Why the one page resume doesn’t work anymore


I don’t remember who ever said a resume should be one page. This statement was probably uttered before I ever started recruiting by a lazy recruiter that didn’t like to turn pages (did I just say that out loud?). This was adopted as conventional wisdom by the masses. Aside from the fact that the statement is just wrong in my opinion (I’m not that into cookie cutter advice…most advice may work for most people but one size does not fit all), it won’t work today. Times have changed and the one page resume is a thing of the past (with one exception and that is the relatively new graduate).

Here’s what’s led to the demise of the one-pager:

Employees no longer have the same kind of employer loyalty that they did in the past. OK, wait a sec, before you get upset and explain how loyal you are to your employer. It’s just changed. My grandfather worked for 2 companies for his whole career and they gave him a pension (remember those?). Talk to someone today who has worked for only 2 companies and they are either a few years out of school or they are worried that their long tenure at so few companies is seen as a red flag by hiring companies.

A few things have caused this. Most companies have done away with pensions and many have started giving stock options. Because of the dynamic nature of the stock market, people are more willing to cut bait and leave some stock on the table. Companies can’t compete based on stock alone. They also have to compete on scope of work, culture, career paths and other things. Second is the concept of the employment marketplace. Years ago, if you wanted to change jobs, you put on a suit and walked into the “Personnel” office (remember when they called it that?) of another company to apply. Today, it takes just the click of a mouse. You can apply for hundreds of positions online in a single day (not that I wold necessarily recommend that) and the internet enables you to view the employment offerings of any given company in detail. As a result, employees are more empowered to drive career change. Candidates have more choices and more power in the marketplace and now see their relationship with their employer as more of a deal than a commitment. You stay with your employer as long as you are getting a good deal. These things have led to a point where a person is expected to work for a number of companies over the span of a career. Hardly something you can fit on that one page resume, right?

You can also see how companies have changed the way they hire and the impact that has had on peoples resumes. Frankly, the staffing industry got smart. Companies are now understanding the huge cost associated not only with turnover in a specific role, but with company turnover. They started to look at what an “ideal” company employee looks like..the types of skills and talents required to be successful in their workplace. By doing this, companies have enabled employees to build careers by identifying a succession of different roles within the same company (the stigma of multiple job changes may be gone, but many people like the variety of changing jobs without the pain of changing companies). Companies keep their good employees by helping them move into different roles in their organizations. Employees stay engaged and interested because they are being offered interesting work. All of these role changes need to be documented on a resume and again, the one pager just isn’t going to work.

So looking at job seekers who have worked in a multitude of roles within one company or have moved around a bit because of the change in employment market climate (or a combo of both), you can see that documenting experience gathered along the way has become more complex. And it just won’t fit into a one page resume. Keeping in mind that a resume is really just a teaser…enough to get a phone call from a recruiter but not intended to document ALL of your experience, I am not suggesting that resumes should be expanded to more than 3 or 4 pages. Just don’t feel like you have to fit it all onto one page. I, for one, don’t mind turning pages.

Comments (35)

  1. Wow. I’ve had PM’s, Evangelists and Recruiters at MS tell me that a one-pager is the easiest way to get noticed at Microsoft… It always felt limiting and 1-dimensional.

    I agree completely with your points for exactly that reason. In one company I was a Junior Designer, Web Designer, Motion Designer, Senior Designer, Technical Resource, Web Developer, Lead Developer, IT Manager, Director of IT, Business Development Director and Customer Relations Director… In the space of 5 years, often holding several titles at once.

    Trying to fit that onto a resume in a way that’s cohesive?

    That’s one of the reasons I actually love blogs / resumeblogs: they give me room to really expand on my experience and expertise in a way (and context) that would otherwise be impractical.

  2. Jeff says:

    I’ve been out of college for almost ten years now, and I’ve had seven full-time jobs (if you don’t count my current self-employment). Only three of the seven were voluntary changes.

    I get headhunter calls a few times a week, and I never answer any of them because unfortunately they just want to place me, not match me with a job that I would actually enjoy. Half the time they won’t even say what it is. I miss the days when the companies themselves would call.

  3. Gautam Ghosh says:

    will resumes exist in a page layout anymore…?

