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When I was getting my degree, we had a course about how to market yourself as a job seeker, and one thing our teacher had a strong opinion on was that your résumé should be no longer than two pages (I live in the US). I've seen this recommendation from many other places since then, such as hiring managers, human resource workers, career guidance counselors, etc.

Why is it recommended that your resume be only one or two pages in length?

I would prefer a comprehensive recommendation, along with some links to research backing up the reasons for this recommendation, if possible.

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It's not necessarily, it really depends on the country, so this is a localized question. I have 3 versions of my resume: 1page (France), 2pages (UK, US), 3 to 8pages (Germany, Australia). And then a more complete curriculum vitae, and a portfolio, plus online profiles. And I usually send all of them, clearly labelled. The ones interested in the "executive summary" will start with the small ones, and be keener to read more if interested, and like the effort and professionalism. I often got very positive feedback from agencies and employers on these. Also shows you can be concise AND exhaustive. –  haylem Jul 4 '12 at 15:26
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TL;DR –  Jarrod Roberson Aug 2 '12 at 1:10
    
Yes, TL; DR. Shorter resumes are more likely to be read. –  Jim G. Nov 30 '12 at 3:17

6 Answers 6

up vote 34 down vote accepted

Ever seen tl;dr on a forum? Same premise.

Let's say that I'm an HR director. I have to fill a job for a widget-maker position. In come 100 résumés for the position – I'm going to look for any reason to get that number down to something manageable. If I see that everyone else felt they could qualify themselves in 1 page, what makes you think that I'm going to read through 3 or 4 pages to find out what makes you so special?

If you want to increase your chances of being read, you have two pages: your cover letter, and a 1 page résumé. In your resume I want to see your previous work experience for the last 5 jobs or 10 years, I want to see your education, and I want to see your salary requirements all at a glance. I don't care about your hobbies, I don't care that you have a cat named fluffy that purrs when you call for her. I'm probably not going to read your nonsense objective; I'm probably not going to read about your awards and accolades. I'm skimming and I want to skim fast.

I need you to be accurate, succinct, and qualified; you need me to read your résumé. That is reason enough.

See Also

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You should also only include experience that is relevant. –  ssbrewster Jul 4 '12 at 11:58
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Would you normally put salary requirements in a resume / CV? This seems quite counter-intuitive to me... –  Dibstar Nov 30 '12 at 15:35
    
Salary Reqs – some do, some don't. Personally, I like to see it. If I'm hiring for a bookkeeper paying $45k a year, and you're looking to replace you $75k a year job of 20 years, we're on different pages, and I don't want to waste my time interviewing someone I can't afford. With sites like monster.com where you can send your resume to 50 people at the click of a mouse button, I have to read more resumes for each advertised position because applicants aren't reading the job posting. Experience - Relevant is best, but avoid big gaps. I want to know what you've been doing. –  stslavik May 3 '13 at 17:22
    
So many career sites talk about a 1- or 2-page resume. Do they mean single-sided or double-sided? I personally don't see the difference between a single-sided and a double-sided, so long as it is one piece of paper. –  David K Apr 21 at 14:59

The answer is simple: It makes it easy to identify if you are fit

The critical point to understand is that the resume is only a starting point of the recruitment process. When I select the resume to decide on the further evaluation process, I am only looking for whether you can categorize the profile and see if it is fits.

So from that perspective, I should focus simply to highlight why you are fit. Irrespective of your quality and beauty of resume, this is not a final boarding pass to land you the job - so it must focus on only most essential stuff. If you do treat the resume as a selling point -even then highlight the most important aspect that defines who you are rather than just say everything.

No one needs a full biography of yours if you are not fit.

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+1 for the resume being a starting point -- Bring more detailed information to your interview and present it to them if they want it. Your resume and cover letter (a grand total of 2 sheets of paper) are just supposed to get you in the door. –  voretaq7 Apr 20 '12 at 16:42

Speaking as a former teacher of undergraduate professional and technical writing courses, in which one of the units was to create an employment portfolio including a resume, some of the reasons for teaching the students to create a 1-page resume are:

  • to help students understand the very real situation in which they are one of many applicants, and the person reviewing the resume will spend very little time reviewing theirs
  • to help students understand how to make rhetorical decisions about what to include and what not to include (because of the first point)
  • to help students learn to write concise, action-oriented descriptive phrases about their skills and experience (also because of the first point)

In other words, ensuring students are not wasting a recruiter's time with fluff, at the point in time when fluff might be all they have.

