Last April, a resume writing company called Novorésumé created Elon Musk’s one-page resume, claiming that this resume proves no one needs a resume longer than one page. The resume spread virally. But does it prove what it claims to prove?
I’m not reproducing the Elon Musk one-page resume here since I don’t want to violate copyright, so I invite you to view it as you read the following comments. You can take a look at this much-viewed resume here.
My take: This one-pager is nice for Elon Musk, the creator of Tesla and one of the biggest names in entrepreneurial history. I mean, Elon Musk could put his name sloppily on a page and get hired. Who cares what his resume says? But most people need more than one page to display their accomplishments.
I assert that while there are some good things about this resume, there are more problems than attributes. And there are a lot of lessons you can take from Elon Musk’s one-page resume on what NOT to do. Here’s my critique:
- Elon’s Summary only works if you already know who he is. Otherwise you’d think the guy is idealistic at best, crazy at worst. Here’s how it reads: “Aiming to reduce global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption, and reducing the “risk of human extinction” by “making life multi-planetary” and setting up a human colony on Mars.
- Brilliant? Or delusional? What about stating Elon’s actual accomplishments, like starting up multi-billion-dollar companies, setting the standard in electric cars, and disrupting more technologies than anyone else on the planet? That’s what I want to hear about.
- The Work Experience descriptions only make an impact if you already know who Elon Musk is and what his companies do. For example, “Currently oversee the company’s product strategy – including the design, engineering and manufacturing of more and more affordable electric vehicles for mainstream consumers.” That’s fine, but really it’s a job description, not an accomplishment. It doesn’t tell us what dollar value he generated for the company in this position.
- If someone without Elon Musk’s name recognition wanted to get hired, they would need to list a lot more specific accomplishments on their resume. The broad descriptions on Elon Musk’s one-page resume would not cut it.
- The award listed in Tesla is ancient. There’s an impressive line in the Tesla section about receiving the Global Green 2006 product design award… but that was ten years ago! You’d almost think the guy hasn’t accomplished anything since then.
- There are “orphans” in the paragraphs. “Orphans” are one-word lines on the last line of a paragraph. They make the resume look elementary and sloppy.
- Lines that should be bullets are not bulleted and are instead stacked on top of each other with no space in between, making them difficult to read. This space-saving tactic is not recommended. Writing actual bullets takes up more space, sure, but it’s worth it for readability.
- There are no dollar numbers in the resume anywhere. Lines like “…conducted a successful viral marketing campaign, which led to a rapid increase in the number of customers” lack concrete information on what that increase was.
- The absence of quantifiable achievements might be okay for Elon Musk, but not for you (unless the numbers are confidential). Writing a true list of accomplishments, I can’t state enough times, is a lot more important than keeping your resume to one page.
- Elon’s Skills & Competencies section is not consistent. Items in the list on “Skills & Competencies” include “Thinking through principles first,” “Goal oriented,” and “Time Management.” The first is a participial phrase, the second is an adjective, and the third is a noun. This kind of inconsistency scrambles a reader’s brain.
- The Skills & Competencies section, formatted in graphic style, will not be understood by a computer or ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) system. If you read my article about ATS-Compatible resumes last week, you know that a chart or graph will not cut it if you are applying to jobs on line. If Elon wants to have this information parsed, he needs to write regular sentences or phrases about these skills.
- Furthermore, if you want your skills to matter, you need to do more than put them in a list of skills. You must put your skills in the Work Experience section, under positions with dates of employment, to have the years of the skills counted toward your qualifications.
- Integrating your skills into your Experience section might take up more space, and it’s worth it.
- The whole resume needs to be reformatted for ATS systems. See my article on ATS-Compatible Resumes. Once reformatted, you guessed it: It will be longer.
- Elon’s alma matter is listed as “Penn’s College of Arts and Sciences.” How are we to know if this is the University of Pennsylvania or Penn State without looking it up on line? It’s not worth getting sloppy for the sake of saving space. I recommend always writing out the full name of your educational institutions.
There are some people who should have a one-page resume. If you’re applying for Board positions, for instance, a document like Elon Musk’s one-page resume can be effective. Boards don’t care as much about your numbers, and prefer to see a bigger picture of your skills and scope of leadership.
A one-page resume is also appropriate for many new graduates and people who have just a few years of experience. If you’re applying to Google, the rule of thumb is one page per 10 years of experience. But I’ve seen new graduates get very desirable jobs using a two-page resume if they have the experience to justify a longer document.
Overall, it’s more important to state your accomplishments clearly and specifically, format your resume wisely, write out anything you’ve represented in a chart or graph, and include your keywords in your Experience section, than to attempt to cram all your experience onto one page.
How long is your resume? What’s your experience with a one-page or two-page resume? And what do you think of Elon Musk’s one-page resume? Please share your comments!