1 page. 2 pages. 3 pages. More?
How many pages and how long should our resumes be?
While we need to tell our full and complete career stories in our resumes, we are writing resumes here, not our life stories.
In this video, I’m going to help you determine how long your resume should be, and how many pages you should include.
First, a confession.
I used to be a big stickler for resume length and number of pages.
I believed that no resume should exceed 2 pages because I had successfully written resumes for CEOs that fit on 2 pages.
And this was true.
But then I ended up having to write a resume for a CEO on 3 pages. And then another CEO on 4 pages.
I realized, I needed a resume that was as long as it needed to be, in order to tell the stories that needed to be told, in the way they needed to be told.
And that’s what I want you to focus on when writing your resume. Your resume needs to be as long as it needs to be, in order to tell your stories the right way.
In this video, I’m going to share with you my general, and I stress general, rule of thumb for resume length, the pitfalls and possibilities for a 1 page resume, a 2 page resume, and a 3+ page resume, and fitting or filling the space.
General Guidelines for Resume Length
So let’s talk about my very general guidelines for resume length.
For anyone with less than 5 years of work experience in their target profession, I aim for a 1 page resume. This would include recent grads or professionals very junior in their careers.
For anyone with more than 5 years of work experience in their target profession, I aim for a 2 page resume.
For anyone targeting an executive level or board role, I expect to write a 3 page or 4 page resume.
Now there are most definitely many exceptions to these guidelines, and that’s why I stress they are general.
Whatever page length you do go for, commit to filling the length.
So I don’t want to see any half-page resumes.
Likewise I don’t want to see you squishing so much content into 1 page that it becomes impossible to read.
Whenever you’re determining the length of your resume and writing your resume, always be mindful of the reader.
Are they going to want to read a 1 page resume in 10 point font with 2 point white space lines throughout? Probably not.
Are they going to want to read a 5 page resume about your 10 year career? Also, probably not.
1 Page Resume
So let’s talk about the 1-page resume. The purported magic-page number length for a resume except it totally isn’t. There’s a common misconception that recruiters won’t read resumes that are longer than 1 page. This simply is not true.
A 1 page resume is not what everyone needs to shoot for. Sometimes it works, but oftentimes, it doesn’t.
The common issues I see with a 1 page resume include:
Jam packed content that makes the document impossible to read
Too little white space, making the document difficult to read
Cutting important information just to fit the space
Fitting a 1 Page Resume
If you’re certain that a 1 page resume is the right length for you, and that you’ve been able to tell the most important stories, in a compelling way, on your 1 page resume, but your content is just slightly spilling onto 1 page, here are a few tricks for making your resume fit the 1 page.
Check your margins: 1.5 cm all the way around will do
Check your line spacing: Select 1.0.
Adjust your font size: 10 point is a small as you can go; my preference is 11 point
Use single lines for items for things like your education or volunteering
Speaking of volunteering, this is a nice to have section. If your volunteering is sporadic or occurred 5 years ago, just cut it.
When a 1 Page Resume Works
A 1 page resume works best when you have so far had a brief, or condensed, career.
As mentioned, a 1 page resume works largely for new or recent grads, or professionals who are early in their careers.
But a 1 page resume can also work for established professionals who have very long tenure in the same job.
For example, I wrote a 1 page resume for someone who had 2 jobs over a 20 year span.
2 Page Resume
Now let’s talk about 2 page resumes. This is the length that most of us will find ourselves using. Must our resume be 2 pages, absolutely not. But it is a bit of a sweet spot for many of us.
2 pages gives us the space to take the reader through the evolution of our careers.
The common issues I see with a 2 page resume are:
The content shared isn’t targeted enough. More space doesn’t give us license to be verbose or telling stories that aren’t relevant to the reader and target role.
Not having enough information to fill a 2 page resume, but having too much for a 1 page resume. I’ll talk more about that now.
Filling a 2 Page Resume
So the tips shared earlier for fitting a 1 page resume apply to 2 page resumes as well.
But what if you find yourself in a situation where you have say, 1 and half pages or 1 and ¾ pages, and need to fill the rest to make a full 2 page resume?
Some ways to fill the resume space are:
Consider adding a section like “Recommendations” or “Praise” that include some short quotes and testimonials from previous managers or clients.
If you cut one of your earliest jobs, add it back but include only highlights of accomplishments from that role and reframe them to make them relevant to your target direction.
Add a separate section that highlights skills and strengths you’re currently developing through self-directed training, mentorship, or coaching.
When a 2 Page Resume Works
A 2 page resume works best for more experienced folks who have a lot of accomplishments to share.
It can also work for the rare, exceedingly busy, over-achieving recent graduate who has paid work experience, volunteering or leadership experience, and also, key projects to highlight.
3+ Page Resume
Let’s talk about the Big Daddy of resumes, the 3 pages or more.
The biggest pitfall I see with a 3 or more page resume is being very long-winded with content.
You might think, we’ll I’ve got lots to say, which very well may be. But what you say still needs to be targeted even if you have a lot more resume real estate to work with.
A 3 or more page resume works for experienced professionals so long as you are being very targeted with what you’re sharing on your resume.
We know what the the stories and accomplishments we’re sharing on our resume are targeted when they meet the 5Rs: Reframe, Relevant, Relate, Reinforce, Resonate.
When a 3+ Page Resume Works
I wouldn’t recommend a 3 or more page resume, however, for someone with less than 15 years of work experience.
A 3 or more page resume works really well for professionals that are going after executive or C-suite level, or board positions.
Of the last 6 Board or C-suite resumes I’ve written in the last couple months, all of them were 4 pages.
Just to recap, your resume needs to be as long as it needs to be to tell the important stories in the right way.
In order to know if your resume is sharing the right information in the right way, you need to be very clear on what your target job is, and who your target audience is. If you want more on providing the right context, make sure to watch my video on accomplishments.
How long is your resume? After watching this, will you aim for a 1, 2, or 3 or more page resume? Tell me in the comments below.