You know you’re supposed to have a one-page resume. No matter how much you want to cling to your two-pager, we both know that—unless you’re applying to a high-level executive position—no one actually makes it past the first page. You might as well bite the bullet and get all the important bits on one, 8.5x11" document.
So, how do you actually accomplish that without using an eight-point font? (And, no, no one wants that either.) Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Trim Your Margins
Someone somewhere decided that default page margins should be one inch all around. I have no idea where this notion comes from, but what a waste of space! Of course, you don’t want to go to the absolute edge of printability, but a healthy half-inch margin all around will give you some more surface area and still allow for ample white space. This article goes into more detail about these seemingly minor things.
2. Combine Sections
Creating new sections is a great strategy for rearranging some of your experiences, but new sections mean new headings—and headings take space. So, if you’re trying to cut down, make sure you only have three or four sections on your resume. Try combining sections into something like, “Skills & Interests.” Or, if you feel your achievements and interests are too varied, consider throwing everything that wouldn’t go under your experience or education into an “Additional Information” section.
3. Create Multiuse Lines
If you originally wrote your resume to fit two pages, you may have gotten a little too generous with what warrants its own line. For example, you may have given your college GPA its own line. Ignoring the debate about whether or not your GPA is relevant anymore, it’s things like this that should be tucked away into another line—maybe in between your degree and your graduation year. The same is true for your company and job title. They don’t have to be on separate lines. Neither do your street address, phone number, and email address. This can all be one line across, under your name. You get the idea.
4. Maximize the Line Spacing
And by maximize, I mean use as little as possible, obviously. In Microsoft Word, you can manually set the spacing between lines and new sections. It frequently defaults to something quite generous, so at the very least, change it so that there is no additional spacing between lines. You can fiddle with this under the paragraph settings. While you’re messing with the line spacing, go ahead and set your entire resume to 10-point font (except your name, which should be 14-point or more).
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5. Shorten Bullets
Your bullet points are really the meat of your resume. This is where you actually talk about your experience. To ensure that people actually read them, absolutely do not let them trail on to a third line. Two lines max, but preferably one. To decide between one or two lines, use your space efficiently. If your bullet is one line, plus a little bit that dangles onto the next, find a way to condense your language down. Ultimately, you’re going for a dangler-free resume.
6. Understand the Reality of the Situation
So far, I haven’t actually suggested cutting any content, but it had to happen eventually. You’re going to have to cut stuff. Really think hard about whether or not each item on your resume is relevant for the job you’re applying for. Try to be objective. If an experience would only potentially be interesting to a hiring manager, cut it in favor of the things you know will make you stand out. I know—it’s not easy to go line by line and kill your darlings. But in the end, you’ll have a better, cleaner document.
I must confess that I actually really enjoy trying to squeeze a person’s professional identity onto one page. For me, it’s a fun little challenge. So, if you’re struggling, try approaching this process as a mental puzzle or game. Now, go solve it.
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author