February 24, 2009

How Many Pages Should My Résumé Be?

One of the most common questions I hear from clients or audiences around the country has to do with résumé length. The reality is that recruiters and HR personnel want to see your value described in the most brief way possible. Most of the time, a one-page résumé will fit the bill. So when is a two-page résumé acceptable? Here are some guidelines:

1.) If you have significant high-profile or high-impact experience that you want to feature. In this case, age does not matter. Let's say you are about to graduate from grad school, and you've had internships at the White House, a high profile law firm, a stint in the Peace Corps, a few normal jobs and you were an officer in a fraternity/sorority. You may need two-pages if the skills and expertise garnered from these experiences is significant, which is hopefully the case.

2.) You have many years of work experience. Seasoned veterans who have been in the work force for 15 or more years will likely run into this. The key here is that we don't necessarily want to read 10 bullet points about every single job you've had since you graduated from college/high school. Additionally, the expectation is that you will not exceed two pages.

3.) You are pursuing an executive position at a company. While I've been going on and on about how recruiters expect the most brief résumés possible, here is the exception to the rule. When applying for executive positions at companies (i.e. VP and up), the unspoken rule is that you should have at least two pages of experience if not more. While I've seen up to six-page résumés for senior officers, you generally want to stay at around 3 pages.
If you do decide to write a two-page résumé, make sure your second page is at least half full. If you can't fill half of the second page, then look for ways of compressing bullet points, removing extraneous information or reducing fonts/margins (while keeping your résumé readable & attractive!) to make it one page. As always, good luck and happy hunting!


Andy Drish said...

I disagree with the first guideline.

If you've had all that experience, that's awesome. But let's be honest... being an officer in a fraternity hardly compares to working at the white house.

Why put that on your resume when the other points make such an impact?

You could have a 2 page resume that lists every single thing you've done during college. Or you could have a one page resume that is super powerful because it only highlights your biggest accomplishments/experiences.

A resume isn't supposed to land you the job. A resume should just get you to an interview. Then you can talk about all those other experiences.

Just my two cents. What do you think?

Rosemary Laack said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this. You bring up some good points. I completely agree that a resume alone will not land a job. I also agree that the resume is not the place laundry list every single thing ever done in college or beyond. However, I have met individuals who have contributed to their organizations (e.g. fraternity or sorority, but there are many other orgs of note as well) so significantly that it warrants listing those accomplishments. That was the rationale for the example with the grad student.

Like I said, the majority of employers (99.9%) are going to want a 1-page resume. On occasion, an individual's experience may warrant the second page regardless of where they are in their career. Again, the key is that you need to have over half of the second page filled with significant, high-impact information. Otherwise, you are best served with leaving it at one page.

Thanks again!