IT Employment

Why you should keep your resume two pages or under

One of the hardest things to get people to do when they create their resumes is to keep the length down. But here is how to do it and why you should.

One of the hardest things to get people to do when they create their resumes is to keep it to a manageable length. I don't care how many times I say it, or how many statistics back it up, some people just will not keep their resumes down to one or two pages. I could have 1,000 hiring managers swear on a stack of bibles that they never look past the second page, and people will still argue this point with me.

So I'll bravely attempt this one more time: A resume should not be more than two pages long. Why? Because it is a marketing document, not an autobiography. You will not get a job based on your resume. You will get an interview based on your resume. You will get the job based on the interview, in which you can expound on your job experience to your heart's content or until the interviewer grows a long white beard and keels over.

Also, keep in mind that the sheer volume of your experience does not impress a hiring manager unless that experience is directly related to the job at hand. Some people have trouble differentiating between what is important in their minds from what is going to be important to a hiring manager.

That year of web design experience you got was most undoubtedly valuable to you personally, but to someone who is looking for a network administrator, it may just be distracting.

An equally important thing to remember in creating your resume is to write your accomplishments, not your duties. And try to qualify these as much as possible. Was one of your job duties tech support? Put that down but put it in terms of a big call volume. Did you lead a tech rollout? Mention the cost of the rollout and that it ended on time or on schedule. Maybe it involved coordinating several disparate groups across the company.

A neat trick to use is after you write any accomplishment, ask yourself, "So what?" What value did you bring to the company because of that duty? Even if you can't really exactly quantify a time or money savings, you can round an amount down (e.g., 20 percent, thousands of dollars, etc.)

Unfortunately, this world has a what-can-you-do-for-me mentality and you'll see that most acutely in a manager who is sifting through 30 resumes for one job opening. Don't make your resume a chore for a hiring manager to read.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

21 comments
PharmRepConnect
PharmRepConnect

I couldn't agree more with this article. Your resume must be two pages or less. Most resumes I see could be paired down in the area of job description. You should not list all the duties and responsibilities of your job. Use this valuable space to highlight your accomplishments. For example, I don't like to see a several sentence paragraph explaining what someone does as a sales rep - I would rather see one sentence telling me what you sell and to whom. Use the space to bullet-point your successes and examples of how you have gone above and beyond. As a recruiter and career consultant with nearly twenty years of experience, check out my website at PharmRepConnect.com to more free job search tips and advice. Hope this helps!

None of your business
None of your business

Toni I see you have 'edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues' I don't see experience as hiring manager or HR professional. So what makes you qualified to write on this topic.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

on how poorly described roles with garbage requirements, stop us targetng a resume then? Anyone worthwhile with five years + in is going struggle to get to two pages and target it. Not to mention if you don't get the buzzwords in the hiring manager isn't even going to see it, because it won't get past the pimps and numpties in HR.... Again.. Come on be braver. Point the finger a bit further up the food chain!

santeewelding
santeewelding

That Queen Canute caused her throne to be brought near, whereupon she commanded, "Stop!" Results in the most top-heavy, self-defeating bullet point I've ever seen, by [b]mckinnej[/b].

mckinnej
mckinnej

As a hiring manager, I see a lot of bad resumes. I take those as an indication of the person's (poor) communication skills. If your resume is just a list of your former employers and jobs, please PLEASE go to an employment agency and get some help. Otherwise it will be sheer luck if you get anyone to talk to you. I'm glad Toni mentioned accomplishments. These are the meat of any resume. Without these your resume is just a job list. (See above.) I like to see and use bullets. Nothing communicates accomplishments like a good bullet statement. Problem is, most people don't have much experience writing them. They are NOT regular sentences with a dot in front of them. They do not follow the rules of sentences at all, which I'm sure is why folks have trouble with them. The most effective bullet authors I've seen come from the military (go figure). Here is the technique. A good bullet will look like this: Action - result - (impact) The first word is the action (verb). It is succinctly what you did. Built, Engineered, Managed, Led, Developed, etc. It should be followed by a noun. Next is the result and finally the impact (optional). I'll put together an example. Action: Reengineered system implementation schedule Result: cut implementation time per site by 27%, cut customer workload by 55% Impact: implementation rate increased 41% So the final bullet looks like this: * Reengineered system implementation schedule - cut implementation time per site by 27% while reducing customer workload by 55% - increased overall implementation rate by over 40% Hint: Dollar values make for great impact. My resume is written like this and I've been told many times that it is great, even the best they've ever seen. You can communicate a lot of information quickly with bullets. Give them a try.

