how long can your resume be?

by Ask a Manager on April 11, 2012

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An awful lot of people have internalized the old rule that your resume can only be one page, but it no longer holds true. Times have changed!  Two-page resumes are common now, so if you’re been agonizing over how to stick to one page, agonize no longer.

There is one big exception to this, though, and that’s if you only have a few years of experience. If that’s you, stick to one page.  It looks a little silly to see someone two years out of school with a two-page resume; it’s rarely needed, and you’ll generally come across as a little self-important or unable to edit. There are exceptions to every rule, of course — but in my experience, everyone thinks they’re the exception on this, when only a small minority of people really are. So be brutal about sticking to one if your experience is limited.

I also see a lot of three-page resumes, but I’ve yet to be convinced that anyone is in a situation where they need a third page. (Obviously, if you’re under 30, don’t even think about this. Hell, if you’re under 40, don’t even think about this.) I’m not going to reject someone because they use three pages, but I’m also not sure I’ve ever seen anyone I wanted to hire who used a third page. I suspect there’s a correlation between hireability and the ability to concisely distill your accomplishments down to what matters.

If you’re trying to figure out how to get rid of your third page — or if you’re 23 and trying to figure out how to get rid of your second page — here are some things to take out:
* an objective (toxic!)
* that loooonnnng listing of skills (Pare it down to the essentials. And no, Word and Internet Explorer don’t belong there.)
* lengthy descriptions of stuff you did 20 years ago; your more recent accomplishments trump these anyway

Now, these rules aren’t automatic deal-breakers. If anyone is rejecting candidates because of a resume that’s a page longer than they’d prefer, that person probably isn’t very good at hiring. But length does play into the overall perception of you as a candidate — can you convey essential knowledge quickly, do you know what is and isn’t essential, etc.?  – and that overall assessment is hugely important.

And there’s another reason length matters: The longer your resume is, the less likely an employer is to see the parts you want them to see. The initial scan of your resume is about 20 seconds — do you want that divided among three pages, or do you want it focused on the most important things you want to convey? Short and concise means that employers are more likely to read the parts you most care about.

So while there aren’t unbreakable rules here, what we do have is a place for you to demonstrate some good judgment. Which is often harder than just following a rule.

* By the way, keep in mind that we’re talking about resumes here — not CVs, which are used in academia and Europe and which are longer.

{ 119 comments }

Anonymous April 11, 2012 at 11:36 am

When talking “pages,” I take that to mean “sides” – duplex or stapled?

Ask a Manager April 11, 2012 at 11:38 am

Yes, sides! You’re probably sending it electronically in most cases, so sides becomes moot, but if you were to print it, this would mean sides. So one two-sided sheet would be two pages.

ChristineH April 11, 2012 at 11:55 am

Oh…my resume is two pages, but I’ve always printed hard copies as two separate pages. Should I be printing just one page, double-sided then?

Jamie April 11, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I know this was for Alison – but I can’t help myself.

NO! PLEASE DON’T!

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, most resumes are emailed or submitted electronically so it’s a moot point…but if you’re dropping it off use two pages and a staple. Make sure you have your contact info on each page in case they get separated.

I cannot tell you how much info is never seen on documents, because someone printed double-sided and the page never got flipped over.

While I’m ranting, I also hate when people print on the back of used sheets to save paper and then don’t indicate which side is relevant. It’s not that hard to draw a giant line through the scratch paper side before you leave something for me on my desk. I know, off topic, but I REALLY hate that.

KayDay April 11, 2012 at 12:12 pm

One (very) small point. ” most resumes are emailed or submitted electronically so it’s a moot point…but if you’re dropping it off use two pages and a staple.” I’ve always felt that it’s generally a good idea to bring a couple of hard copies of your resume to the interview. Maybe this is not true with the more technologically inclined, but in my field a lot of hiring managers like to have a printed copy. So the “printed” look is relevant to most people even if they initially submit the resume on-line.

Anonymouse April 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm

+1

Jamie April 11, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Very true, I do this as well – nice catch.

Anonymous April 11, 2012 at 6:08 pm

but if you’re dropping it off use two pages and a staple

Looks over print dialog box so just the one staple…. angled or straight? ;-)

Ask a Manager April 11, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I agree with Jamie — don’t print it double-sided. I know this goes against everything that’s been ingrained in most of us about saving paper, but for some reason the convention with resume is not to print double-sided. Do put your name in a header or footer on the second page, though, in case the pages get separated.

Charles April 11, 2012 at 1:13 pm

“Do put your name in a header or footer on the second page, though, in case the pages get separated.”

Ditto!

I have a 2-page resume (one page just doesn’t include all that I have done – even when I limit my experience to the last 10 years; I’ve been working for over 35) and still recruiters and hiring managers misplace one of the pages!

So, I make sure that the header on both pages includes contact information AND there is a footer which simply has page X of X.

This won’t keep them from losing one of the pages; but, at least it makes it clear, to intelligent folks anyway, that there is more than just the one page they are looking at.

