Less Is More: Eight Reasons Why You Need a One Page Resume

Posted on Monday, January 3rd, 2011

(Don’t forget to check out Part 2 – Less Is More: How I Cut My Resume to One Page.)

Having reviewed resumes for five years, first for Google and now for CareerCup’s resume review service, I’ve frequently gotten resumes from software engineers as long as eight pages.  In fact, the average resume length that I get through CareerCup is probably 2.5 pages.   Yikes!

Now, I know that they think that they’ve probably really impressed their resume screener.  After all, if they can fill up three (or eight) pages, they must have a ton of experience, right?

Not quite.  In fact, almost anyone can blabber on for multiple pages – and, frankly, it tends to be the people with less experience who feel the need to have such lengthy resumes.

Please, don’t do it.  Stick to just one page if you have less than 10 years of experience.  If you have more than 10 years of experience, a 1.5 – 2 pages is allowable (although even there it may not be ideal).

Here are eight reasons why a short and sweet resume is best.

1. Many resume screeners will automatically toss multi-page resumes.
I may not agree with that absolutism.  After all, I want to find the best people, not the best resume writers.  But,  given how many people are absolutist about one page resumes (though most make greater allowances for people with more experience), do you really want to get ruled out for such a simple thing?

2. Even if people “accept” a multi-page resume, they may groan when they get one.
First impressions matter.  Do you really want someone’s first impression of your resume to be “ugh?”  I’ll be honest – that’s my first thought when I see a three pager.

And, consciously or subconsciously, the “ugh” reaction may make someone itch for an excuse to toss out your resume just so that they’ll stop having to read your resume.

3. Longer resumes do not make people assume that you have more experience.
I’ve seen no correlation between the length of resumes and the amount of experience people have. Just because you have a lot more content on your resume does not mean that you have more experience.  Hey, when I was a freshman in college, I had a three page resume. (Yes, it was pretty awful.)

4. Just because your resume is longer does not mean people read more.
Recruiters generally spend a fixed amount of time on your resume – and it’s only around 15 or 30 seconds.  They do not spend longer on your resume simply because you decided to waste their time by writing a lot more.  What matters is how much – and what – they read, not how much happens to be on a page (see #3).

5. Long blocks of text scares people.
My first reaction when I see five jobs with twenty bullets each is to just skip that section entirely. After all, I have a huge pile of resumes to read, I just need to make yes/no decisions on interviewing, and it’s so much easier to just toss your resume than wade through massive amounts of text.

6. Longer resumes -> more dilution -> worse impression
Think of it this way. Who is a better student?

  • Alex: A-, A+, A-, A
  • Pat: C, B+, C+, A-, B-, A+, B, B, A-, C, B-, A

It turns out that, although Alex seems like  a stronger student, he and Pat have actually gotten the exact same grades.   However, Alex has listed his best five, while Pat wanted to “show off his experience” by listing all his classes.

Your multi-page resume is like that. You’ve taken your ‘A’ content and diluted with B and C content. I walk away thinking you’re a B candidate, rather than an A.

7. Longer resumes cause people to miss the most important stuff
When you have lots of mediocre content on your resume, not only will this detract from my impression of you – but I may never even get to the best stuff.  When you have a few lines about founding a company or starting some major project, but it’s buried in three pages of text, I may never see it.  Again, I don’t read your resume.  I simply glance at it for 15 – 30 seconds.

8. You are not THAT awesome.
Ironically, when I tell people they need to cut down their resume, I get the most push back from people who aren’t all that impressive, claiming that they just have  so much experience that they can’t cut it down to one page.  Sorry, but you’re not that awesome.

Anywhere that you’re applying will have a lot of people – perhaps even most – with a lot more experience, or more impressive experience, than you.  And they all manage to fit it on one page.

And, really, you can fit a lot on one page if you understand what you really need to say.  Want an example?  Read Less Is More: How I Cut My Resume To One Page.

The idea of the short and concise resume is to give people the best possible impression given that they’re only briefly glance at your resume for 15 – 30 seconds. You’ll do that best by limiting it to just your A+ content – through a one page resume.



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8 Responses to
“Less Is More: Eight Reasons Why You Need a One Page Resume”

  • Giang says: January 9th, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Hi Gayle,

    Thanks for the great post. What about resume for PhD student applying for Software Engineer jobs? When I look at other PhD students’ curriculum vitaes, they usually span multiple pages due to publication list and research description. Should I try to keep my resume short as well if I intend to apply for job in the industry?

  • gregbo says: January 11th, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Giang, perhaps for software engineering jobs, you could send a short resume to the company, and offer to provide your detailed CV upon request. Or include it as a link on your resume.

  • TechRecruiter says: March 24th, 2011 at 1:52 am

    Hi Gayle:

    I have been a technical recruiter with the same staffing firm for the past 11 years. I have placed hundreds of people in that time. All of them at end clients, many of them at investment banks. I have reviewed thousands of technical resumes. I have rewritten resumes for candidates to get them the interview/job.

    I can say with 100% confidence that your 1 page resume idea is not practical for most people applying for most technical jobs. What works at a place like Google will not work in other places. Sorry. Your trapped in a rarefied bubble.

    Look at the average job description coming out of an investment bank. Its not “looking for smart people who can solve problems”. The job description will typically have 7 different skill sets required. Everything from what kind of java frameworks they are looking for to application servers required to databases needed, to what type testing the candidate needed to be done to domain expertiese.

    The managers want to see each element of the job description addressed in the resume. How many places have you done it. How did you get to where you got. If it is a specific expertiese they want to see what the person did at the job. This is not going to happen in 1 page. Not a chance.

  • Garry Hill says: April 8th, 2011 at 10:15 am

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  • Vikas Panghal says: April 17th, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks Gayle for posting this wonderful article. I appreciate your thoughts and I agree the Less is More. I’ll follow your tips and change my resume :).

    Stay connected!


  • The 5 Big Questions You Need to Ask about Your Resume | Gayle Laakmann McDowell | Technology Woman says: August 22nd, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    […] (Still disagree? Read Less Is More: Eight Reasons Why You Need a One Page Resume.) […]

  • This is what a GOOD resume should look like | Justhink says: October 2nd, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    […] and dilutes it with more mediocre content. Lengthy resumes do not make you more impressive, and there are many other reasons to keep your resume short too. A good rule of thumb is to keep your resume to one page if you have less than 10 years of […]

  • João Paulo Cercal says: January 7th, 2016 at 9:03 am

    Thanks for the great article!

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