Taylor Tobin
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Crafting a clear and well-formatted resume that presents your skills and experience in the best possible light often proves a challenging part of the job-hunt process. Resumes are marketing documents, and job applicants must put significant time and effort into framing their work and their talents in a way that highlights their fitness for the job in question. Depending on how long you’ve been in the working world, confining your experience to a one-page resume may be an exercise in futility.

The good news, though? Unless you’re at the very beginning of your career, there’s no need to confine your resume to a single page. Career counselors regularly present that brief length as a categorical resume necessity, but that advice doesn’t in fact apply to all applicants. Read on for an overview of when to keep your resume to a single page, when it’s OK to expand to a second page and whether it’s ever appropriate to add a third.

When to use a 1-page resume:

If you’re a recent graduate or a newcomer to the workforce, restricting your resume’s length to a single page makes total sense. Resumes should contain the most relevant information about your work experience and skills, and when you have a very light work history (or no formal work history), there isn’t enough pertinent support for your candidacy to justify a second page. 

Some candidates try to stretch out their resume by adding sections like “Hobbies” or by including longwinded descriptions of past positions, but these artificially-long resumes don’t tend to reflect well on these prospective employees. Employers want to know that you have a keen understanding of how to edit yourself, which is why anyone with only a few years of work experience should make every effort to keep their resumes to one page.

When to use as 2-page resume:

Once you’ve spent several years in the workforce and have a few different positions under your belt, you can and should feel free to let your resume roll over onto a second page. Resumes are intended to make the finest possible case for you as a job candidate, and if your work history contains too much viable information to limit to one page without leaving out relevant content, then there’s no need to hold yourself back merely for the sake of convention. Also, more and more hiring managers now agree that the “one-page resume” rule isn’t useful for all positions, so you can confidently assume that a reasonable manager won’t hold a second page against you (and will likely feel grateful for the additional useful info that it offers). 

Should a resume ever exceed 2 pages?

While long-time work veterans don’t need to compress their resumes to one page, they should still use discretion when putting their candidate documents together, and, as we previously mentioned “discretion” includes rigorous self-editing. That’s why, in the vast majority of situations, any resume that covers more than two pages doesn’t reflect well on the candidate. In fact, many hiring managers may decide to stop reading after the second page, making the third page superfluous. Unless you know for sure that your industry’s norms include three-page resumes, you should make every effort to whittle your resume down to two pages. 

FAQs about resumes and resume length:

How can I edit my resume down?

What you ultimately decide to include on your resume depends on the position for which you’re applying and what you personally consider important enough to put down in writing. However, these tips may help you screen out less-relevant info and keep the facts on your resume as applicable as possible:

  • If you’re still including an “objective” on your resume, remove it right now. It’s an outdated resume feature, and it doesn’t provide prospective employers with useful or actionable information. 

  • Don’t include reference contact information on your resume itself. If an employer wants to speak with your references, they’ll request that information directly, and you can offer it up then. 

  • Focus your resume’s job descriptions on accomplishments rather than responsibilities. Unless your responsibilities included unexpected tasks typically associated with jobs more senior than the title you held, it’s probably not necessary to include a list of tasks; instead, give details about sales goals you hit, management standards you upheld, specific ways in which your work served the company’s bottom line, etc.

Should I try a functional resume rather than a chronological one?

There’s been a trend recently of candidates formatting their resumes in “functional” ways rather than as a chronological accounting of their experience. These resumes focus on skills and experience, with section headings focused on these skills and information beneath about how you’ve exhibited those talents in the past. 

Functional resumes can seem like a great idea from a candidate’s perspective, since they allow applicants to bring their abilities and relevant experiences to the forefront. However, hiring managers tend to find them confusing, since they aren’t arranged in a way that’s easy to peruse and contextualize. Also, because functional resumes don’t include any sense of chronology, some hiring managers may wonder whether a candidate who uses one is trying to conceal a gap in their work history. Essentially, these resumes raise more questions than they answer, and not necessarily in a good way. 

What if I want to include more information in my application than a two-page resume will allow?

The best place to expand upon what’s included in your resume is your cover letter; a well-constructed cover letter won’t merely restate the information on your resume, but will instead provide additional details about why you’re a great candidate for the job. You may not have space on your resume to include every initiative you spearheaded in your last role, but if one of those initiatives proves especially pertinent to the position for which you’re applying, you can tell that story in your cover letter.

For certain roles, you may benefit from creating an online portfolio of work, which you can link to on your online application. If you’re in a creative line of work (like journalism or graphic design), a site that allows employers to easily access your past creations will strengthen your candidacy. If the online application doesn’t include a spot where you can add a link, you can add it to the bottom of your resume.

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