Of course, there will always be the once-too-often idiot recruiter who refused to forward my resume to the client because I “haven’t done anything since 2006.” Clearly he was missing the first page – and I couldn’t convince him otherwise. Which just goes to prove – nothing will ever be foolproof!

ChristineH April 11, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Whew! Thanks Alison – good to know I’ve been doing it right. I misunderstood your reply to KayDay.

I also like Charles’s idea below about having a footer, indicating “page x of x”.

ChristineH April 11, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Oops – Charles’s reply is above mine…I can never follow the string of these comments. lol.

ChristineH April 11, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Annnd it wasn’t KayDay you’d responded to. Sorry!

Anonymous April 11, 2012 at 10:31 pm

I find this strange. I’m a hiring manager (albeit an environmental-minded one), and I’d be mildly annoyed to receive anything printed single-sided.

Anonymous April 13, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Me too.

There’s no reason not to print double-sided nowadays. Do you really want to work for someone who’s too dumb to flip a page over and look at the back? :-| SMH

Jamie April 11, 2012 at 11:38 am

Have you seen the IT format that’s becoming more popular – where the body is a regular resume format…but there is a sidebar to the right which lists software/applications/technobabble? It’s kind of like loading your resume with metawords for the software scans at the hiring company, without taking up valuable real estate in the body of the resume.

It allows us, for example, to mention specific network admin or dba accomplishments in the bullet points – and then if interested you can see in the sidebar Win Server 2008 R2 or PSQL v10 – etc.

They are gaining popularity and I love the logic behind them, but I haven’t trotted one out yet so I’m curious as to your thoughts on these?

Piper April 11, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I use this format and have been using if for a few years. I’ve received compliments on my resume organization and layout, so I guess it’s working for me.

KayDay April 11, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I’ve never hear of it and thing it is a terrible idea. ;-) #stopsharingmysecret

Jamie April 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Too funny :). And yeah, it’s a horrible idea – forget I mentioned it.

Jamie April 11, 2012 at 12:15 pm

The only place I’ve used it is at my current job – they needed an updated resume from everyone in management on file for external audit – and everyone said it looked cool…but then again it’s an easy audience.

I am really hoping there isn’t some taboo against these things of which I’m unaware, because it is kind of awesome. Knowing it’s working for you is good news.

Mario April 11, 2012 at 7:27 pm

@ Piper

Are you in IT?

Ask a Manager April 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm

I really like that format for IT and similar positions.

Charles April 11, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Do you have a link to a sample online somewhere? It doesn’t have to be yours or anyone specific.

The reason I ask is that I did see something which sounds like this, just not for IT. It looked WAY too busy for me. So, I would love to see you example.

Jamie April 11, 2012 at 1:09 pm

The one I was asking about is just the IT resume template in Word.

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/sample-resume-for-it-professional-TC030003100.aspx

I know there was some discussion here recently where someone advised against templates – but I’ve always used them. Why reinvent the wheel when the you have a perfectly functional wheel right in Word? :)

Jaime April 11, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Thanks for the link, I think it looks great. I’m not a hiring manager, so take it for what it’s worth. ;)

Piper April 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I think this particular template could work, but it needs more white space between the two columns. It’s definitely a tad cluttered.

KayDay April 11, 2012 at 11:45 am

In regards to length, one problem I had when I first graduated was that I had lots of positions, with only a couple of “bullet points” for each. Listing so many different jobs (part time jobs, internships, volunteer work) took up a lot more space than list two or three jobs with lots of accomplishments. I tailored my resume as best I could, but when you are a recent grad, that usually means taking the 1 relevant accomplishment from each job.

Any thoughts on how to fix this problem? Is including the city really necessary, as I was always told to do?

Anonymous April 11, 2012 at 11:58 am

I have the same problem. I got a Master’s 3 years ago and have 4 or 5 very relevant school experiences (internships, teaching assistantships, etc) that take up a lot of real estate despite only putting a couple of lines below each. Help!

ChristineH April 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I had a similar question last week, but I don’t remember which post it was in.

Ask a Manager April 11, 2012 at 12:47 pm

The big question is how much those bullet points are adding to your candidacy. You don’t actually need to include them for internships, volunteer work, etc., if what you really want to convey is just that you held the job.

KayDay, ideally you’d include the location, but you can put it all on the same line:
Title, Company, Location, Dates (or the last three on their own line and title above it)

Sophie April 11, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I had similar situation on my resume a few years back, I worked at a large company while going to school, and held several different temporary positions. They were all similar (clerical-type), so the skills were the same, and also the title was the same within each department. I resolved this by listing the company like a regular job entry (with location and date range for my entire time there), and for the position, I put “various positions for several departments,” and then listed my skills in bullet points. Now that I have more work experience I just completely removed that listing and I start with my overseas internship.

Lexy April 11, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I have a similar situation… I’m only a couple years out of my industry related education but I was an older student so I have work experience before that that is less than perfectly relevant but still says stuff about me as an employee even if it doesn’t speak to my abilities in my current industry.

I also had two internships, a research position, and a leadership position in an industry student group that, while brief, all used different skills and I had different accomplishments.

