The Perfect Length for Your Resume: Settling the Debate

How long should a resume be? May 19, 2020 · 8 min read

How long’s a piece of string? What is the ideal resume length? Lots of people will advocate for a simple, one-page resume whilst others will spend hours convincing you that a double-paged document is the way to go.

Who are you to believe?

How long have you spent trying to choose between a one-page or two-page resume?

Have you ever worried that your two-page resume was the reason you didn’t land the job you knew you were perfect for?

This post is going to explore the case from both sides and come to a solid answer for you on what the right length for a resume should be.

Let’s get started…

What’s the Right Length for a Resume?

You might have heard that your resume should fit onto one page.

Yet, it’s not a hard and fast rule; there are times where it’s perfectly fine to submit a two-page resume, too.

Some people state that a one-page resume is a better choice because it is compact, while others assume that a two-page resume provides you with more space to fill in the important information for a recruiter.

So, who's right?

The answer is — both one-page and two-page resume can work in different circumstances.

The right length for a resumeThe resume length depends on the amount of relevant information you may write about your professional experience

The most important thing is that everything you include in your document is important and that the potential employer really needs to know about it.

The top two things that you should focus on are that it’s readable and relevant.

These two parameters are very much dependent on the resume format you choose.

Ever struggled to choose the right different resume format? There’s a few to pick from so be sure to match the one you use to your circumstances and the job you want.

Now we know there’s not a definitive answer, let’s jump into getting to grips with when the right time to use a one- or two-page resume.

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The Right Time for a One-Page Resume

Having a one-page resume is perfect for those who don’t have much work experience yet. For instance:

  • Workers starting out in the labor market
  • Graduates fresh out of college
  • People with a few years of employment history

If you’re in the market for a career change and your past doesn’t have much to do with the future you’re aiming for, a one-page resume will also work a treat.

When you don’t have much information to share, don’t try to stretch it onto the second page by using a bigger font, narrowing the margins, adding lots of extra irrelevant data, or other tricks you might think of.

It’s better to work on how you present what you have. Format and arrange everything on to one page, keep it easy to read and understand, and describe only the important and relevant facts about your career so far.

It’s also a great idea to use a free online resume builder to make sure your resume is easy on the eye and uses an effective format.

So, with only so much white space to fill on your resume, how do you make sure yours jumps out at recruiters?

There are a few techniques you can use, like peppering the right amount of keywords throughout, putting some real-world examples into your achievements, and importantly, sticking to the point with clear language.

Be sure to include all the important sections in your resume and remember, it’s going to need to get past ATS software if you’re going to be in with a chance.

If you’ve got lots of skills and technical abilities, consider using a two-pager format or divide your one-page resume into columns to make it easier to read for a recruiter.

By following these tips, your resume should make a great first impression when it lands in front of a recruiter.

Pro-Tip
When you’re applying for a role in academia, you need to create a CV that includes your relevant publications and other works. The level of detail required usually pushes a CV on to a second page.

Using a Two-Page Resume at the Right Time

Most of the time, you’re not doing yourself any harm by submitting a double-paged resume.

With a long career history spanning a decade or more, the only way to cover your achievements is to cover them over two pages.

There’s critical information that you need to share, and it’s best to get it all included rather than omit a potentially deal-breaking detail about your career.

When you’ve had lots of writing published at school or through work, or If you’ve got a history of technical and challenging jobs, you want to pack in details that match up to the new job you’re applying for.

In that case, going onto a second page is going to be fine.

Be careful how much of the juicy, important details end up on the second page, though.

Page two won’t get as much of a going over as page one. Get the really important details on the first page and back that up with your second page.

You might be tempted to squeeze everything you’ve done in your life ever on to one single page using the smallest font available that’s going to require a magnifying glass or five clicks on the zoom key.

Don’t give in to that temptation; everything needs to be readable and presented nicely, too.

Pro-Tip
A career filled with relevant roles, successful projects, and high-achieving assignments should be documented, and if that means using a second page, that’s resume space well used.

How to Reduce Resume Length

If it’s still a toss-up between a single or double pager for your resume, think about some of these points that might help you keep it on one page:

  • Keep your points concise. Once written, you need to edit your resume and make sure everything is as clear and direct as possible. Some tricks include focusing on the one key idea in each sentence to keep your objective, summary, experience, and other sections on point.
  • Note down your achievements rather than tasks, you don’t need to list what you did each day or week, just list your best and proudest accomplishments. Really get into details and back up claims with numbers or facts.
  • Stick to what’s relevant and lose optional information. Sections like your hobbies and interests might not be needed. Assess the job description for the role you’re applying for and if these sections don’t directly relate then you probably don’t need to include them. Also, check out if you should include your volunteer experience to your resume.
Fit a resume on one pageTips on how to turn your resume into a concise one-page

Even after all these steps, if your resume is still stubbornly sitting across two pages, then you’re doing nothing wrong by submitting it that way.

This is particularly true for scientific or academic job applications.

As long as everything you’ve included is relevant, it’s going to have value to the hiring manager reading it.

Pro-Tip
Putting your resume on two sides of the same paper isn’t a great idea. It might sound like a good idea, reducing paper and all, but the second side is easily missed so make sure you still use two sheets of paper when submitting hard copies.

Bringing It All Together

To make sure your resume is the one that jumps out at a recruiter, your content needs to be packed with relevant and pertinent information.

  • In an ideal world, you’ll get everything you want included on a single page resume. This is easy for a hiring manager to get an overview and find your skills, qualifications, and experience. Go with this option when you’re new to working, haven’t got much of a work history yet, or are switching up industries and careers.
  • For a long and successful career or a highly technical skillset, both a two-page resume and a one page resume work.
  • For a CV to apply for academic or science-based roles, it’s very likely you’ll have to go over more than one page since it’s important to list all of your relevant publications in your document.

It’s easy to see the reasons why you’d want to choose either option for the length of your resume.

Want to know the secret at the heart of the resume length conundrum?

If everything in there is relevant, it should be as long as needed - but only CVs can go over more than two pages.

To make your choice…

Read through the job description and look at your work history, make notes of all the skills, qualifications, and achievements you’ve got that match what the company needs. Lots of matches will mean a two-pager, less information will result in a one-pager.

Whatever you do, remember…

No matter how long your resume is, get the most important and impressive facts at the top of page one.

Page one is where the absolute highlights of your career belong, use the second page to back up and bulk out your claims.

The opening page should be the home of your skills, resume summary, certifications, and a chunk of your work experience. The second page should be where your publications, conferences, and supporting information belongs.

One last thing, is your resume less than a page and a half?

If yes, it’s best you do some chopping about and get it on to one page.

Get things concise and sharp, make lists of your accomplishments rather than daily tasks, and don’t keep in anything that’s not fully relevant.

Happy job hunting!