One Page or Two? The Resumé Question

One Page or Two? The Resumé Question

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by Barton Career Advisors Coach Michael Quinn and Lead Resumé Writer Ed Weirauch

Over the last few years, the belief that resumés should be limited to one page has taken on a life of its own. Many job seekers believe this theory and are going crazy trying to get their life’s work squeezed onto one page. There are lots of aspects to consider on this issue but our advice is to focus on content rather than length.

First, we shouldn’t think of a hiring manager receiving a traditional paper resumé because it rarely happens this way. The common practice is for resumes to go through an online sorting and scoring process in search of keywords and phrases that match candidates with job opportunities. So what matters is the content and the keywords you use to describe your skills and accomplishments.

In fact, these keywords are so important that they should be highlighted on the top half of your resumé, where the computer and eventually a person will see them first. Similarly, a lead paragraph should contain an effective summary of your work using these keywords.  When the computer catches these words and phrases which match the job skills being sought, your resumé then moves to the hiring manager.

For these reasons, that top half of your resumé must be captivating and must tell hiring managers that you are an obvious choice for the position, that hiring you will satisfy their need, make them look great, contribute to a company’s bottom line and therefore you should be contacted immediately.

Take the belief that your resumé can only be one page out of your mind and replace it with the belief that the top half of my resumé mustsummarize me, match the skills being sought and captivate the hiring manager’s attention. Maybe that’s not as easy to remember as the a one-page resumé concept but it is a much more on-target strategy for you.

Second, focus on accomplishments and do it succinctly. An employer wants to know how you have contributed in your career, the difference you have made, initiatives you have taken, changes you have led, savings you have achieved and profits to which you have contributed.  And if you can quantify these, even better.

But don’t forget the ‘succinct’ part. Imagine you suddenly must convey this information in two minutes… clear out all the details and get to the point! Allow yourself to shine. This information will serve you far better than a more traditional listing of tasks for which you were responsible.

Instead of focusing on length, think in terms of content. Ask yourself “how can I make my resume most appealing to hiring managers?” Be thinking of them and their needs, that’s where your opportunity lies.

Along these lines is a third concept: eliminate the activities, interests and hobbies section. These were once very common parts of resumes as employers were looking to get a sense of the entire person. With hundreds of candidates for jobs and computers doing the sifting and sorting, hobbies have become unnecessary clutter. Those aspects can be brought out in face to face interviews. What you accomplished so far in your career is far more important.

An exception here is when you can cite volunteer work where you really made a difference or had an impact on an organization or group of people. Include your volunteerism and if possible, make reference to any impact you may have had. This can be especially effective for job seekers who have been out of the job market for a while.

Finally, here are some general guidelines for you to keep in mind regarding resumé length:

One-page resumes generally work for people with:
1. Limited work history and experience; recent graduates
2. Less than three employers; less than five years experience

While two-page resumes work for people with:
1.  More than five years work history and/or three or more employers
2.  Significant professional and highly technical accomplishments
3.  Significant volunteer or community involvement

So here’s our resumé message, to replace “it has to be one page”: make your resume accomplishment-oriented yet succinct so hiring managers know what you can do for them.