I haven’t updated my resume since getting my first job out of school (oops) but I know I’m going to have to deal with succinctly summarizing a big variety of work. I don’t think I can justify two pages since I only have two years of industry experiece (4 if you count the work I did in school) but I do have 8 years of professional work history… life is hard yo!

Anonymous April 11, 2012 at 11:59 am

If your resume is more than one page, does it have to completely fill two pages? I am currently updating mine, and without the contact info at the top and educational info at the bottom, it’s running at about 1 1/3 pages, so will probably be around 1 1/2 pages when complete. Will that look funny? It includes about 10 years of experience.

Eric April 11, 2012 at 12:19 pm

As long as there second page ends up being at least half full (after headers and things), I think it looks fine.

Ask a Manager April 11, 2012 at 12:45 pm

I agree. You just don’t want a few lone sentences on the second page — try to fill close to half of that page.

Liz T April 11, 2012 at 7:59 pm

I just did a two-page résumé for the first time, and made the margins a little more generous. (Not larger than the standard one inch–but that looks huge to me because I’m used to tiny tiny margins when I was fitting it all on one page.)

Marketer April 12, 2012 at 5:28 am

I have my resume in two pages, but all the relevant work-info is in page one; page two has volunteer work and other stuff that’s kind-of relevant, education, and contact info. What do you think of this?

Ask a Manager April 12, 2012 at 11:16 am

I’d definitely put your contact info at the top of page 1, because that’s where people look for it. Otherwise, that sounds fine, assuming again that you’re not just a few years out of school!

Marketer April 12, 2012 at 11:22 am

Ah, okay. Thank you!

Corey Feldman April 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Glad you added the bit about the CV. I work with them all the time in the healthcare industry. But Egads people, stop putting you hobbies and children’s names on them.

Jamie April 11, 2012 at 12:26 pm

This. One of my temp jobs a hundred years ago involved a database migration of medical CVS. In spot checking you need to read a lot of them and it always seemed so bizzare.

Does anyone really care if their proctologist enjoys hang gliding and traveling with his teacup poodle? Is that really necessary information?

fposte April 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Now I would like a picture of a proctologist hang gliding with a teacup poodle.

Corey Feldman April 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Oh you would not believe some of the things I have seen on CVs. They are supposed to be long to do publications and fellowships. But I have literally seen some read like a Jdate or Match.com profile.

Liz T April 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I know this comment comes up approximately once per thread, but it’s different in the U.K . :-) I was surprised to find they actually want a line at the bottom about your hobbies and interests.

Roy Lambert April 12, 2012 at 9:44 am

No we don’t. I’ve been both a hiring manager and a recruiter and the only time I’ve been interested in hobbies is when they involve dangerous sports.

I want someone who’ll be at work, not in hospital.

AD April 11, 2012 at 12:59 pm

For intern and entry-level, a resume of more than one page means that I look at the second page first. If there is not something *REALLY AWESOME* on that second page, I assume the person can’t follow directions.

I have seen all sorts of stupid filler for entry-level, and I’m willing to forgive a list of coursework or your intramural team’s achievements. I know that you probably want to fill the page and not leave a ton of blank space. But if you have that type of stuff pushing you to a 2-page resume, now you are wasting my time.

Broke Philosopher April 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Is that really fair? I’m a recent grad, and while I always always stick to one page, there is a LOT of misinformation floating around for us. Especially at our universities. What if a potential candidate was a great fit, but had been taught that a 2-page resume was fine? Unless “submit a one-page resume” was in the job posting, I don’t see how a 2-page one would be not following directions.

It’s ridiculous what young people include on resumes, but we get a lot of conflicting, confusing and often just crappy advice when it comes to the job hunt–maybe find it in yourself to be a little more sympathetic?

AD April 11, 2012 at 10:28 pm

I have a fixed amount of time to evaluate candidates and select those who will move on. Virtually every hiring manager does.

Andrew April 12, 2012 at 10:51 am

You didn’t answer the question: can you maybe find it in yourself to be a little more sympathetic?

We know you’re a hiring manager and that you never ever have one spare second of down time; we know absolutely everybody is clamoring 24/7 for your incredible input; we know the business world would cease to function without you. But seriously, you can’t take a few extra seconds to look at a 2-page resume?

AD April 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm

You frame this as though I am being unfair to the candidate who has a poor resume. If I turn around and give that candidate extra consideration, isn’t that unfair to the candidates who have good resumes? A two-pager says “pay more attention to me than the others in your initial screen”, and if there is nothing to back it up, it comes off in the exact same way that video resumes and crap like that annoy hiring managers.

As I stated, we’re talking entry-level or interns. Virtually everyone’s accomplishments are exactly the same at this point. Most of them have the same handful of degrees from the same school or two. The decision of who gets an interview and who doesn’t comes down to very, very little, and a two-page resume shows me that you can’t follow protocol.

Nathan A. April 15, 2012 at 11:12 pm

I think putting some coursework on a resume illustrates what a person did in school. I don’t think all degrees are created equal – so putting down exactly what you did (especially if it’s relevant) would help solidify some of the knowledge (or lack thereof) of the candidate, would it not?