But these guidelines for entry-level job seekers tie in to the general advice given in the Monster.com link used by another respondent, "The One-Page Resume vs. the Two-Page Resume", which focuses on understanding the short attention span of reviewers and showing the most recent and relevant accomplishments, among other things.

The guidance given to undergrads, that you and probably many others were given, is not materially different than the guidance we get as experienced, working adults, in which we must understand the context in which we are applying (e.g. is it a cattle-call job in which first, quick, impressions matter most, or a more specialized advanced position in which greater detail is both desired and beneficial?) and tailor our resume to both the position itself and that context. This means making informed rhetorical choices which in the end may result in the use of a resume longer than 1-2 pages.

In some cases, that's just fine; I always suggest having two resumes in your back pocket: one made for a recruiter's easy scanning of skills and experience in the last 7-10 years (if you've been a working professional that long, and if the jobs in that timeframe are relevant to the job you're applying to now), and one to send to the recruiter and the hiring manager after you've made it to the "let's talk more" stage and giving a richer and more detailed picture of yourself is appropriate.

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As someone who goes through a lot of resumes, I see 3 main reasons to be concise:

  1. Your resume will get 15 seconds in the first reading. You want to get 3 or 4 points of your personal brand across, no more. Let's example, "Smart", "Global", "C++" and "Dedicated". You want to only include those items that support this brand. (And this brand should apply to the job in question) If your resume is too long, there's a big chance something irrelevant to the job (and your brand) will fill the 15 seconds.
  2. Your resume will be used to drive your interview. If your resume is too long, you lose control over what gets discussed at the interview. You want to talk about your strengths, and your brand, and how your brand fits the job.
  3. If I see a resume that's too long, I assume that all the author's communication will be too long. Do I want to work with someone who uses 5 paragraphs to communicate a point better explained in 5 words?
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I have interviewed when I have been faced with over 1000 resumes. Interviewing is not my full-time job. Any time I spend reading resumes either takes away from the tasks that are my full-time job or cuts into my personal time. Why would I want to weed through resumes longer than 1-2 pages? Why would someone looking for a job want to annoy the person doing the hiring? A resume is a sales brochure, not a biography.

And if you have less than five years of experience, you had better not have more than one page. I remember vividly one fellow who sent us a ten-page resume when he had only two years of experience. We passed that one around the office and laughed at it, but we didn't interview him.

In general, you only have a few seconds to catch the interest of someone reading your resume. A long one tends to make someone not feel at all interested in someone who can't even follow basic directions that are widely known about how long a resume should be.

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+1 for "interviewing is not my full-time job". –  TomG Dec 3 '12 at 2:59
    
-1 for the unprofessional comments on the 10 page resume –  daaxix Apr 6 at 0:20

This answer is written from the POV of a private sector US company. Practices in the government and other countries are often different.

For most technical positions two pages is plenty. Please try and put yourself in the shoes of the person who is given a stack of over a hundred or more resumes and told to pull out the best prospects.

With the best will in the world your reviewer is very likely to find a long resume to be off-putting. Two pages is enough to substantiate your basic qualifications, experience, and strongest skill sets.

All you are trying to do is get your resume moved from the reviewer's inbox to the 'contact for more information' box.

If you have decades of experience and an impressive CV, then you still want to present a resume of no more than two pages covering the highlights of your career. You can then attach your full CV listing all your publications, awards, and inventions.

This is true even if the hiring company solicited a resume from you based on your reputation. If you are being considered for a very senior position then the reviewing senior executives will appreciate your two page 'executive summary' that precedes your full CV.

If the hiring executive for this hypothetical senior position doesn't already know all about you he or she will ask the HR to verify the details in your long CV.

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