Updated: Aug 21, 2019
“How long should my resume be?” and “Do I have to keep it to just one page?” are questions I get asked ALL the time. The one-page rule is coming up more often now as viral posts with images of well-know executives’ resumes showing one-page graphic-style documents make the rounds online.
Here are three tips to writing a modern and effective resume that will win interviews.
Nix the “One-Page” Resume Rule
Unless you are a recent college graduate or have less than 5 or 10 years of experience, limiting your resume to just one page is out-dated advice that can often hurt your chances of winning an interview.
For mid-career professionals and executives, one-page resumes don't often give you enough room to list all of your relevant experience, accomplishments, and context to your work. Your resume should include examples of your value in each relevant role, as well as the scope of your leadership responsibilities, and quantifiable results when possible. For someone with more than 10 years of experience, this will be hard to do in just one page without cutting important details or reducing the white space and font size so much that it becomes hard to read.
Optimize for Online Applications & ATS Keyword Scanners
Regardless of what stage you are in your career, one-page resumes are not as effective at winning interviews if you plan to apply for jobs online or upload to recruiter databases. One reason for this is that they limit your ability to include enough skills and content to make it through the keyword scanners.
Also, downloading a template for a highly designed one-page resume can stand-out visually, but they lack enough space to include meaningful content and are not read well (if at all) by the online Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) or keyword scanners.
I advise my clients that these modern-style graphic resumes are great “networking” documents that you can send via e-mail or LinkedIn message when a long-format resume would be too formal, but it’s important to have a traditional resume as well to send to recruiters and hiring managers or to upload when applying online.
Remember, Quality Over Quantity
So, if you can go beyond one-page, how long should your resume be? The answer is as long as it needs to be to convey meaningful, relevant content. For early-career professionals, that may be just one-page. But, for mid-level and beyond, two pages is usually best. If you have several certifications, publications, or other supporting content, it’s perfectly fine to stretch onto three pages when needed as well.
What if you don’t quite have two-pages? That’s OKAY! If you stop at half or three-quarters down the page, that is better than stuffing your resume with irrelevant content to fill up the rest of the resume.