Nathan A. April 15, 2012 at 11:14 pm

I should clarify: I don’t mean an extensive explanation. Something like, if you were a marketing versus a finance concentration when you get an MBA can talk a bit more about what you got out of the degree than just putting MBA. I’ve heard of people going through an MBA program and not taking a single finance course – which is why I think this is important.

Ask a Manager April 15, 2012 at 11:46 pm

I’m not all that interested in coursework, except in very unusual circumstances. I’m much more interested in achievements/experience on the job.

Mike B. April 11, 2012 at 1:15 pm

I hear “two pages is fine” more and more often, but I can’t agree. Not many people on any level have accomplishments that are recent, salient, and impressive enough to merit going beyond one page–it’s not a biography or even a CV, it’s a resume. It should be informative but above all succinct.

I wouldn’t exactly deduct points for a longer resume, but neither am I likely to be impressed because you included more details about the job listed last.

Sophie April 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm

A suggestion – if you do not have a lot of work experience, DEAR GOD DO NOT try to fill it out with a list of conferences AND conferences sessions you attended. I received a resume the other day that was 19 pages long – and not it was not a CV, and it was not for a faculty position – and the woman listed every conference she ever attended, along with the names of the sessions she attended – NOT presented, only attended. I really didn’t care about her attendance of “Making Greeting Cards with Photoshop.” In addition to this she had obtain two bachelor’s degrees and four master’s degrees in a wild range of subjects. She was applying for an entry level position on my team. She didn’t have much work experience because, obviously, she spent her entire life going to school.

Ask a Manager April 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Dear god yes. I cannot think of a single conference that it would be worth mentioning on your resume that you attended, and yet people do this all the time.

Student April 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I have conferences on my CV (I’m a grad student in a science field). I left them off of the first version, because I cannot comprehend why someone would care about conferences I have presented at (they are not “invited” presentations or prestigious conferences – the conference-holders are actually obligated to accept as many submissions as they can, regardless of quality).

My boss told me to add conferences to my CV, because leaving it off made me look “strange.” I was disheartened by this, but tacked them on near the back, by the list of papers that I don’t expect anyone to read through. It’s more a matter of having what’s “expected” in the CV and knowing the secret handshake, rather than the actual content.

This, incidentally, is part of why I am trying to flee from academia into industry, where hiring may be strange but it isn’t dictated by 1940 traditions.

Dr. Speakeasy April 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm

CV is different – people expect to see every last thing that you are doing and presenting at any conference as a grad student is giving you experience.

Sophie April 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Presenting, yes – in academia, I would want to know if presented at something. But simply attending – absolutely not. That makes not one lick of difference to anyone.

Student April 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Yes, they expect it, but that’s not what concerns me. I know they expect it. I also know that it doesn’t actually tell them anything useful about me or my research, or how I’m different from any other grad student in this field. Every grad student at my research facility goes to conferences and presents results. We all go to nearly the same conferences. The number of conferences you go to is dictated by your adviser’s funding, not the quality or quantity of your work. Having presented during the “crackpot” session at one of these prestigious research conferences once, I am painfully aware that presenting my research there is not indicative of any useful hiring metric. That crackpot gets the same line on his CV as I do. The guy who forgot his PowerPoint presentation at home gets the same line on his CV as I do. The guy presenting to an empty room gets the same line on his CV as I do.

I might as well put on my CV that I have web browsing experience or that I’ve used Excel. It’s CV content dictated by tradition, not by relevance.

Rana April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm

I understand your point – and your frustration.

Perhaps this will help you see the point of it: with stuff like this, your goal is NOT to stand out, because standing out carries negative baggage. Thus:

If you leave that information out, when everyone else is including it, you will give one of two impressions: (a) despite it being near-mandatory to give such presentations, you somehow have not, making you less experienced than your competitors (and perhaps less qualified, because if everybody normally does this, something’s perhaps wrong with you or your work that you haven’t); (b) you’re clueless about the conventions of your field, or hostile to them.

Given that the alternative is to look inexperienced, defective, clueless, and/or hostile, just put the damn things on there, sigh at the ridiculousness of it all in the privacy of your own home, and move on.

Ellie H. April 12, 2012 at 9:57 pm

I find this really strange. What field are you in? In most fields presenting a paper or your work at a conference is definitely valued. I’m sure many conferences just accept all papers but I’m pretty sure this isn’t the majority of them and many conferences will even ask for revision to a proposal or presentation before it is accepted. I just asked my mom (a professor and adviser to graduate students) if she thought graduate students should put it on their CV that they have presented a paper at a conference and she said “Oh absolutely!” I feel like your “crackpot” conference where you’re presenting alongside someone who forgot his PowerPoint at home is far, far from the norm

Ellen M. April 11, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Re: resumes, I found this today and it may be of interest to AAM readers, about how recruiters read a resume – literally, where they look on the page: http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-what-recruiters-look-at-during-the-6-seconds-they-spend-on-your-resume-2012-4

And it says they spend just 6 seconds on each one… another reason to keep it short and sweet and focused!

mh_76 April 11, 2012 at 2:42 pm

More of a nit-picky formatting question: I used to have horizontal lines on my resumes dividing the sections (not the positions…too many) but was advised to take them off by I forget whom. The “good” resume in that article has a lot of horiz. lines. Are they distracting as I was told or does it not matter either way? I like the way that my resume looked better with them than without. I don’t like the shading on the “good” resume though.

just another hiring manager... April 11, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Like all things, it depends. If you like the way it looks and it is otherwise clean and easy to read, put the lines back. Ask other people what they think about how it looks. You might even try changing all the text to gibberish to see if you still like the format with the lines.

