One of the most persistent pieces of job-search advice floating around concerns resume length: They should be one page.
Resumes are skimmed quickly, this idea goes, so you don’t want to turn off hiring managers or human resources (or the system) with too much information – or give the impression that you’re not aware of this “basic rule.”
But in fact, this well-worn piece of advice is simply incorrect for a lot of job-seekers.
Let’s say it clearly: a two-page resume is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it’s desirable for many job seekers!
One-page resumes are for folks in certain categories, such as entry-level job seekers, for example. One-pagers are also a good choice for professionals who have worked in the same position or company for many years, who can effectively show their experience and qualifications in that single page.
People who are making a career change can also use a single page resume, because it may cover the information relevant to the sought-after career sufficiently. If you’re pivoting, you want to zero in on the most relevant information to help hiring managers quickly see why they should open the door for you.
In all these cases, a resume longer than one page might look padded – and that’s one thing that does turn off hiring managers and HR professionals. A resume should never read (or look) as if you’re laboring to fill up space.
Who Should Have a Two-Page (or Longer) Resume?
So what categories of job seekers should have a two-page resume? Everyone else! The following groups find a two-page (or more) resume especially helpful.
People with 10 or more years of experience.
If you’ve been working for 10 years or more, you likely need a two-page resume to highlight your achievements and experience, especially if you have a record of promotions and movement among companies.
If you’re seeking a senior level position, you need to highlight a series of quantifiable accomplishments, along with a record of promotions, significant experience, and (likely) multiple employers.
People in positions requiring extensive certification.
Job-seekers in academia, engineering, information technology, and similar occupations often need to show extensive professional qualifications, including advanced degrees, certifications, technical skills, and publications.
People seeking government positions.
Most government jobs require job-seekers to complete specific applications that ask for extensive detail about past jobs. The resulting resumes are often longer than two pages.
Benefits of a Two-Page Resume
Two-page resumes offer very specific benefits to contemporary job seekers as well.
Make it through the ATS.
First, a longer resume allows you to craft a resume that will successfully make it through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). ATS are used by the vast majority of companies. They are designed to choose only those that most closely match the job description and weed out the rest.
Your resume will only be seen by a human if it successfully makes it through the ATS scan. As a result, part of your goal needs to be ensuring that your resume meets ATS requirements.
What are those requirements? First, the ATS scans to ensure that resumes match the keywords in the job description. You must match the keywords to make it through successfully.
Second, they also scan for the frequency of keywords. As a result, successful applicants need to ensure both the existence of keywords and sufficient frequency throughout the resume. Frankly, ensuring keyword frequency without monotony may be hard to do without two (or more) pages.
Offer more in-depth information.
Additionally, longer resumes allow you to present your achievements and qualifications in a winning light. You should always highlight your most significant quantifiable achievements toward the top of a resume in a way that catches reviewer attention.
Remember as well that job seekers with a longer resume can include sections many employers find helpful in reviewing resumes of more advanced professionals, such as an executive summary and list of core competencies.
Improve your resume’s formatting.
Finally, a longer resume allows you to pay attention to readability and presentation. Some job seekers resort to small type and meager margins to make a resume fit in one page.
But small type and narrow margins are not good for readability and presentation. In fact, they make resumes hard to read. Many hiring managers may shrink from reading teeny-tiny type all, even if the resume has made it through the ATS.
Human personnel spend just a few seconds skimming resumes. Successful resumes need to incorporate that fact, and be very easy to skim. Easy-to-read type and reasonable margins contribute to readability, as do bullet points and lists.
Specifically, use at least an 11-point typeface in a standard business typeface, such as Arial or Calibri. Each margin should be at least one inch.
When you’re using a two-page resume, part of the presentation should consider the second page, too. Be sure to fill at least one-third of the second page. Why? Because if the second page covers less than that, it may strike a reviewer as a tacked-on afterthought. In fact, if it fills just a few lines on the second page, it may look like a mistake. Make sure it neither looks nor reads that way!
What If Your Resume Is More Than Two Pages?
What if you’re aiming for a two-page resume and it’s running three pages or longer? You’ll need to cut it down. Part of developing a great resume lies in the revision!
Remember, the most important goal of a resume is obtaining an interview, because an interview can actually get you the job. The most important goal-contributing part of a resume is thus the quantifiable achievements, because they tell a hiring manager “this is what I could do if you hired me.”
When you revise, focus on the goal of obtaining an interview. Any information that doesn’t contribute is secondary, and can be pared down. If your resume lists a number of early jobs that don’t contribute to your prospective role, for example, they can be streamlined.
Two-page resumes allow job seekers to present their qualifications, ensure readability, and successfully navigate the ATS. They are especially helpful to those with a decade or more of experience, prospective senior managers, and those in highly specialized fields.
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