“Should my résumé be one page or two?”

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There seems to be a lot of angst among job seekers about résumé page length: one page or two? Will hiring mangers skip over your résumé if it’s longer than one page?

Myth vs. reality: the 6-second glance

I think the perceptions about the tech giants in Silicon Valley have had a disproportionate impact on perceptions around hiring practices in general: that all hiring managers are these busy, frantic entrepreneurs whose attention you have to tear way from becoming the next disruptor in order to take 6 seconds to look at your résumé.

Rest assured, this is not most hiring mangers, and not most entrepreneurs for that matter. Hiring is important: anyone in management knows that one hire can feasibly make or break their team. Most hiring managers actually read through an interviewee’s résumé twice: once to assess the candidate’s skills and again before the interview.

HR and recruiters however? We skim. Our jobs depend on presenting relevant candidates to hiring managers and there are always way, way more applicants than hours in the day. After a couple of years in the industry, your eyes become trained to read and take in the information quickly, in about 6 seconds. The best comparison I can make is that it’s like driving a standard car. If you’re unfamiliar with driving “stick shift”, you’re having a mental meltdown between the clutch and shifting gears. But once you’re used to it, it’s easy, quick and not much different than driving an automatic car.

So if you ask me if one page or two is better, the short answer is that in most cases, it doesn’t really matter. Relevance is far more important than page length.

Your résumé should be one page if…

Now, if you ARE applying for a position with a tech giant or you’re in an industry where it’s widely known that your résumé should be one page, then of course, keep it to one page.

I would recommend that recent grads or if you’ve worked in your field for less than 5 years, you should also keep your résumé to one page. The bottom line is that you don’t have enough experience yet for your résumé to be longer than one page. If you’ve done extracurricular activities or worked throughout school or if you’ve had a couple of jobs since graduating that’s great! This will help you to build a résumé with relevant content.

Even though most hiring managers will take longer than 6 seconds to read your résumé, they do appreciate a concise document. It isn’t necessary to go in depth about your coursework or to write an elaborate task list for a job that’s fairly obvious like working in a restaurant or being an office clerk. These are details you can remove in an effort to keep it shorter.

What’s also important to keep on your résumé are your achievements or any other experiences that can showcase your on-the-job, transferable soft skills such as winning awards, doing volunteer work or if you’ve competed in a case competition, a music competition, a sport at an elite level or if you’ve led a student group. These are all examples of relevant, transferable experience where you went above and beyond: you had to manage your time effectively and you found the perseverance to study, to train or to prepare in addition to dealing with high-pressure situations. These are examples of soft skills that employers value.

If you’re still struggling keeping your résumé to one page, send your résumé to a friend whom you know to be direct. We all have that one friend or family member who’s concise and gets their point across in a few words. They’ll be happy to help you to trim it down.

Your résumé should be longer if…

My general rule of thumb is this: you earn a page for every 5 years’ experience up to a maximum of three pages, depending on your field and position level. There are certain fields and position levels where it’s expected for your résumé to be longer.

Once you’re experienced, it’s natural that you’ll take on more responsibility and perhaps even supervise staff, and you don’t want to run the risk of devaluing your candidacy for the sake of being concise. If your experience is relevant for the job, your résumé will be read regardless if it’s one page or two. So make sure you don’t sell yourself short – literally! Remember: this could have an impact when the time comes to negotiate your salary. If the employer thinks you haven’t done much, they may not offer you much.

The longest résumé I’d ever received was 21 pages and its length was completely unwarranted. This person was in Engineering and they felt the need to elaborate each project not only within table, but also in text. I almost got the feeling that they were trying to do the interview on their résumé so that we would know everything about them and just pick them. This example compels me to specify the following: no amount of résumé will help you to skip the recruitment process. Employers still need to meet you, ask questions, get to know you and compare candidates in order to select the right person for the job. So while you do want to be give a complete representation of your candidacy, remember that it’s only that – a representation. You’ll be able to elaborate more about your experience during the interview.