By now you’ve probably heard the average human’s attention span is less than that of a goldfish. Since you only have about eight seconds to grab a hiring manager’s attention, some people spend a lot of time obsessing over the length of their résumé…but what difference does a short résumé make if it’s a snoozefest of actions without results?
To keep yours from being tossed in the trash, it should be relevant to the job at hand and showcase your achievements. Whether that takes one or two pages is irrelevant. That being said, while there are no hard-and-fast rules, there are a few occasions where a particular résumé length is more acceptable.
One-page résumés are typically reserved for recent college graduates, lower-level professionals, and industrial/factory workers. Of course, if there are supervisory responsibilities to note or the individual has contributed a great deal in terms of process improvements and accomplishments, two pages might be necessary to make room for all of the relevant content.
A one-pager might also work for someone who has had the same duties in each role, like a dental hygienist. There are only so many ways to say you cleaned teeth, recorded patient histories, and developed x-rays, so use the “Professional Experience” section for a bulleted list of duties and accomplishments followed by a “Work History” section listing companies, titles, and dates of employment.
If you’re changing careers, a one-page résumé might be warranted since the focus should be on your transferable skills. Your less relevant experience can be significantly pared down. If you’re in sales, but you want to be a teacher, concentrate on duties that highlight how you modify your approach based on your audience, present content in a way that’s easy to understand, and recognize when individuals require special attention. If you’re in human resources, but would like to be a counselor, don’t take up valuable space by listing how you managed benefits and interpreted policies. Instead, emphasize your accomplishments related to resolving conflict and cultivating interpersonal relationships.
A two-page résumé should work for just about everyone else, unless you’re a very senior executive with extensive experience or someone with a lot of project work to list. In these cases, three pages might be warranted, yet you don’t want to overwhelm the reader. It’s acceptable to eliminate positions older than 15 or 20 years, so you might still be able to get away with two pages.
The important thing is to focus on your overall business impact in each position instead of your résumé length.
In other words, don’t have a one-page résumé just for the sake of having a one-page résumé. While you don’t want to bore hiring managers with superfluous information, you also shouldn’t eliminate important accomplishments to fit everything on one page.
Don’t sell yourself short. Résumés should be highly focused—lean, clean, and keyword-rich—but if that requires more than one page, so be it.
So how do you determine your business impact?
Start by thinking of specific instances where you made a positive difference, large or small. Whether you organized a supply room or landed a $5 million account, employers want to know what you can do for them. So instead of just listing what you did, emphasize how and why you did it.
Remember that you’re an individual with specific qualifications and objectives, so you shouldn’t use a cookie-cutter approach to résumé development. Instead of fixating on the number of pages, use the space to convey your personal brand and draw attention to the positive impact you’ll have in your next role.