But what do I know, I’ve got section-dividing horizontal lines on my resume as well ;-)

Jamie April 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm

I like the lines visually, too – the argument against them is that they can parse weird when submitting through third party software. If submitting through software I would send as it as clean text as possible – since it will likely muck up the formatting.

For emailing or printing, I personally like the lines. It’s looks cleaner to me.

Ellen M. April 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm

I advise against the lines, for the reason Jamie says above – it can mess up the formatting when the document is rec’d.

Also be sure to have *some* white space on the page(s) – solid text from margin to margin can be uninviting to the eye.

mh_76 April 11, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Thanks :)

I’ve used a text-formatted (.txt) version to upload the res. into black-hole sites (and it still gets screwed up…there was a comment about that somewhere on this or a prev. post). When I email it, I attach both a word and a .pdf version. Even though word documents are generally cross-compatible between mac & PC nowadays, I like to include a version that has -my- formatting on it, is less likely to print strangely (some printers/setups alter the Word formatting a bit), and people can’t change the text w/out knowing Acrobat. As for the lines, I’ve added them back but am also toying with boxes around just the section headings (Education etc)… I tinker with my resume often and will probably go from lines to boxes to nothing and back again. Somehow, I’ve managed to keep a bunch of white-space on it despite struggling to keep it to 2 pages – I’ve read enough resumes to have an idea of what looks decent (haven’t hired yet but have reviewed resumes and CVs)

Anonymous April 11, 2012 at 6:06 pm

I remember one idiotic system which would only accept Word documents. Which meant I had to go and find something which could export to Word. I hit on the solution of pasting the PDF into the new program, and exporting the result in ‘.doc’ format. Inelegant, but it worked.

Natalie April 13, 2012 at 10:07 am

Is attaching a Word version when you have a PDF version really adding anything? I would just attach the PDF.

mh_76 April 14, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Some people specifically ask for a Word doc, especially placement agencies because they like to add their own logo to your res. I attach both because it’s covers the bases: word doc if they ask for it (and sometimes even if they don’t) and .pdf to show how the formatting should look.

Heather April 11, 2012 at 5:19 pm

I am also a hiring manager and have horizontal lines on my resume. I think the most important place to have them is at the end of the second page. As someone who went to art school, I tell people to scan their resumes to see where their eyes go. I find the end horizontal makes the eyes go up a little bit rather than just falling off the page (and onto the next resume).

mh_76 April 11, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Interesting idea about the line at the end. I had something at one point, then took it off. Oh it’s so subjective!! Argh!

My eyes tend to go from upper left to lower right when I skim my resume…maybe because I read a lot growing up or because of many years of music [amateur/non-major/groups]. I recall that that was the case when I reviewed resumes & CVs as well.

mh_76 April 11, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Anonymous, I copy from word into textEdit (mac version of text pad) and fix up the formatting there. If I need a .pdf, I can print-as…macs have a .pdf maker built in as part of the print menu.

Anonymous April 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Out of curiosity, why DO European employers want a long CV when a short resume will do for American bosses? How can Europeans afford to put that much extra effort into evaluating candidates?

Roy Lambert April 12, 2012 at 10:06 am

Hiring anyone is an important decision. A one page resume can only be an overview and on the basis of that overview you have to invite someone for an interview or not. A CV gives more information which should translate into better screening (I know it doesn’t sometimes). Overall it may be that the UK (I can’t comment about Europe) model actually means less time spent on evaluating candidates because reading a bit of paper is easier and quicker than interviewing somone.

mh_76 April 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

A recruiter recently sent in a 3 page version of my resume (ok, 2.5ish) to a couple of companies. The positions didn’t “pan out” but that’s for another comment. Outside of that agency, I try to keep my resume to 2 pages, which can be a challenge because I’ve had a lot of different jobs (some are consolidated into categories, some are listed individually). What I heard a long time ago and what I go by is:
– 1 page for the first 10 years out of college (or 1st 10 of work exp. if you didn’t go to coll. straight from HS). I started my 2nd page at 7 yrs but that’s because the then most recent job had a lot of different aspects to it and I hadn’t yet streamlined those bulletpoints.
– 2 pages until you reach the VP/equivalent level. That’s what I heard, anyway.
– 3 pages if you’re VP+.

There -might- be a different standard for resumes that will be put into a black-hole by either you or the company and maybe longer might be better so that you can include more keywords / key phrases and hopefully be “found” by the black-hole.

There are different standards for CVs, usually used in Academia, some areas of Medicine, and overseas (I’m in the US). Those are typically longer, sometimes much longer.

