There are so many rules when it comes to resume writing. Tons of rules and no wrong answers. Of course, there are certain things you can (and should) do to make your resume more legible for job boards, and things you want to check. But for as fiercely as some people may preach the values of having a professional summary or listing what you did during a layoff, it’s all a matter of opinion. This is why it might surprise you to learn that the number of pages (yes, pages) a resume should have is subjective, too.
Now, I know there are some recruiters and hiring managers who swear by the one-page resume rule, but for every applicant who would benefit from a one-page resume, I can think of another applicant whose work history would suffer without the extra space. The reality is the correct thing to do varies from professional to professional.
Yes, it does make it easier for employers to read a one-page resume, so that is usually preferred (present company included). But I would much rather see an effective resume that’s two pages instead of a single-page resume that’s missing critical information.
Bottom line: It depends on the position you’re applying to, where you are in your career, and your previous experiences.
In some situations, two-page resumes are completely fine –encouraged, even—but beware: If you’ve reached a point in your career where you’re thinking of expanding to a second page, be careful about the message you could be sending.
More information isn’t always better and multiple page resumes don’t always send the message you’re a seasoned professional with a lot of experience; it can also be a signal you’re jumpy when it comes to jobs, don’t have a defined skill set (you think every skill you have in your arsenal is your strongest), you can’t prioritize/organize information, etc.
As a recruiter who focuses mainly on entry-level roles, here are some of my initial thoughts when I see a two-page resume.
A two-page resume isn’t a dealbreaker, but taking your resume into two-page territory is not a decision that should be taken lightly.
There’s too Much Information
For entry-level roles, it can be hard to know what skills you have that make you a valuable professional. When you’re starting out, it’s natural to want to hedge your bets and put everything that might be of use. When I see a two-page resume for an entry-level role, often it’s filled with experiences and skills that are irrelevant to the position a candidate applied to.
When I see this, it’s one of those subtle tip-offs that someone is applying simply to apply, doesn’t understand the job, or doesn’t understand (yet) where their strong suits lie.
To resolve this, remember that a resume is a summary of your work experience; it doesn’t have to have every responsibility you’ve ever performed. Stick to bullet points that highlight your main duties. Think about the role you’re applying to and clean up any unnecessary/irrelevant duties and consolidate bullets that go hand-in-hand.
Remember, employers and recruiters are mostly concerned with your most recent experience, so the further in the past a role is, the less detail needs to be provided. It’s okay if work experience you had 10 years ago, doesn’t make the cut.
There’s Not Enough Information
There are some over-the-top or complicated resume templates out there. Recruiters know a complex resume doesn’t always mean an experienced professional. When I see a two-page resume (especially for greener roles) my recruiter intuition will sometimes go off that the additional “bloat” is meant to hide or distract from something.
From there a part of my mind reads the resume with the question, “What are they trying to hide/distract from?” Now, of course, this could just be a bad template, but adding length to a resume purely to add length misses the point of what an effective resume is about.
My advice? Keep it simple. As a recruiter, I don’t care about the type of columns and headers you’re using; I care about your experiences and if you’ll be successful in this job. (Well, okay, I do care about layout, too, as it shows you’re organized and can communicate your thoughts effectively. But experience trumps a shiny object any day. 😊 )
Organization/ Communication May be an Issue
One of the things needed for any job is good communication skills. Recruiters want to see that not only on your resume but throughout your resume. Remember, the most effective resumes show and don’t tell. Having too much information or bloat in your resume can make you look disorganized and undercut the power of your message/presentation.
Remember, longer doesn’t always mean better. The goal of a resume is to captivate a hiring manager and sell them on why you’re the best job seeker for the role. “Less is more” is a good rule to follow when taking this route.
A Tenuous Work History
Another reason a resume might fall to the second page is that you’ve held a plethora of jobs in a short amount of time. Sometimes this is because of contract roles or overlapping time frames on jobs (ie. multiple part-time jobs).
Length can sometimes be a red flag for recruiters who quickly skim a resume. When we see a lot of jobs, it can be a sign of someone who may get bored of roles quickly, or not be as proficient as they say they are in their resume. There are a lot of reasons why someone might not have held onto a job for a long time, some of which could be of concern; it could also link back to listing irrelevant experience on your resume, too.
All in all, some job seekers will have resumes that run long naturally, and that’s okay. A two-page resume isn’t a dealbreaker, but taking your resume into two-page territory is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Two-page resumes aren’t bad, but for entry-level roles, one page is definitely better.
Keep your resume as clear and simple as possible. Remember less is more when it comes to making a strong case as to why you should be hired. You’ll always be able to provide more in-depth details in your interview. Be sure to choose a clean-cut template, eliminate space-sucking bloat, and ensure your bullet points serve as summaries and aren’t just unnecessary fillers. Taking these things into account can help you trim the fat and build a one-page resume that really wows employers!