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

I have managed teams for 20 years. I've participated in a lot of hires. Therefore, I wasn't writing about what HR wants to see; I was writing about what a hiring manager wants to see. I have seen over and over that people are so infatuated with their years of experience that they fail to realize that the hiring manager only cares about what part of that experience pertains to the job at hand.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Between you and Toni, you get binned as hidebound. Do the right thing: surrender your membership.

The Ref
The Ref

When hiring I like to see all resumes. For many Technical positions the best candidate is not the one with the right buzzwords but the one with passion for the job and technical nous. HR often weeds out the resumes I am interested so I like to see them all and spend the effort. I agree many hiring managers will not go past the 2 pages, but I think you are hiring to find the best person for the job long term, not to find the person easiest to hire. I do focus my resume for the job, but only keep it succinct with the thought of getting through unknowns with no understanding who cull the resumes.

robo_dev
robo_dev

Just use 2 point font, so it all fits on one page. :)

JamesRL
JamesRL

You can't expect such bullet points from candidates applying for entry level positions. If you are hiring a new manager from outside to re-organize your department/division, then you look for such accomplishements, though I never take them at face value - they have to be examined in an interview.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I know how to lose a lotta words, now. :D

IT Security Guy
IT Security Guy

I agree with the article and the need to put in actual accomplishments and I have been doing that for the last 8 years. I also think the length is directly affected by your direct experience. I work in the federal space and have two copies of my resume, the first is the 'main' resume with my entire work and education history. This one is for me to see to refer to. I keep all jobs, education, training, certifications, personal contacts, and addresses in this one. The second one is the 'short' version, which only goes back 3 years. This one is still 3 pages, but when I apply for a position, I make sure the previous experience listed is directly applicable to the job I am applying for. I know the hiring manager doesn't need or want to see that I worked for Caldors in the toy department. In this version, I also revise the accomplishments so they answer the questions asked by the KSAs. With my two versions, I think the longest a resume should be, for the federal space at least, is 3 pages with all work experience pointing directly to the job you are applying for. if that can be done in less than 3, all the better. I also bring a longer copy of my resume to the interview and ask the hiring manager after the interview if he/she would like a copy.

allerguten
allerguten

a) If posting on a job board have a resume that includes all those buzz words (length can go over 2 pages) b) If applying to a posted position have a resume focused on the requirements noting your Select Achievements (2 pages or less) 1) The resume: is to get your foot in the door by peaking interest 2) The interview: is where you sell yourself, answering every question in a positive way which would benefit the employer. 3) The job application: is the legal doc and is to be true and factual, if you mess up here you could lose that new job, even after you started.

El Machete
El Machete

Thank you for your comments. I am in the process of updating my resume and found your comment very informative

bdskp
bdskp

Great advice and explanation!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Many donlt bother to say, they just knock up a card for a nice game of buzzword bingo....

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

But 99% of businesses go through recruiters in the UK, and they insist we play buzzword bingo. As a hiring manager you wouldn't get to see the resume/cv until I'd won that round. Equally because the pimps work a vacancy versus a pool of candidates the resume you post to them needs to be very inclusive as does any extra data. Post them a targeted one and it will miss a lot of other potential leads. As for hiring the best, usually only after it's gone well wong as a one off reaction. Lessons are rarely learnt, though that could be because of the management team musical chairs game.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

of care bears that show I have a touchy feely side if I do that...

mckinnej
mckinnej

I think you missed the point. Ignore the content of my example and focus on the technique. A junior person might have something as simple as: * Achieved a perfect attendance record during a 3-year period - hailed by manager as department's most dependable employee See? You don't have to save millions of dollars or post huge productivity gains. A bullet like that tells me a lot about a person and it did it in one line. I see several postings about getting past HR/recruiters and buzz words. Believe me, they are as much a problem for the hiring manager as they are the job seeker. The only advice I can offer there is to tweak your resume so you use as many of the same products/techniques/tasks as are used in the job posting. (Yeah, I know. Easier said than done.) For my fellow hiring managers, don't let your recruiters/HR run on autopilot. Be proactive and work with them. Make sure they understand what skills you really need. (For example, I fill out my own job requisitions. I don't let HR use their canned junk.) This typically gives me a fairly small list of well-qualified candidates. From a manager's point of view, it doesn't get any better.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I've several versions of an old resume. Silly me, I didn't think to combine them to one containing 'everything'. [insert grinning eye roll emoticon here).