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

(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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