    Maybe…

    But I have a feeling that most of us will have a resume online, that’s a cross between a website and a blog…that’s updated when we achieve something big, lists our major achievements/skills/competencies on the front and links details later.

    Gautam

  4. Alec Clews says:

    I compromise. A one page sheet with a high level overview (the teaser with keys headings — Skills, Technology, Objectives …) and then 3 pages with details of the previous jobs, with decreasing detail as we go back in time (I’ve got 20 years).

    I’ve also removed the personal detail (except education and publications), that can be discussed at interview.

    Who knows…. One frormat that will attract one recruiter will turn another right off.

  5. Heather, sometimes I wish I worked in marketing JUST to have the opportunity to be interviewed by you.

    I think Jeremy C. Wright is right on target with his commentary of multi-function job titles within such a short space of time. Last night, on a whim, I sent my resume over to a friend, who is high enough on the food chain of business responsibility I can respect his opinion. As we were reviewing it, via the phone, I became more and more frustrated over everything I had to leave out in order to produce some sort of standardized one page layout.

    When you start typing in 4pt font you know it’s time to invest in a professional resume writer. (Or you realize you’re a chick who never shuts up about herself. *ehem.* 🙂

  6. Heather says:

    Jeff-you should take the recruiter calls just to gatgher info about the marketplace. Plus you could establish a long term connection that would keep you in mind of that ideal position comes across their plate some day. It’s a time investment on your part, but third party recruiters are about building their rolodex so that when they get a new job order they can look at who they already know. Just a little encouragement to think about those calls a little differently ; )

    Gautam-I don’t think the page layout resume will go away any time soon. Web resumes are great because they are so discoverable using search engines so they are great for recruiters that are looking for candidates. But if you saw how the recruiting process looked inside a company, you’d see that there is a need to be able to e-mail a resume. I have to admit that when I get an e-mail from a candidate that has a link, I wonder if the candidate is really seriously looking.

    Alec-good call on the personal details. I have some mixed feelings about people who include things like "hobbies" on their resume. We assume people have them, we don’t need to see them on the resume.

    Danielle-I have seen those mini font resumes before. ; ) Much better to have multiple pages. I need to tell you that I am the same kind of chick you are…so I know how hard it is to keep it short when it comes to talking about myself. I’m an only child (as if people here couldn’t have figured that out already).

  7. Anonymous says:

    Productmarketing.com

  8. Or Ron says:

    A lengthy comment, but hopefully I will be able to present a different view on the subject.

    The company I work for has around 4000 applications for each open position. This is an actual figure- I checked with several of our recruiters/HR personnel.

    They are using automated tools to sift through the multitude of resumes they get, using keywords- since the sheer load is overwhelming.

    When they do come up with a resume that might be interesting enough for one of the professional interviewers to read, it’s always a short one- just think of the number of resumes an interviewer sees a day. Turning pages is not an option- they believe you should be able to express what you can do and what you did in one page- like everyone else. You can always add a cover letter- but I doubt it will be referenced.

    That may sound like a stupid approach- but it is impossible to review every single resume, unless you are prepared to hire scores of recruiters and interviewers to do just that. I am confident the results will not improve significantly enough to justify such a move.

    The reason is simple- HR personnel know exactly what they are looking for. It’s their job, and they do it well. They know the company’s organizational culture, and they know what the requirements are. That means they can find the right people by reading short resumes which do not need to be any longer.

    Also, getting your resume noticed requires some luck… the short anecdote below sums it up:

    A factory owner was looking for a CEO. He recieved hunderds of resumes. His secretary told her it was impossible to go through all of them in a reasonable amout of time. She said "Throw half of the resumes away, and go thrugh the rest". "And what if the best candidate is overlooked this way?" – "Well," -Replied the factory owner- "the CEO I’m looking for needs to be a little lucky…"

  9. Shally says:

    I posted this in passingnotes but its so timely for this blog as well! The origin of the resume is a WWII throwback from when the GI’s were coming home. There were few jobs, and plenty of candidates so managers wanted a summary version of their curriculum vitae – which was traditional at the time – in order to make quick decisions out of large piles of candidates. CV’s were too big and took to long to look through, so the one page "resume" version became standard.

