Should your resume be one page or two?
That’s a huge question, and it’s also one that isn’t easy to answer. On the one hand, a one-page resume is succinct and to the point. You have to focus on the skills that you feel are most relevant to the job when you’re limited to a single page. Plus, a lot of employers prefer shorter resumes – they’re easier to scan for keywords.
On the other hand, you may have more skills than you can list on a single page, necessitating a two-page resume. So, which should you use? Let’s find out.
What Do Employers Prefer?
This is where it gets a little tricky because the statistics are a little contradictory.
Back in 2007, Accountemps ran a survey – reported on in Time Magazine – that said that 52% of executives prefer a single-page resume for a staff-level position. However, more recent data suggests that the tide may be turning in favor of the two-pager. A study published in 2018, which quizzed recruiters rather than company executives, concluded that recruiters are 2.3 times more likely to want to see a two-page resume over a one-page document.
There are a couple of things you might conclude from this.
The first could be that there’s been a trend of candidates sending two-page resumes over the last two decades, resulting in companies being forced to accept them ahead of one-page resumes. But that might not be entirely accurate. The surveys mentioned here quizzed two different sets of people – executives and recruiters.
That leads to the second possible conclusion – recruiters may prefer a two-page resume because it gives them a better grasp of your skills. However, executives have less time on their hands because of their many other duties, meaning they prefer one-page resumes.
So, when choosing between the two, think first about the intended audience. If your resume is going to a recruiter – or a specialized hiring employee within a company – a two-page resume might be a better option. But if you know the resume is going to somebody who has more responsibilities than just hiring, lean toward a one-page resume to demonstrate that you respect their time.
Other Factors That May Play Into Your Choice
As you can see, the choice between one and two pages isn’t cut and dry. Your audience matters so you have to tailor your resume to whoever will read it. However, there are other factors that play a role in influencing your resume-length decisions.
Your Experience Level
Let’s say you’re a fresh college graduate who has very little work experience under your belt. In that situation, a two-page resume likely won’t serve you well. You’ll end up padding it out to hit the two-page “requirement,” which is frustrating for anybody who’s reading the document. No recruiter or executive wants to read a resume that contains filler.
In that situation, less is more because you can use the single page to home in on the skills that really matter.
However, if you have a lot of work experience, you also have more to talk about. Specific work issues that you’ve successfully confronted, for instance, could be used to demonstrate your communication or teamwork abilities. In this scenario, a two-page resume is likely better because a one-page document will feel too brief. The recruiter may see bullet points of your career without getting a true sense of your skills, which can be just as frustrating as wading through filler to get to relevant information.
The ATS Conundrum
According to CNBC, at least 95% of Fortune 500 companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to scan resumes before the document ever lands in front of a human. These systems usually look for keywords that match those used in the job description, as well as the frequency in which those keywords are used.
If you know (or suspect) that your potential employer uses one of these systems, it’s best to create a two-page resume. That gives you enough space to incorporate keywords from the job description without stuffing them into sentences because you’re trying to stick to a single page. In a one-pager, you risk either having to cut keywords that matter or using them in such a small volume that the ATS passes over you because it thinks your resume isn’t properly tailored to the role.
If you’re applying for a governmental job, you’ll likely go through a more specific application process than for most other roles. Such agencies want to know all the details of your past work. Often, your resulting resume will be even longer than two pages, making a one-page effort seem too small by default.
These are often the most challenging types of resumes to create because the “rules” of typical resume writing don’t apply. Thankfully, Expert Resume Pros can help – we offer a Federal Resume service designed to help you craft a more detailed resume for governmental work.
Make the Right Choice for Resume Size
The truth is that there’s no “correct” answer when it comes to resume size. It seems that executives who have other responsibilities to handle prefer one-pagers, whereas recruiters want a little more detail, making two pages preferable.
But when you throw in the possibility of ATS usage, a two-page resume seems to be more useful. Still, your own experience comes into play, too. You don’t want to stretch a limited work history too thin, just as you don’t want to undersell yourself with a shorter essay.
If you’re still unsure, the professionals are here to help. At Expert Resume Pros, we offer resume writing help for executives to entry level college students. We’re open seven days a week and have 30 years of resume writing experience – perfect for helping you tailor your resume to your desired role. Get in touch today and let’s work on creating the perfect resume for you!