Should my resume be one page or two?

I got this e-mail from a friend of mine who is also an avid reader:

I had a question to pose to you based on your unique expertise. Do you think, at this stage in my life, that I should limit my resume to 1 page? If I include everything I’ve done including all my internships, it’s more like 2 pages, but I also have a condensed version that fits 1 page, and since it’s not like I’ve been in the workforce for decades, should I use that one primarily? Any thoughts?

First, a sidebar. Let me professionally express my excitement about getting my first piece of fanmail/advice mail: woohoo! Thanks to this reader for thinking of me!

But moving on to the crux of the issue, I have to say that it’s a judgment call. I think about my personal journey, which includes working in something that I could make a career out of, and feel like there’s really not enough experience there to merit a second page. If you can fill that second page with concrete things and not fluff (and there’s SO much fluff on the resumes I read), then I’d buy it. But if you’re stretching it for the purpose of stretching it, then cut it, it’s just not necessary.

When I look at resumes, I’m interested in seeing the key points laid out ready for me to look at. If you have them scattered and hidden amongst the filler, you have not only done yourself an injustice by poorly showcasing your writing abilities, but your actual skills just aren’t going to be noticed. You’re trying to have a conversation, not play hide and seek.

Your resume is who you are on paper. Hopefully, you’re much more than that, and the “much more” will come through in your interview. But to get yourself there, you’ve got to do your best to paint a picture of someone worth meeting. Here’s a list of possible content-related questions to ask yourself as you’re building your resume: Do you want to include all of your jobs/internships or are you just including them because you’ve had them? Do you need each and every bullet point on there? Does each bullet point actually lend itself to what you’re hoping to do? In other words, is everything you have on your resume relevant to your job search? Did you use action verbs to start each bulleted item? Did you vary the action verbs or did you find yourself using “Coordinated” at the beginning of every line?

If the answer to every single question isn’t yes, go back and change something until it is. Everything on your resume should be something you’ve actively selected to be there. Remember, these are just content-related things. For style…well, there’s a lot I could say, but it’s a lot harder to be objective when you’re talking about style. The only thing I will say is to be consistent – if you use circle bullets at the start, don’t use dashes or squares later on. Stick with one thing the whole way through and you’ll be fine.

Anyone have any additional advice for my reader?

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2 responses to “Should my resume be one page or two?

  1. Great post! Coming from a hiring manager perspective…

    My suggestion for anyone writing their resume is to start with one page. Your resume should argue that you’re the best qualified person for this position, and the entire resume should support that thought. If something doesn’t relate to the position, take it out.

    Only after you get that one page version perfect, review it to see if any of your arguments need more support. That’s the ONLY justification for extending your resume to another page.

    Within a 5-10 second skim of that resume, I’ve decided whether a candidate could be a good fit. Make those seconds count.

  2. @Liz – Great to see you here! I agree. I’m a huge fan of the justification method – if you can’t support putting something down and extending your resume, leave it off. I think that applies to your first page as well. Thanks for the hiring manager perspective, it adds a good dynamic.

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