    Cheers,

    Shally

  10. Heather says:

    Or-I’m going to disagree with you. Sorry, this is something I feel strongly about. I AM one of the recruiter/ HR people who has to look through many resumes. I do it online so the page-turning is irrelvant. If your database has search functionality, you use it to limit the number of results that you get. Your tool should highlight keywords or track candidates to job reqs using AI and/or rank candidates. There are fantastic tools out there. So the volume of resumes you get doesn’t matter so much if your tools are good (and you don’t have to reply to every person individually).

    I am not telling you that recruiters read resumes word-for-word. We scan resumes. The most important stuff goes on the first page to catch my attention, right? But that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be more pages. I mostly care about what the person is doing now. But I also care how they got to where they are. I like to see the career progression and it’s very difficult to get a good idea of progression, what the person actually did and their results, plus their education on a one page resume. Ideally, page one details their current position or the last few. If that looks good, I want to see more, I look further down the resume…page 2 and 3 if necessary. So I guess my point is that nobody should have a one page resume because anyone told them they should. If your stuff fits on one page and you feel good about it, that’s great.

    I guess I also have a hard time with the idea that recruiters are only forwarding on short resumes. Are they only hiring junior level people? That could explain why they would be doing that (and it would make sense). Are they disqualifying candidates because they don’t want to read page 2? Our recruiters here are the professional interviewers…they handle the whole process. They look at the resumes and determine who gets a phone interview and then they phone interview them. It’s all about hiring the right people. Part of getting your resume noticed is making sure it’s complete enough for the recruiter (the professional interviewer) to want to call you. If you need 2 pages or more to do that….do it.

    In my current position (mostly around engaging talent), I rarely pass on a one page resume to the recruiters I work with because either 1) the candidate is fairly junior and we are looking for more senior talent or 2) there’s not enough detail to really get excited about the resume. Yes, I will contact the candidate back to ask for more details. So why not just put it in the resume in the first place?

    Sorry, I just feel strongly about this. There is no "right" or "wrong". If you can fit your stuff on one page, do it. But if it doesn’t fit on one page, make it 2 or 3.

    Shally-thanks for the trivia! Let’s just be thankful for technology, I guess!

  11. Or Ron says:

    Heather,

    Thank you for responding in such detail.

    You are right, of course. When looking for talent, you don’t want to miss a great candidate, and you’ll dig in deeper.

    But consider this: the resumes that pass your filter (database keyword search) are written using the "correct" keywords- which are the first barrier.

    Your search aims to limit the number of resumes you go through, but in the process you actually determine what the most important things are- so the applicants may as well write a short list of keywords to begin with.

    I agree that a good idea will be to write a one-page summary, and then elaborate later on, in the same document.

    Our recruiters are usually looking for technical personnel- usually not junior level positions. We rarely hire people with less than 3-5 years of experience.

    When you are recruiting for a technical position, the resumes all have the same keywords ".Net, C#, Project Manager, Real-Time" etc.

    Now you have to read 2 or 3 pages of the same phrases over and over again(developers almost always write the same things about themselves).

    I think in this case a one page resume does the job of getting you in the door.

  12. gretchen says:

    I absolutely agree with Heather. Use as many pages as you need to document your experience WHILE still staying concise. I review all resumes online so I can’t see page breaks anyway.

    I think the best resumes are ~2-3 pages because that gives you enough space to provide ample detail without getting long winded. As Heather says, don’t worry about documenting ALL your experience, but provide enough detail so I can understand what your accomplishments, skills, etc are.

    My resume is 2 pages long. I subscribe to the "longer" theory, too. 🙂

  13. Sean Kent says:

    I wish I could count the number of times that I have surprised candidates by telling them that they don’t need to stick to the 1 page rule. It is archaic, outdated, and not at all relevant in today’s electronic job marketplace! The ONLY time I recommend having a 1 pager is for recent college grads, or for those with very little experience.

    What is most telling about your resume, however, is not how many pages long it is – unless of course you have penned a tome, which no one wants to read. Your resume is a marketing tool, and must make a statement. Sell yourself! And make it look fantastic at the same time. No one wants to buy a product that doesn’t look the part. And no offense to Microsoft, but if you are using the MS Word resume template, you have just lowered your chances of getting an interview by 75%!

