We've long been told to keep the resume to one page. But now that the job hunt has turned digital, job seekers are left wondering: Does that rule-of-thumb still stand?
While the answer depends largely on who you ask, many career coaches, recruiters, and hiring managers agree on something that comes as a shocker to job seekers who have edited, tweaked, and downsized fonts to abide by what was once regarded as a universal rule. If you need more than one page to showcase your fit for a position, they say, you should go for a second one.
"If you have enough experience and credentials to really highlight on two pages, don't short-change yourself," says Vicki Salemi, a recruiter and author of Big Career in the Big City: Land a Job and Get a Life in New York. "It's not the end of the world if you do need to go onto two pages."
Not only is the longer-than-a-page resume not the end of the world, but many recruiters and job-search advisors actually encourage job seekers to continue selling themselves after the page break. Paul Anderson , a Seattle-based career coach, says one-page resumes simply don't have enough content. "I completely advise against [the one-page resume] unless it's a college graduate or someone who's brand-new to the marketplace," he says.
This newfound affinity for page two is largely due to the job market's digital transition. Reading onto a second page now means scrolling down on a computer screen rather than actually turning a piece of paper. And job seekers have more than the human reader to consider; resumes are now at the mercy of computerized applicant-tracking systems. Those databases search not only for keywords, but for frequency of keywords, Anderson says, which means a resume that mentions coveted job responsibilities or skills four times is likely to outrank ones that includes that same keyword only once or twice. And to include keywords repeatedly, you need space—at least two pages, possibly three, he says.
It's not a system that rewards brevity, much to the chagrin of the human hiring managers who are next in line to read applications. That's why bosses like Jerry Hauser, who helps nonprofit leaders with hiring practices as CEO of The Management Center, still appreciate a well-written one-pager. "Partly what I want to know is that you can convey information concisely," Hauser says. "I don't need to know every last detail about each job. Often, the more detail there is, the less real information, because you're not pulling out the most important things you accomplished, which is what I'm really interested in."
That's the same approach advised by Fran D'Ooge, president of Washington, D.C.-based recruiting firm Tangent. Although she says it's now "the norm" for applicants to exceed one page, "the thrust of the one-page rule is still important, which is, keep it as short as humanly possible."
For job seekers in certain industries, however, as short as humanly possible means two or even three pages. That's because academics, as well as specialists in some scientific, technological, and healthcare fields, are expected to include published works, knowledge of various programming languages, or other esoteric skills. For those applicants, condensing to one page signifies lack of experience, which could land their resume in the digital trash.
With all of this conflicting advice, how are job seekers supposed to figure out how long their resume should be? Though other experts will no doubt beg to differ, Susan Ireland, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Resume, suggests this neither-hard-nor-fast guideline: Aim for one page if you have less than five years of work experience, and if you have more, consider two pages (so long as you don't work in the industries listed above).
Yet even Ireland, who recognizes that two-page resumes are now widely accepted, recommends keeping it to one page if possible. "It's out of consideration for your reader," says Ireland, who has worked in the career industry since 1989. (Her resume is still one page.) "Take as much work off the reader's shoulders as possible, but still give yourself all the credit that you deserve."