Erica B April 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm

but how far back do you go for work experience? I starting working when I was 16 (and am now 32). so I worked through HS and college, and beyond. Do they care about the work I did when I was 16?

Elizabeth April 11, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Probably only if it’s *really* related to what you’re doing now, especially since the work that most people can get in high school is pretty basic/introductory.

Ask a Manager April 11, 2012 at 5:33 pm

The bar is very, very high for any pre-college-age work — it would have to be highly unusual and significant.

Dani April 12, 2012 at 8:41 am

I’m in the library field and I started working in circulation when I was 14. Now that I have my MLIS and am searching for a librarian/library assistant position, I ALWAYS include that experience. I worked for a large urban public library for 10 years, right out of 8th grade all the way through my undergrad degree. I think that’s significant :)

Liz in a Library April 12, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Even though it started in your teens, I agree that you really need to keep it on there if it’s your only significant library experience. The degree matters, but it’s very difficult to get your foot in the door without experience to back it up.

Anonymous April 12, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Hey, me too! I’ve since learned that it was extremely rare to have a job with actual responsibilities at that age. Most people where I grew up got their first jobs at 13.

My co-op in high school was similar to the ones my friends had in library school, so I always include it and emphasize the high level of responsibility that I had in that position.

mh_76 April 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm

I go back to the job I had senior year of college (grad. 1999) and that job is only on there because it was in the President’s office. I include the next couple of jobs because they were for the Univ. and the total time covered is about 8 years (including the Pres. offc. job). Old summer jobs have looong since been deleted.

I’ve been off/on in-between-jobs or in temp/contract jobs for the past few years and most of the contract positions have something to offer resume-wise, either at a good company or a bullet-point or few…or they simply fill a gap in my paid work-history. One has already been “booted” and a couple of 3-day jobs never made the resume. Over time, the bullet-points will be pared down, the positions will be consolidated and eventually disappear.

Volunteer work (mostly outside of the traditional workday) and using years-only for the dates fills in the rest of the gaps.

Ask a Manager April 11, 2012 at 5:33 pm

I would probably not do a third page for VP+ either. I’m hiring for a VP level position right now, and the best candidates are two-pagers.

mh_76 April 11, 2012 at 5:43 pm

I guess it depends on how long their prior relevant work-history is. That’s just what I’d heard :)

Anonymous April 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Can anyone explain why it’s toxic to use an objective? I saw a professional resume writer to write my resume and she insisted I put use an objective.

HR gal April 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm

An objective used to be required/standard, but it’s fallen out of favor for two main reasons (that I know of), both relating to advances in technology.

1) It used to be the case that you would have 20 hard copies of your resume, and you would not be able to re-type your resume to fit each specific job you wanted to apply for. Now, you can re-tool your resume in seconds, email it to the job opening or applicant system, and you’re done.

2) Your job search in 2012 should be vastly more directed than a job search from 1982. You no longer mail a hard copy of your resume to four general ‘manager wanted’ ads from the newspaper, or blanket mail them to companies you want to work for. Now, you have technology at your fingertips, and you might be applying to twenty different jobs with twenty different titles. If you tailor your resume (as you should) to each specific job posting, then an objective that says “seeking a manager position in Industry X” for one job and “seeking an assistant manager position at Company Y” for another just looks odd. The company knows which job you’re applying for, they don’t need to see it written in an objective.

If, however, you have enough experience and can sum it up succinctly, you can replace the old objective with a ‘profile’ at the opening of your resume.

My last resume (which worked and got me a new job!) had this:

Profile: Human Resources professional with X years of experience, and nearly X years total with [current company]. Familiar with [current company] records, policies, and compliance. Experience in A, B, and C. Enthusiastic about professional development and continuing education. Future plans include a [graduate degree in HR], followed by PHR certification.

HR gal April 11, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Two things which just occurred to me: my profile thingy may have only worked that well because I was applying for a position within my current company and not outside of it, and your resume has to really back up anything you say in the profile section.

Ask a Manager April 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Here’ an article I wrote on the problem with objectives:
http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2009/03/09/objectives-leave-them-off-your-resume

I hate to say it, but I’d be wary of the other advice that resume writer gave you. Her knowledge may be out of date or otherwise not good.

Liz T April 11, 2012 at 8:10 pm

In college I went not to career services (totally useless) but to staff members I’d worked for, at least one of whom actually hire. The hirer saw my objective and told me, “This is what goes in your cover letter.” Such a relief.

Mario April 11, 2012 at 7:37 pm

It seems that one page resumes are still norm in consulting. I’ve been in contact with a bunch of people applying to consulting firms. They say they would not even be considered if their resume was more than a page!

Also, there is a tendency in academia and small biotech to use an extended version of your resume. It uses the two-page result-oriented format from a normal resume, plus a third page for publications. That is for scientific level positions. It is not a CV as a CV would be longer and contain lots of details.