  14. Heather says:

    Sean-I’ll have to check out that template. I can tell you that I wasn’t asked for input when the Office team put together their template feature strategy ; ) Of course, you know how I feel about people making up numbers like 75% ; )

  15. Chris says:

    The software start up I was with shut down two weeks ago – so I’m knee deep in this. It seems like I end up editing my resume for recruiters constantly – they all have different theories on what is right. My bet is they are all wrong, and they are all right too. There is no right answer.

    The three most interesting opportunities I am pursuing came via 1 personal referral, and 2 incoming calls from corporate recruiters that found my resume on a job site. That really surprised me. I was assuming there was too much "noise" on the job sites to expect my resume to attract attention on its own.

    And Heather – 3 of the companies I’m interviewing with are .NET consulting / development firms. That seems to be a hot area – which is good news for Microsoft 🙂

  16. Andy says:

    Personally I focus on having as much as possible on page #1. My resume is currently 2 pages, although I have enough that it could eaily be 10 with little effort.

    The resume should do a couple of things

    – Quickly attract attention of an employer

    – Make a sales pitch (for example, imagine you are told "you have 2 minutes to make us interested in you, go"… whatever your response to this is should be 1st page material)

    I agree that people have activities that are of interest, or nice interview ice breakers to know… but that is page 2 or 3 material. If someone makes it to page #2, you’ve done a good job with page 1 and that is what gets noticed.

    I think the employers who restrict content aren’t thinking too hard. They go through good/honest effort to find people and at little additional cost to them extra pages would be a great value. Having seen a good number of college resumes that exceed a page (for no good reason) makse the 1 page resume a good rule of thumb, for college grads

  17. priya says:

    Heather…

    I have been working in US since 5 months but, i got my work authorization few weeks back. i have total of 4 years work experience. my question is how do i show my US expeirence in my resume. i don’t have any other proof for my work like employer letter or pay stubs other than my managers email and contact number as a reference.

  18. Heather says:

    Priya, You may simply want to list the city and state of each employer. That way, US based employment will be clear on your resume. I don’t think you need to create separate sections for US experience versus international experience. The resume doesn’t bear the burden of "proof" of specific employment so don’t worry about documenting the proof on the resume. However, some hiring companies do ask for a previous pay stub as proof of previous employment, later in the recruitment process. So I would highly recommend that you get that information from your employer for the past 5 months. You need to have it and your company’s payroll department should be able to provide that information for you.

    I hope that helps!

  19. priya says:

    Heather..

    My problem is I can’t even produce paystubs b’cos my current employer was not willing to pay me b’cos i did’nt have valid work permit or H1 visa. so instead of sitting idle i just started to go and work for them with out any pay. now that i have a valid work permit i decided look for some other full time job.

    so if i show my past 5 months experience in my resume how do i support it if a backgroung check is done. one thing is i can get a letter from my employer that i was working for them for past 5 months. will it be sufficient?

  20. Heather says:

    Priya- I can only give a certain kind of advice on resumes, but I would say check on the legality of that first.

  21. Bobby Leckner says:

    Whoa…it is case by case…for most candidates with less than 10 years of experience a one-page is appropriate.

    The key is to include relevant information. Sometimes it take 2 pages, sometimes 3. But the more someone can tighten the language, the better. So many resumes have so much fluff that a recruiter loses interest. It is not the length.

    Fonts should never be less than 11 pt on a presentation resume. If you are shrinking your margins too much and reducing your font, you affect readability and you lose the reader. Better to be an easy-to-read 2-page than a tiny-fonted one-page.

  22. HeatherLeigh says:

    Bobby-I don’t agree. At ten years of experience, it’s absolutely reasonable for someone to have more than one page; especially if they have worked for multiple employers. My point was that people don’t have to succumb to "rules" about number of pages, but should rather use good judgement in the inclusion of info that would relevant to the intended reader of the resume. So I can’t agree with your statement. Sorry.

