What’s the real truth?
One myth that still persists in the job search world is that the résumé should be only one page.
Many jobseekers are misled that recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals refuse to read a résumé that’s longer than one page. While some people might observe this rule, in my professional experience they are the minority.
There are many instances when a multi-page résumé is not only appropriate, it’s expected. There are certain industries (like academia for example) that will reject you unless you send at least three or four pages.
While the majority of career professionals would love to scan a résumé that’s only one page, we realize that it’s virtually impossible to deliver an effective career story in a short amount of space, especially if you have a few years of solid experience.
Let’s face it, you can’t cram much of anything into a single page.
How the résumé screening process works
Whoever thinks that an HR professional won’t read a two or three-page résumé should consider the résumé screening process.
HR or a recruiter has been asked to present a handful of people (with more than 5 years’ experience) to bring in for an interview.
The first step is for the reader to quickly scan a pile of résumés to drill down to a dozen that appear to be a match. These go on a pile to be reviewed more thoroughly.
The second step is to take more time reading each résumé from the short list pile and compare résumé against résumé to drill down even further to the closest matches. At this point, they’re making a thorough review of each document. The résumés that have the most matches to the job requirements and key accountabilities (duties and responsibilities) will be selected.
At the end of this screening process, they are left with maybe 5 or 6 candidates who they will reach out to.
Why your one-page résumé won’t get you the interview
If you condense your 5 to 10 years’ worth of experience to fit some artificial one-page limitation, how is that HR person going to make an informed decision about you, based on a few paragraphs? They can’t, so they select other candidates that do.
Given a choice between a well-written three-page accomplishment-based résumé or a cluttered one-page résumé which omits notable contributions to save space, the HR person or recruiter is likely to go with the longer résumé.
Content is key
If you submit a multi-page résumé and the person reading it decides you’re not a match for the job, they will stop reading.
But if your résumé immediately grabs their attention and makes you stand out as a fit with the job requirements, that reader will want to know more about you and will continue reading.
A one-page résumé simply doesn’t have the space to deliver enough compelling content for the reader to “continue reading”.
So you see, it’s not the length that’s the main selection criteria – it’s the CONTENT.
How the myth started
The one-page myth probably came from the fact that most recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals spend only a few seconds skimming a résumé during the initial screening.
As I’ve already mentioned earlier, the objective of the first “pass” is only to immediately determine if the candidate is a match for the position. If that’s a “yes”, the résumé will be put in the short list pile and then scrutinized more thoroughly during the second review.
How to hook the reader
This is why you need a résumé that grabs the reader’s attention right out of the gate. The way to do that is to ensure that the top third of the document (where the profile is) clearly expresses your value proposition.
Once you “hook” the reader, the remaining two-thirds of the first page needs to contain more important information that the reader is looking for.
I can’t emphasize this enough – it’s less about résumé length and more about creating a compelling first page, with the top 1/3 being the sweet spot.
That being said, anything over 3 or 4 pages is really pushing it and you’d have to have a great reason why you need to go that long otherwise the reader might never open it up to take a look.
The truth revealed
The general consensus among career professionals, is that a résumé needs to be as long as it needs to be to tell the reader exactly what they need to know – but not any longer than that.
Put another way, the résumé should have the least amount of pages possible without cutting out important content that will compel the reader to call you in for an interview.
In most cases, the least amount of pages needed is more than one page. I typically create résumés that are two to three pages and both perform equally as well in attracting interviews.
A few pointers about résumé length
Don’t bury key information on the second and subsequent pages. If the first page doesn’t hook the reader, they aren’t going to read further.
Don’t be afraid to go beyond two pages if your experience warrants it. Senior people often require three or four-page résumés, as do computer programmers and many professionals (physicians, lawyers, professors).
Students and recent grads might be able to get away with a one-page résumé but I still find them ineffective. A single page to me just screams “no experience”. Even if you lack experience, there are ways to beef up the résumé to make it more impactful.
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Hi! I’m Diana.
I draw from over 15 years recruitment, career/job search coaching, and sales/marketing experience to help all kinds of jobseekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired for their dream job.
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