JT April 11, 2012 at 7:53 pm

I’m amazed at these sorts of rules and that people doing hiring are so strict about them. It seems to me that reason a resume of about 1 page is generally good is that it’s strong and concise. But if we turn that around into some sort of rule where we automatically dismiss anything longer, that’s silly. You might miss otherwise good candidates. It’s arbitrary. 1.5 pages of amazing stuff is better than 1 page of lameness. Spend 1 minute looking at the resume that’s too long before tossing it. And if the person doing the hiring doesn’t have time for that, then divide the task up some a lower-level staff person can do a pre-screen. Or make the job description more specific to get fewer applicants.

Mario April 11, 2012 at 8:09 pm

I couldn’t agree more. But if you are applying for a position on an industry that is adamant about one of those rules you have to conform. Otherwise you will not pass the initial screen.

Again, I agree with you 100% though.

L April 11, 2012 at 7:38 pm

I have a question about the skills part of my resume. What about including Microsoft Office Suite? I was an accounting major but don’t work in an accounting field, so I am way more knowledgable about Excel than my peers. I also am very comfortable with Publisher. I’ve taken several classes in Microsoft Access database design as well as using an Access database in my prior experience. Right now I list Microsoft Office and Microsoft Access as separate bullet points under skills, should I be doing it differently?

Ask a Manager April 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm

I’d include Access and Excel, but not Office (which includes Word, etc., which people tend to assume you know how to use).

Charles April 12, 2012 at 9:26 am

There is an additional problem with listing your skills as “Microsoft Office” in that if (really when) your resume goes into a database they will search for key words.

They are unlikely to search for “office” and more likely to search for “excel,” “access,” “publisher,” etc. which might make them miss your resume if you don’t have these listed out.

Anonymous April 12, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Well, one way around that is to have every possible skill you can think of listed in white in a background layer. The keyword engine sees it, the recruiter doesn’t.

Charles April 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm

HA! That is a good one!

Greg April 16, 2012 at 11:36 am

I assume that was a joke, but in case anyone took it seriously, most ATSs are set up to flag that type of subterfuge (see last bullet point in sidebar here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204624204577178941034941330.html)

Anonymous April 12, 2012 at 10:12 pm

To give an idea as to the value of those “Office” skills: my girlfriend recently had an interview in Redmond. She was quite candid about the fact that she’d never done Windows development, had barely touched a Windows machine in over a decade, and had used Office very little since Office 4.3 for Mac (those who have used it will understand). She got the job, and at a higher salary than originally discussed.

Jessie April 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I’m the 23 year old who’s trying to figure out how to get rid of my second page! I know the problem area is my job description section, which is currently just a list of responsibilities – I only have menial retail experience, with no numerical accomplishments to speak of (i.e. sales figures), so I feel as if I have nothing worthwhile to say about them! And I can’t seem to find any help for this kind of issue…

Liz T April 11, 2012 at 8:12 pm

1) If you don’t have much to say about the jobs, why are they taking up so much space?

2) Are you giving each responsibility/accomplishment its own line? I have my job descriptions in block form, with each point separated by a semi-colon.

3) Two words: margin magic. (I have also been known to make the line breaks between paragraphs way smaller than the actual text font.)

Jessie April 11, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Thanks for your reply!

1) I felt as if I needed to put *something* there so I started by putting everything, with the thought that I could edit the unimportant bits out, which would ideally leave me with the building blocks for a concise description. Embarrassingly, I got stuck after I listed everything and saw what I had to work with.

2) I was doing that, yes, but I’ll try it your way to see if that helps! I just worry about chunks of text being easily glazed over…

3) I hadn’t thought of that! I might mess around with it if all else fails.

Ask a Manager April 11, 2012 at 8:17 pm
Jessie April 11, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Thanks for replying! I’ll definitely give it a read.

Michael April 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm

I’m a programmer, am only 25 but I have 8 years experience with no college. My resume is about 4 pages. Given that I have no college experience I’ve found I had to do this to make up for my lack of a formal education. My experience is backwards in this regard as I often didn’t get returned calls back when I stuck to one or two pages but when I expounded on what technologies I used and how I used them is when I really stated getting return calls and multiple interview. So, if you’re like me you may want to be a bit more verbose.

Camellia April 12, 2012 at 8:19 am

Michael, I have been in IT for over 30 years and I can tell you that you are spot on. I worked for the same company for 22 years but kept up with blogs like this one, so when the company was bought and I was laid off like so many others, I did the two-page resume. When I posted it I had no response for almost two weeks. The first recruiter to finally call me said it was ‘too thin’ and to list all my experience. With great trepidation I created an eleven page resume and re-posted it. I was flooded with calls! One telephone interview later and I had a job waiting for me that started the Monday after my last Friday at the old job. I am now on my third contract in six years, with very little down time between contracts, and my resume just keeps on growing.

I do think I interview well, since only five interviews resulted in those three jobs, but my resume is what opens the door. And now I get to sit in on team interviews for new hires and yes, we all read those loooonnnggg resumes in great detail. So it is definitely an IT thing!

BTW, I love contracting for so many reasons that I would never have imagined when I was an FTE and couldn’t envision any other life.

Anonymous April 12, 2012 at 9:29 am

There are always exceptions to every rule, but I’m betting in these two cases:

1) The short resumes did not generate interest because they weren’t written well enough (how good or bad a resume is has absolutely nothing to do with how good or bad a person is at their job).