  23. Great dialog. I submit this: As a hiring manager, it is a good thing to identify something that would help you make a decision on a candidate…and a candidate about you. People tend to be hired for technical skills and leave/let go for the soft issues. Resumes are one tool in the communication strategy. To be effective, candidates must do their homework, package and resent themselves with the right message to the right target. With executive search experience, I don’t recall ever seeing a resume shorter than two pages. Appropriate bios come my way prior to the 2-3 page resume. Those with less experience that I have hired or some college workshops I give show a lot of one pagers because they have little experience. Problem is that this is what is told in school and books geared to low level…expectations are not set for higher achievement.

  24. David says:

    I felt so strongly about this post, I created a Wordpad blog dedicated to throwing a spanner into the works of the one-page-resume brownshirts.  Check it out along with my new revised resume.  It used to be 2 pages, but since I read this, I expanded it to 3 pages – the third being intentionally left blank to make a point that the page count of the resume should be (mostly) irrelevant in the hiring decision.

    Please check it out and share any thoughts you might have – I have now been <s>unemployed</s> consulting for 18 months and am starting to lose it.  I am becoming a bitter troll from the experience and need some real-world feedback.

    Thanks!

    David

  25. HeatherLeigh says:

    Don’t become a bitter troll! You definitely have a great sense of humor in your favor.

    Seriously, have you thought of doing some temp work? I’ve done some in the past and it’s how I got started in recruiting. Figure if it worked for me in my industry, it can work for others in theirs,

    The rest of this comment field has been left intentionally blank

  26. David says:

    In reference to the post from Unique Hotels ….

    .. um, speaking of trolls …..

  27. HeatherLeigh says:

    David- I just delete those. I get several a day.

  28. Ron says:

    Finally, someone who just may understand the role of a recruiter!  My appologies for the length of this, but it is an explanation of my experience.

    I went into the service (Navy) out of High School, at the time I could not afford higher education.  After enlistment, I worked several temporary jobs, then picked up a "good" job working for the government as a consultant.

    The companies that I had applied to had turned me down for "Lack of Education" and "Inappropriate Experience".  The company that hired me was a small startup.  The HR Manager there actually read the descriptions within my resume and made a call.  I worked for them for 10 years as a Staff Logistician (full spectrum – maintenance) and was tasked with directing the efforts and budgets of several of the companies that turned me away.

    No, I wasn’t bitter.  I think it is one of the greatest universal jokes (2 of the companies attemped to hire me away from my employer).

    The point I am trying to make is that it is not the length of the resume, or the documented education that can make or break your company.  When searching for a candidate to assume any position – the experience is the most valuable, and that cannot be placed in a simple 1 page resume.

  29. And speaking of resumes … Heather wrote a good post last night on the death of the one page resume . Here’s what I had to say in Heather’s comments section: Use as many pages as you need to document your experience WHILE still staying concise. I review

  30. And speaking of resumes … Heather wrote a good post last night on the death of the one page resume . Here’s what I had to say in Heather’s comments section: Use as many pages as you need to document your experience WHILE still staying concise. I review

  31. Barbara Saunders says:

    I can't be the only person who has the problem I have! I do not want another job that consists of doing indefinitely the things I've already done on past jobs. What I want is the opportunity to recombine old skills and abilities and knowledge in service of solving different problems. A list of "duties" does not seem the right format for conveying, essentially: "You need to solve problems X, Y, and Z. What that's going to take is A, B, and C. I've done that in the context of G, H, and I."

  32. HeatherLeigh says:

    Barbara – I think that the best way to move toward new responsibilities is at a company you are already at; where they know you and your good performance. Companies are less inclined to "take a chance" on someone that they don't know. Especially in this economy where you would be competing with people who exactly match the job description and are happy to take that role.

    So if you are actively looking, I would look at roles that match your background and do your research on their career development opportunities. I wouldn't make it too much of a topic in the interview because they may worry thatyou won't stay in your position long. So just ask a few questions, use terms like "long term" and "further along in my career" and leave it at that.

    This is one of those things where the feedback I have to give isn't the most exciting. I know the feeling of wanting a change RIGHT NOW. I've been there before. I satisfied that need for change myself by moving to different types of companies and then different industries. It's what got me here. I found that the work was different enough and there was plenty top learn.

    As always, I hope this helps a bit.