One page resumes – does size really matter?

The answer is YES! Maybe size shouldn't matter, but it does. According to a study by Dr. John Sullivan, on average 250 resumes are received for each corporate job opening and there is only a 1% chance that a person who submits a resume will be invited for an interview. This means a lot of competition. Knowing that many recruiters only look at the first 50 of their resumes, and they only spend 10 seconds on each one before deciding yea or nay, this situation isn't easy to swallow for job-seekers.

Dear recruiters out there, let’s assume you’re looking to hire a director with 10+ years of experience, ideally more than 20 publications, 3 different companies, and skills and knowledge in what feels like a million programs. If all of this is packed into a single resume, you’re looking at a a lot more than one page. Receiving more than 250 resumes for this opening will be a tough day…

Reviewing resumes is simply part of a recruiter’s job. The length of a resume shouldn’t matter as long as the quality and the information is relevant for the job. But fellow recruiters, let’s not lie to ourselves. There are many of us out there who avoid scrolling down on a digitized resume and who are too fast to put a resume in the “definitely not” pile (virtually of course).

Going off of what I prefer (and I am tempted to say that many recruiters are on my side here), if possible, applicants should stick to the one-pager. First of all, it shows that a candidate is capable of conveying info precisely and concisely. There is no need to pack every work experience, an entire life history and hundreds of publications in a resume. Cutting the resume down to match experiences to the job description makes it easier for a recruiter or a hiring manager to say yes. Reading one or two cutting-edge publications or groundbreaking experiences that are actually relevant for the job will be convincing that the person deserves an invitation for an interview. Everything else can be discussed then (and it will give you more things to talk about).

Sometimes for a candidate, this just doesn’t work without risking not getting the job. If a one page resume doesn’t provide enough substance, clarity or a well-rounded picture, candidates should be comfortable to exceed one page. Especially when the job involves special skills, I’d rather read two more pages than see a list of company names and job titles that would force me to call every single reference to find out more.

Reading resumes is a challenging task that ultimately decides not only the company’s future, but also the applicant’s. It is a skill that takes experience to become good at and it takes a lot of time and effort to interpret a resume in a valuable way.

As a recruiter or hiring manager, do you only look at one-pagers? What is your strategy to separate the wheat from the chaff? Comment, criticize and share your perspective!


Views: 1777

Comment by pam claughton on July 11, 2013 at 11:26am

One page resumes are fine for entry-level people. If you are dealing with more senior level folks, a one page resume may do more harm than good. I'd much rather see several pages that show the depth of experience than a shallow one page version. It really doesn't take much longer to quickly scan a multi-page resume. You can see at a glance if the experience is there and then look deeper, if there is more detail. In most instances I far prefer a 2-3 or even 4 page resume that is well written over a simple one pager.


Comment by Mona Berberich on July 11, 2013 at 12:30pm

Absolutely Pam, I agree with your comments. Do you think that this is a common notion?

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on July 11, 2013 at 12:33pm

I don't know how someone who's qualified for one of my roles could limit their resume to one page. I will give you this - I will skim the first page (or even the first 1/3, or 1/2) and if I like what I see I'll keep going. That said, I don't know how the highly technical people I recruit could ever effectively sell themselves on one page. I personally haven't had a one page resume since maybe 2002.

I appreciate your honesty in saying that YOU prefer a one pager, but I don't know any other recruiters that do.

Comment by Derdiver on July 11, 2013 at 12:48pm

ONE page on a mid to senior level role would tell me they are either lazy, have no idea how to write a resume, or have nothing to talk about.  All bad signs.

Comment by Will Thomson on July 11, 2013 at 10:20pm

Thanks Mona for the post.  Interesting perspective.  I prefer for people to give me a little meat and it 9 times out of 10 means more than one page.  If you can do it in a page and it says everything you want it to say then... Hey- more power to you.  My thought is that you may be selling yourself short though & leaving some things out.  Well written though!  Thanks!  

Comment by Mona Berberich on July 12, 2013 at 8:47am

Thanks for your comment! @Mansi I very much agree that candidates should highlight experiences that show HOW they can add value instead of listing all qualifications. Thanks for pointing that out!

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on July 12, 2013 at 10:31pm

First, I'm not a big fan of resume "rules" but do agree quality typically outweighs quantity. My opinion is based on two perspectives: one of a person that receives and reviews resumes when hiring; the other as a person that has done freelance resume writing for approximately 15 years. I don't deal with any international, academia, scientific research, etc., where a CV would apply, just standard US-based traditional business resumes.  

As a HR/recruiting person I am probably one of the most highly critical people you would ever encounter when it comes to resume quality expectations. (NOTE: this would be in the context of mid- to senior-level professional talent with some degree of business communication involved in their type of work). As a recipient, I have practically no patience to read more than 2 pages and that's only if the 1st page was worth reading.

At times I feel that I'm being overly picky and too focused on distracting misspellings, grammatical gaffes, formatting flaws, careless typos, incorrect word-usage, inconsistent verb tense, poor writing, irrelevant information, and so on. Sadly, a high percentage of resumes I've seen over the years include any and all of the above and immediately move to the "heck no" pile. 

Let's keep in mind this is supposed to be that person's BEST 1st impression. Do I really think they will all of the sudden become articulate and concerned about details if hired? Not quite! 

When writing resumes, I customize each document based on each person's unique situation. This includes considering their target audience, goal position (they provide example postings), current/prior experience, career-level, type of industry, job category, etc. That said, I ONLY produce 1 page or 2 page resumes. Sometimes people send me 3, 4, 5, 6+ pages and I'm able to cull out or formulate the essential content to make it presentable and compelling - and BTW not at all like the crap prepared by those cheesy "professional resume writers" that make the person look like a pretentious d-bag.

As far as the article above, I think the recruiter fatigue-factor is more due to volume of BAD resumes not page length of those that are actually qualified and reasonably well organized enough for that to show.

~KB @TalentTalks 

Comment by Tiffany Branch on July 15, 2013 at 12:26pm

There is no way I expect someone with more than 10 years of professional exp to have a 1 page resume. If you have been doing one job for 10 yrs, that's different. I still quikcly eliminate based on certain criteria. However, 1 page with more than 10 yrs.......something is wrong or the font is very small. LOL

Comment by Recruiting Animal on July 16, 2013 at 9:52pm

Why doesn't anyone ever complain that the size matters joke is sexist. It's reference is the penis. But when the reference is the breast, well that's bad, isn't it. Size matters is saying, "Hey, your penis isn't big enough to please a woman." But what if someone said or implied, "Hey, your breasts aren't big enough to satisfy a man". That would be bad wouldn't it?

Comment by Jacob S. Madsen on July 18, 2013 at 10:22am

Pretty simple really:

1-5 years work experience 1-2 pages should do it

5+ years experience 2-4 pages at an absolute maximum 5 pages (and then it needs to be someone with 30+ yrs experience

Good candidates know that CV/Resume's need to be tailored to the job they are applying for, why they will extract and highlight what relevant and remove what is not.

Good candidates also spend the first 1/3 of a Resume/CV giving a reader a quick overview of what the Resume contain and what the key competences are.

Finally recruiters irrespective of agency or in-house that cannot be bothered reading however many CV's should re-consider their job. Recruitment is a people business and as such anyone (and I defend the position of anyone who does apply whether relevant or not) should at least be allowed to have their CV read and evaluated and receive a response to whether of interest or not.

I have never and would to my dying day regret if I rejected a candidate because I had been too fast and too sloppy reading and evaluating a candidates CV. This is about taking the role and the profession seriously and honouring the task that it is to do recruitment.



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