You’ve been there. You’re up late one night trolling job boards and in between travel ads the perfect job opportunity appears. You hear the heavenly hosts cheering you on and rush to update your resume.
But before you add your latest and greatest skills and accomplishments, your brain interrupts with the job seeker debate: Should your resume be one page or two?
The answer, dear job seeker, is—it’s all subjective. Google this topic and you’ll get 100 different sources with 400 different pieces of advice. The truth is, we’ve been conditioned by the old-school tradition of the one-page resume. But the current digital age (where resumes aren't always submitted on paper anyway!) has blazed a trail of new opinions.
That said, there are a few good rules of thumb to consider when deciding if a +1 should accompany your resume.
When Quantity Equals Quality
As you evolve in your career, you'll find that things that were once relevant on your resume aren't anymore. For example, if you've been in your career a few years or are changing careers, there's no need to list every duty for every position. Learn to recognize when compromising the quantity of your experiences will impact the quality of your employment story. If you have enough relevant experience, training, and credentials pertaining to the position to showcase on more than one page of your resume, then go for it.
Note: I said relevant. This doesn’t mean you detail all your accomplishments since your high school babysitting job. It also doesn’t mean listing every college course you've taken and certification you've earned.
As a recruiter, I can tell you, if I’m going to read a resume that’s more than one page, it better tell a good story about what you bring to the table. Listing every task you did as a manager doesn't make you a good manager. But if you tell me that you increased productivity by 25% or highlight process changes for multiple teams at several companies—you're justifying that space.
If you can succinctly quantify your accomplishments to tell how you made a role, job, project, or assignment better and you need more than one page to demonstrate it effectively, that’s time (and space) well spent.
When Space Is No Longer an Option
Your content is impeccable. You’ve edited, downsized fonts, tweaked margins, and finagled text boxes to abide by the one page golden rule. But unfortunately, space is no longer on your side.
Once you get to this stage, it’s fine to go ahead and supersize your resume to more than one page. Trust me, you will not be cast away to the Island of Misfit Resumes.
Honestly, the hiring manager will grant you extra brownie points for not assaulting his or her eyesight with eight-point fonts or instigating what I call the eyeball cha-cha—where your eyes have to dance all over the page to find information you need.
A resume that has text scattered everywhere or is so condensed it looks possessed by hoarders can send the wrong message about you as a candidate. If employers have the impression you can’t organize your thoughts effectively on paper, they may second guess how you’ll perform in the role. Better to be safe than sorry and spread your wealth of experience to a second page.
What About the Extra Space?
If the text on the second page is only one or two lines, you may want to consider reformatting and sticking to the one page rule. Otherwise, don’t be overly concerned about the extra space on the second page. Recruiters have short attention spans and won’t want to scan more information than they have to.
But if you feel compelled to fill that space, be strategic and make sure the information is relevant. If you haven’t already done so, add information on your leadership, organizations, volunteer work, hobbies, or sports activities. This will show employers you have a life outside of work and give some insight into your personality.
Also keep in mind that this information doesn’t have to be in text format. I’ve seen some great resumes recently that have outlined these items using pie charts, timelines, and graphs. Just remember these fancy formats don’t always translate well when applying online and can wind up a jumbled mass of code.
So, what’s the moral of the resume length debate? In the digital application world, size doesn’t really matter. As long as you tell a compelling story about your employment history that’s easy on the eyes, your page breaks will be forgiven.