October 9, 2015

One Page or More: How Long Should Your Resume Be?

danceTo go over a page, or no to go over a page? That is the question.

Well, the truth is, it depends.

My general rule of thumb is that if you find yourself with 1/3 of a page or less on the second page of your resume, try to make it all fit on one page by searching for and eliminating “fluff” words, extra spacing, etc. If you have more than 1/3 of a page and all of it is important content about your career, it’s actually better to have it spread out between two full pages to make it more reader friendly.

Make Sure Your Resume Is Skimmable

If your resume is not skimmable — meaning that a hiring manager can spend about six seconds with it and get a gist of what you’ve done — it is basically worthless.

That statement may seem harsh, but the reality of the job market suggests it is true. Someone who squeezes an information-dense resume onto one page with half-inch margins all around is almost sure to get very little attention, solely based on the fact that no one wants to sit and decipher such a hefty document. Make your resume clear, concise, and easy to read. That’s how you get noticed.

One of the simplest ways to clean up a resume is through spacing. The goal is to have a good balance between white space and text, meaning that the resume is not too dense, but isn’t completely spread out, either. A really good trick for this is to use columns. When listing skills, awards, or anything similar, you can utilize 2-3 columns to evenly distribute the text horizontally throughout the page. This also keeps the vertical spacing in check, giving you more room to work with.

A huge pet peeve of mine is a resume that spans longer than a page with an immense amount of unused space on the first page. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a two-page resume if you need it; but if you don’t need that extra page for important information, than stick to one sheet. No one wants to look at an extra page if it isn’t absolutely necessary. Plus, not utilizing your space well may suggest to employers that you are unorganized and incapable of being concise.

How Long Should My Resume Be?

readerIt’s hard to set strict standards regarding who should have a resume over a page and who shouldn’t, but generally speaking, if you have five years in the workforce or less, you should try to stay within one page. If you have more time in the workforce, a second page may be justified — as long as the information on the second page truly matters.

Note, of course, that this standard doesn’t always apply. An engineer who has extensive knowledge and certifications but is only four years out of college may have a two-page resume, whereas someone who has been working for 20 years with only two jobs at the same company may be able to fit their whole career onto one page. The length of your resume really comes down to the jobs you’ve had, the projects you’ve taken on, and the certifications and specific skill sets you’ve acquired.

Some people simply have more specific knowledge than others. For instance, regardless of the length of time they’ve spent in the workforce, an administrative assistant or office manager will probably have a much shorter resume than a doctor, engineer, or IT professional. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that: someone in a more niche profession will be required to learn more specialized skills than someone managing general office duties.

There is no one-size-fits-all for a resume. As long as you stick to a reader-friendly, to-the-point style of writing, you’ll probably be fine.

Note: This article is referring to resumes, not CVs. A CV is much more extensive and will almost always be longer than a page. It is most often used for people with vast experience, people in higher education, and people in research fields with publications and relevant areas of study to show off.

Read more in Resume Writing

A native San Franciscan, Michele Lando is a certified professional resume writer and founder of writestylesonline.com. She has a passion for helping others present the best version of themselves, both on paper and in person, and works to polish individuals' application packages and personal styles. Aiming to help create a perfect personal branding package, Write Styles presents tips to enhance your resume and style and boost your confidence.