There are a lot of opinions floating around about the appropriate length for a resume. Some argue that anything beyond a page is a deal-breaker, while others say at least two pages is necessary to fully articulate one’s previous experience.
Hurwitz Strategic Staffing President and CEO Bruce Hurwitz is the first person I’ve seen to declare that the length of a resume does not matter at all.
In a recent article, Hurwitz describes a candidate he worked with who, after being told that her resume should be limited to one page, she submitted a document with quarter-inch margins and 6-point font. Hurwitz couldn’t print it with these extreme parameters, so he asked her to resubmit a “proper resume,” with one-inch margins and 12-point font. This increased the length by two pages. He called the new version “excellent”.
What this anecdote fails to recognize is that you’re not supposed to try to fit a three-page resume into one page by stretching the limits of Microsoft Word’s formatting. You’re actually supposed to condense it, cut from it and edit it in a way that tells the story of your career in a succinct and meaningful way.
His second example: Two well-qualified candidates submit their resumes. The first is one page and the other is seven pages. According to Hurwitz, the seven-pager landed the job, and “there was nothing that could be removed from the seven-pager without diminishing quality and content.”
To me, a seven-page resume sends only one signal: Everything I’ve ever done, in any capacity, including my short stint at a print shop in 1987, is so important that I can’t possibly remove it from my resume. And I’m not creative enough to do so.
The point of a resume is to score an interview. It’s a summary of your job experience with enough details to demonstrate you know your stuff, enticing the hiring manager to learn more about you as a candidate. It’s not a collection of your job descriptions from each and every employer. And it certainly shouldn’t be long enough to be a short story about your life.
Also, a hiring manager pouring through a stack of resumes shouldn’t be equated to someone casually reading a Harry Potter book, as Hurwitz does in his post. The J.K. Rowling reader is reading for pleasure. The hiring manager is paid to put a well-qualified butt in the seat, filtering through dozens of under-qualified candidates, those with emails like email@example.com to find people who are a good fit for the position. Sure people enjoy reading, but don’t pretend HR folks and recruiters have enough hours in the day to read 7-page dissertations from every candidate.
What’s the moral of the story?
We’ve heard it before but it’s worth repeating: recruiters have limited resources, so it’s important to effectively illustrate who you are in the least number of pages. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all page count for every candidate, but I assert that the length of a resume most certainly does matter.
If you’re having a hard time cutting back, my best advice is to have someone qualified to help read your resume and look for superfluous language and places where you can cut back. Even if you end up keeping something they’ve suggested you ax, you’ll know that it was important enough to fight for.
What has your experience been with resumes? Should there be a one-page rule? Should more experienced candidates be allowed to have five-pagers? Let us know in the comments section.
About the Author: Erica Moss is the social media outreach coordinator for the Masters Degree in Nursing program at Georgetown University, which has one of the nation’s leading nurse practitioner programs online. She is passionate about photography, community building, and University of Michigan football. Follow her on Twitter.