Dispelling the One-Page Resume Myth
Do You Believe the One-Page Resume Myth?
I’ve been thinking about the one-page resume myth a lot lately, since it’s college, law school, and business school admissions season. Business school admissions clients have approached me asking if they need to have a one-page resume. My answer is always, “Read the instructions. Read the fine print.”
Some business schools do request a one-page resume as part of their application. If they do, you must deliver. I took one client’s one-and-a-half-page resume and shrank it to one page so he could use it for his business school applications. The formatting tricks I employed did not include shrinking the font size or obliterating any white space on the resume.
In general, however, there is no rule that a resume should be only one page. There are many instances when a two- or even three-page resume is not only appropriate, it’s expected. Yet the one-page resume myth persists. Job seekers are being misled that recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals won’t read a resume that is longer than one page. That’s simply not true.
You Need a Longer Resume!
It IS true that a recruiter or hiring manager will read your resume for just seconds when it is first screened. But this first review is only to determine if you are a match for the position. If you are considered a serious candidate, your resume will be read again.
If you believe an HR professional won’t read a two-page resume, consider the resume screening process. The screener’s boss is asking him or her to come up with a handful of people to interview. If you try to condense 5-10 years of experience to fit an artificial one-page limit, your resume will not include sufficient information for the HR person to make an informed decision.
Given a choice between a well-written two-page resume or a crammed one-page resume which omits notable accomplishments, the HR professional is likely to choose the longer one.
If you submit a two-page resume, the worst that can happen is that the reader decides you’re not a match for the job. But if you do seem to fit the job requirements, that person will want to know even more about you. A well-organized two-page resume can actually make it easier for the screener to determine if you’re a good match for the position.
Variations on the One-Page Resume Myth
There is a specific myth circulating that if you apply for a job at Google, you need a one-page resume. This myth has been debunked by people with hiring power at Google itself, including Laszlo Bock, Senior VP, who believes that you need one page for every ten years of work experience. And since many applicants to Google are fairly new graduates or even students applying for internships, the 1-page guideline often applies.
Some recruiters are vocal about their desire for a one-page resume. The great thing about recruiters, though, is that they’ll tell you what you want and you can always create a one-page resume from a longer one. Keep in mind, however, that recruiters are responsible for less than 25% of job placements, and not all recruiters even subscribe to the one-page limit.
College Students and One-Page Resumes
College professors also share some of the blame for perpetuating the one-page resume myth. Some professors — who have no connection to the employment world — believe “their way” is the right way to do things. They provide a template to their students and require advisees to use that format, even if the person is a non-traditional student who has an extensive work history or career path that sets them apart from other job candidates with similar educational backgrounds.
While it is unusual for most 21-year-olds to need a two-page resume, some accomplished graduates have enough experience to warrant exceeding one page. When I worked with a Cornell student who was applying for jobs in finance, I quickly discovered that she had more information than I wanted to squeeze onto on one page. We gave her a 2-page resume, and she got a sought-after position at Burger King. She is now a Retail Channels Senior Analyst at UPS – and she got there with a 2-page resume.
Resumes submitted online are less likely to be affected by the one-page resume myth. Resumes uploaded to company websites aren’t affected by page limits. And since approximately 30 percent of resumes are only stored electronically, the screener never even knows it’s more than one page.
The Long and the Short of Resume Length
Length does matter. Your resume should be exactly as long as necessary to communicate what the reader needs to know … and not one word more. When hiring managers and HR professionals are surveyed about resume length, the majority express a preference for resumes that are one OR two pages. The general consensus is “as long as needed to convey the applicant’s qualifications.”
Here are some guidelines for deciding resume length:
- If your resume spills over onto a second page for only a few lines, it’s worth editing. Try shortening your bullets, or adjust the font, margins, and/or line spacing to fit it onto one page.
- Don’t bury key information on the second page. If the first page doesn’t hook the reader, he or she isn’t even going to make it to the second page.
- Don’t be afraid to go beyond two pages if your experience warrants it. Senior executives often require three- or four-page resumes. So do many physicians, lawyers, and professors who might be using a “CV” in lieu of a resume.
- Traditional college students and those with five years or less of experience can often fit their resumes onto one page. Most others can (and should) use one page OR two, unless specifically instructed by a school or company.
- Make sure that everything you include — regardless of length — is relevant to your job target! Don’t make your resume unnecessarily long with less relevant material.
Are you looking for help to create a one-page, two-page, or even three-page resume? Need some input on how long your resume should be? The Essay Expert offers hourly and full-service resume services, or get started with a 15-minute live resume review.
A version of this article appears in Executive Secretary Magazine, a global training publication and must read for any administrative professional. You can get a 30% discount on an individual subscription when you subscribe through us. Email subscriptions@