2) The long resumes generated interest because they included so many words that they were found more easily by people doing searches…

Michael April 13, 2012 at 10:39 am

I would agree with your second point if I had been submitting my lengthier resume on sites like Monster.com or on a company’s job portal. However, I’ve only sent it directly to recruiters’ email addresses.

CatB (Europe) April 12, 2012 at 6:08 am

I live in Europe (its East side). Here we’re talking CV, not resume, so the document tends to be way longer. I mean the Europass, the blank template for the “standard”, pan-European CV, is a 2-pages long *.doc in the “empty” state. My son’s CV is longer than 2 pages and he didn’t even start working properly!

Also, CV tends here to include a lot more personal info, like hobbies, all skills (relevant or not), marital status, driving licence, major PC/Mac software, foreign languages a.s.o. But I guess it’s a cultural thing – I worked once on a business plan for a start-up. The American version was a small file; the European version easily filled a cardboard folder (the thick sort, with file-keeping mechanics – sorry, I don’t know the English word for it).

Greg April 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I don’t think it’s so much that resumes need to be one page as that the vast majority of them could benefit from being shorter. You’d be amazed at how much fluff you can take out — including stuff you might have originally thought was important. Even if you think it’s already the right length, it’s probably a good exercise to go through it and figure out what could be safely excised.

Remove entire bullet points — even entire jobs — if they don’t help you sell yourself. Also, the further you get down the page(s), the fewer bullet points you need. As that recent eye-tracking study showed, most hiring managers will really only read about your two most recent jobs anyway, so why have more than 1-2 bullet points for the job you held 10 years ago?

Anonymous April 14, 2012 at 5:57 am

Dear Alison,

As a recent grad, I’m a bit torn on my resume format. I’ve whittled it down one page, but to do that I had removed the “skills & qualifications” section at the top. I’ve completed a few internships in my chosen field, so my question is: is that enough to speak for my skills and experience? I used to list every skill I thought was relevant to the position I was applying to (i.e. organizational skills developed through xyz), but it seemed to take up too much space. Please advise!

Also, what are your thoughts on including an “interests” section?

Ask a Manager April 15, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Hard to say without seeing the resume itself, unfortunately!

I can go either way on interests sections, but they’re far from necessary. I don’t use one myself.

Greg April 15, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Listing skills and qualifications doesn’t really help; much better to *show* you have those skills via your internships (and talk about it in your cover letters). But (and with the same caveat AAM mentioned about not being sure without seeing your resume), the fact that, based on a few internships, you had to whittle it down to one page suggests there might be more fluff in there. I would go through it line by line and really think about what needs to be in there, and what’s truly selling you to employers. Cut everything else.

As for interests, my feeling has always been if you have the room, it can never hurt to list a few conversation starters. For example, I run marathons, and I figure if my interviewer does as well, that will give us something to bond over. But don’t list things just to have them, and don’t list something unless you can back it up. I used to take improv comedy classes, and had that listed in my interests section. An interviewer once glanced at my resume, and the first thing she said was, “Tell me a joke.” I froze, and the interview went downhill from there.

Nelly April 27, 2012 at 8:41 am

I cut my resume down from 10 pages to 7 for my last job… I’ve never not been called for an interview, and I’ve only once been turned down for a job in the past 20 years. (I had swine flu, so, yeah, fair enough! I wouldn’t have hired me, either). After reading your advice, I’m going to remove the ‘objective’ though, as I’ve never been comfortable with that. I just have so much to say!

You make me wonder why I manage to get a foot in the door if it’s so wrong to have such a long resume… I suspect I’m just that awesome (also, great cover letters and mad librarian skillz).

Jamaal May 9, 2013 at 11:06 pm

I am on the fence between paring my resume down from 1.5 pages to 1 page. I’ve been out of school for 4 years now. Is that still considered a “few years”? I’ve held two full-time, career-jobs, one very meaningful internship, and a retail management job. Would you recommend the one page or would 1.25-1.5 pages be okay?

Cheers,

Jamaal

Greg May 10, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I said this upthread, but my belief is that most resumes should only be one page NOT because employers will dock you for going over, but just because the exercise of going through a document and forcing yourself to cut it down would probably make it better. Really look at every job, every bullet point, and every word and ask, “Does this absolutely have to be in there?” Do you list items that will be skipped over, such as college activities, coursework or multiple personal interests? Do you have more than one or two bullet points from your earliest jobs (hiring managers generally skim those anyway)? Most importantly, does every bullet point on your most recent position list concrete accomplishments that speak to a hiring manager’s needs? If you can answer all those questions, then it doesn’t really matter whether you’re at 1 or 1.5 (though I suspect that, at four years, you should be able to get it down to a page. It’s also just easier to not have to worry about staples and lost pages, to the extent that people even print them out anymore.)

Jamaal May 10, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Hi Greg,

Thanks for the input. The last two jobs listed on the resume are already down to one bullet point a piece, but now I suppose I’ll attempt to scrub the content of the top three again.

Cheers,

Jamaal

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