Resume Secrets – The One-page Myth

I cant tell you how many times I have been asked about “how long should a resume be.”

Nearly every Webinar we do includes at least one mention of the question. Somewhere in the universe, there is a large ball of energy that keeps emiting one of the biggest resume myths of all time:

“A RESUME MUST BE ONE PAGE OR LESS.”

This idea runs counter to everything we try to teach and I’ll tell you why:

  • The purpose of a resume is to get you an interview… period.
  • A resume is a sales document that represents you to an employer
  • A resume needs to tell your story as effectively as possible
  • A resume has to tell your story quickly, concisely AND thoroughly

So, how long does a resume should a resume be? My answer is: “As long as necessary, but no longer.”

At the risk of starting another myth about how long a resume needs to be, I’ll say that some one-page resumes are appropriate. Many resumes need to be two pages. A very, very few should be three pages. Anything more is a CV, which is a different animal altogether.

Anyway, I saw an article that sums this up with a lot of common sense, reason and it was just plain fun to read.

The article was written by Steve Eddington, a recruiter in the wireless, mobile and telecomm space. You can find the original HERE

Man oh man alive. Geeeeez. Holy Mackerel!

It is now my turn to speak on the subject of the one page resume.

I have NEVER been involved in such a complete fiasco as the unending discussion of whether you should or should not have a one-page resume.

I want to first say that this is a laborious subject, so I will try to spice it up with some pointed, irreverent comments that are sure to tick off some of my conservative readers.

First…some of the comments I have personally heard:

  • Well, Joe Blow (insurance salesman) said I should have a one-page resume
  • Well, I read a book and it said you should have a one page resume
  • I can’t really go into what I really did because if I did, it would take more than one page
  • Gosh, I wish I could put my job at IBM on my resume but if I did it would make it more than one page and I was told never to have the resume be more than one page long so I hope people figure out (from Tarot cards or Ouija boards) that I worked there because that really was my best and longest job.
  • I’m confused, should my resume be more than one page? I FEEL like it should, but I don’t want to break the rules because if I do, I might be abducted by evil agents who will ruin my chances for getting employed.

Is this enough? NO. Here’s another one.

  • People just don’t read resumes that are longer than one page.

I have heard some more, but we can start with these.

There is no scientific answer about whether a one-page resume is right or wrong. It all depends on who you are and how much experience you have.

The first thing to look at here is the PURPOSE of a resume. I will state for the record here and now, the purpose of a resume is TO GET YOU AN INTERVIEW. If the resume gets you an interview, it can be considered to be a good resume. If the resume isn’t getting you interviews, then you should probably change it, unless you are a bricklayer hopelessly applying to be a CFO (in which case you should be reading a different article entitled “Megalomania and your Unlimited Target Market.”

As someone who has read a zillion resumes, I can tell you that the biggest mistake you can make on your resume is to make it hard to read. Lots of graphics, small fonts, borders, boxes, footnotes and really really creative designs are not a good idea these days for a couple reasons. One, scanners don’t like these oddities. Two, it can make the resume harder to read. I have seen many seasoned candidates using a 6-point font so they could get the resume on one page. Big mistake. Resume readers do not like eyestrain. If the resume is mechanically challenging, they might just throw it aside for one that is easier on the eyes. You might say that this is unfair and you are right, but since we want to deal with reality, you need to know the truth. There are LOTS of resumes out there and that is part of the problem these days.

If you are a college graduate looking for your first job, a one-page resume is probably just fine. If you have had a job, you should tell the reader what you DID. Also, in light of the current scanning scenario, more pages is not a deterrent because someone who doesn’t care about anything but lunch break will automatically scan your “document” into the database. Once it is in there and searchable, you have accomplished one of the goals of resume distribution.

After the dust settles, remember that the resume must tell your story. If you have a longer story, the resume needs to be longer. And please, put the experience you had with each job under a section for that employer so we can tell WHEN and for WHOM you did WHAT. Resume readers don’t have time to guess and most won’t call to clarify. They will just move on down the line. Short resumes for people long on experience are not appropriate and the real audience for these short resumes is people with short attention spans and low IQ’s. I assure you that if the resume gets into the right hands, it will be read thoroughly. If you have omitted significant chunks of your experience, it could be assumed that you do not have the experience in the first place. Heinous, so when in doubt, TELL YOUR STORY.

Just thought you’d want to know.

Will poeple use this article as an excuse to inflate their resumes to 1,000+ word counts in order to “Tell The Story?” I hope not. That’s where the art of resume crafting comes in. You have to know how to make your value explode with very few words. Less IS more.

Let me know how your job search is moving along. If there is anything I can do, feel free to write or call.

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