well.
A resume is a marketing document, not an autobiography. It needs to be an easy, quick read.
It should not overwhelm readers with a massive amount of words or underwhelm them with enormous white space.
It also needs to cut out the fluff with concise writing, keeping only relevant information about our professional history and spirit.
Yet, there’s a but.
What if we already do all that and still go over one page?
Sure, we can adjust the font and margins…until the words look like ants spilling off the paper.
Confining to one page is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and it took me a couple of missteps to get the hint.
During business school, career advisors strongly instructed students to obey the one-page rule, so I stuck to it.
I submitted my one-page resume to tens of job applications and received a handful of requests for interviews.
I rehearsed my stories, practiced my handshake, and assembled my professional outfits to provide the best first impression I could.
I was prepared.
Then came the days to be interviewed.
In hindsight, I would say these early interviews went well.
However, two of these recruiters recommended something that went against previous advice.
They told me I needed a two-page resume. Given that I already had six years of experience in the aerospace industry prior to business school, a one-page resume, in their words, “did not do [me] justice”.
I immediately redesigned my one-pager to a two-pager…
…which increased the number of interview requests for me.
So it goes without saying that this one-page advice needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
My current resume stretches 2.5 pages because of unique circumstances in my history. Nonetheless, this resume still gets me calls for interviews.
In the end, the one-page rule, I believe, was created to urge us to be aware of how long our resumes are. Each person loves talking about him or herself after all.
But who has time to listen to us talk about ourselves for that long?
If you have less than five years of professional experience in your pocket, keep it at one page unless you have accomplished plenty of relevant projects, internships, voluntary work, or positions. Like anything else, be your own judge.
Once you have passed the five-year mark, you have every right to go two pages. If the beginning of your resume manages to hook readers, they will want to read the rest of your resume despite the length.
This does not mean a resume can freely be over two pages. Once you go over two, be super mindful and critical about what you include. If you get to a point where you feel like you cannot shorten it anymore because every word deserves its space on the page, then that’s your resume. That’s why mine is 2.5 pages.
That said, never go over three pages. You would already be pushing it by going over two.
Of course, if it is a federal resume or an academic CV, then write to your heart’s content up to six pages. The standards for those are different as many of you know.
Less Is More…Kind of
The statement “Less is more” holds true here.
The advisors and coaches who assert to a one-page resume are not wrong. For me, however, there is room for flexibility.
Start with one page and ask yourself whether it is showing your best self. If you feel it is holding you back, go two.
Just make sure you do not write so little that it actually dumbs you down and so much that you put the readers to sleep.
Feel and sound important. You are worth the real estate on the pages.
One item that works against length but that may be valuable to have is pending credentials. Let’s debate on that next.