If I asked a hundred recruiters, hiring managers, or people walking at a mall, they would all have slightly (some radically) different responses to the question: How many pages should a resume be? To help un-muddy the waters, let me give you my take…
True enough, some questions do not have a clear-cut answer… this happens to be an example. Being in the career management industry for decades and being a certified resume writer, a certified career coach, and a certified interview professional, there may be nothing more confusing than page length. Way too many things to consider which would disallow a blanket answer.
Regarding length, things to consider include social and economic conditions, industry expectations, and position being sought as well as experience level / background / accomplishments and your goals. All of these elements should be considered and a proper strategy based upon those elements is paramount to a successful campaign.
Times, technology, and attention levels have changed and so have the medium of information exchange. As such, I disagree with traditional strategies proclaiming that a one-page resume is a mistake or that it automatically puts the candidate in a diminished capacity. Heck, 8 years ago, the traditional long-winded approach was accepted… but not anymore. Today, hiring managers are time-crunched and want to know YOUR value immediately… much like a 30-second commercial.
The foundation of my dissent comes from the top three career management associations in the country. To summarize, The Career Management Alliance, The Professional Resume Writers Association, and The National Resume Writers Association advocate a single page resume over multiple pages. I summarized a few of the reasons for your quick review:
1) There is a 12-15 second reader attention (you have only seconds to attract the reader and define value immediately—not 2 or 3 pages down the road as the reader will never get past the first page).
2) Resumes, under current standards, should not describe an employment history beyond 10 years (15 years is appropriate IF there is a direct correlation and benefit).
3) Our sensate culture expects instant proof in the top third of the page. The remainder of the resume will confirm the top third; this is best represented with a single page document.
4) Though not directly asked, the associations recommend the chronological resume format NOT to be used… I state this as many multiple page resumes use a chronological format (would just hate to see you fall into that trap).
5) The top three associations recommend an assertive semi-functional format (leading into the single-page format). This strategy is finding a great deal of success for executives, students, and entry-level candidates.
The reasons above are not all-inclusive or exhaustive. But remember, there are no clear-cut ways as much depends upon external forces and changing expectations. For example, if an industry, position, or client is best served with a two-page resume, go that route; if you are unsure about what is best for your situation, make a comment here or contact me directly. I will be glad to throw in my two cents.
A final word of warning (not to confuse you more than I all ready have): there is no one right way but there are many wrong ways.
Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International
Education Career Services
407-206-5883 (direct line)
866-794-3337 ext 110